Smart Community Microgrid

Elexicon Energy’s “Smart Community Microgrid with Renewable Energy and Storage” and Feeder Automation on Distribution Energy Service Platform project is helping to modernize electricity distribution grids and is demonstrating innovation in cutting-edge technologies that make distribution systems run better and gives customers more choice and control over their power use.

The project leads long-term positive impacts for the community including the adoption of renewable generation and electric vehicle charging, power quality improvement, grid reliability improvements and more. The Smart/sustainable community offers resiliency, clean self‐generation, demand management and conservation attributes lowering carbon footprint. Elexicon is also field‐testing a storage asset for the direct benefit of a community. This reduces the need for more centralised generation assets and helps developing virtual net‐metering policies and regulations.

The project is funded by the Ministry of Energy, Ontario and IESO under Smart Grid and Grid Innovation funds respectively. The Smart Grid Fund provides money to test, develop and launch the next generation of technologies that can turn electricity distribution systems into modern, digitally enabled grids.

Objectives:

This efficient community microgrid development utilizes Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) that share resources across its communities and distribution system. The goal is to implement three “tiers” of microgrids as follows:

    • Tier I Residential microgrid (Renewables integration and energy conservation, EV charging and Interconnection with SCADA system)
    • Tier II Community microgrid: collaborate to develop the first smart energy community in Ontario and demonstrate benefits for future communities
    • Tier III Nested Microgrids: Coordinating multiple microgrids with distribution grid energy management.

Solution:

Elexicon Energy, in collaboration with its partners, Opus One Solutions and property developer Marshall Homes, is developing a community residential microgrid. The microgrid operation will use community solar generation and DERs integrated with a software platform, including Tesla Powerpack and Powerwall storage systems.

The project is a unique approach to community development and the first of its kind in Ontario and Canada. The entire project considers developing a community from the transmission station down to the individual homes, providing feeder visibility to Elexicon’s SCADA operations to monitor the feeder and optimize its assets (DER or other operational assets) according to real-time conditions. The microgrid will be monitored and controlled by software intelligence and data analytics. The software platform will also provide automated control features to achieve peak reduction, power quality improvement and microgrid islanded operation.

The site for the project is currently under development for 27 townhouses in Ajax, Ontario and includes the following.

  1. 25 kW of rooftop PV solar
  2. 250 kW/500 kWh Tesla Powerpack (community battery energy storage system – BESS)
  3. 3-phase connection to the community
  4.  Proprietary software platform
  5. 1 Level II EV Charger
  6. 5 kW/13.5 kWh Tesla Powerwall (residential battery energy storage system)

Value Delivered to Residential Communities and Utilities:

  • Reduced carbon footprints through local renewable generation
  • Visibility, real‐time control of DER (Distributed Energy Resources) and microgrids at feeder level
  • Energy storage dispatch for ancillary services, peak shifting
  • Reconciliation and settlement of DER via net‐metering policies, regulations
  • Resiliency via microgrid architecture
  • Sustainable community development for developers
  • Framework for virtual net‐metering regulation and policy
  • 3- phase connection to community

Specifically, this project addresses the following challenges to conservation as it applies to smart communities and reduces the footprint of upcoming communities:

a)     Planning for a smart energy community: This project is a first pre‐planned smart energy community in Ontario and one of the first projects in Canada. Innovative community developers are looking to differentiate themselves from traditional builders. The community microgrid allows utilities to collaborate in the development of a smart energy community from its inception and develop processes and procedures as a blueprint for future smart energy communities. This project is a demonstration site for the future Seaton community (70,000 people forecasted) in Pickering, Ontario.

b)     Stacked benefits of energy storage on a distribution feeder: The community storage being placed on the feeder is part of a microgrid. In addition to resiliency, this project will evaluate the benefits of storage on a distribution feeder as it relates to distribution capacity deferral, Back‐up power (Islanding) / Reliability, Volt/VAR Optimization, Power Factor Correction and PV Smoothing.

c)      Using DERs as a non‐wires alternative (NWA) solution: The battery system will be connected to a problematic feeder, 2‐3 km from the substation as it goes through a heavily wooded area. This has its own physical challenges (tree branches, small animals, etc.). However, electrically, this leads to voltage sags, nuisance tripping and outages. The storage will provide a simple NWA solution and capital deferral for the LDC.

d)     Community involvement and education: The community developer is a partner on this project. This ensures that the residents  appreciate the unique design of their community and they see the benefit  in the form of added resiliency and net metering credits. By design, the community will have additional smart controls to isolate and power critical resources when there is an outage. One resident within the community will have additional power in the form of a Powerwall. This community will also add to the City of Pickering’s sustainability efforts. They are also interested in sharing the lessons learned which will lead to additional adoption of these community development methodologies.

e)     Greenhouse Gas Reduction: This community is conservatively estimated to lead to GHG savings of ~0.55 Gtonnes of CO2e by 2050 (SAISS Consulting Group Inc.). The key results as part of the project are to develop a template for smart community development across Canada in terms of the challenges faced, lessons learned, regulatory barriers and solutions offered. By sharing this information with cities and municipal governments to ensure greater adoption of smart communities, thereby increasing the market penetration of technologies that support net zero homes and residential communities.

f)      Single Phase vs Three Phase power to a community: First 3 Phase community in Ontario. The community is going to share a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in the form of a 250 kW / 500 kWh Powerpack. This requires a 3‐phase connection to the distribution network. Traditionally, Ontario electrical networks allocate only single phase to communities of this size. To allow communities to demonstrate and participate in large‐scale shared energy resources, they require a 3 Phase connection.

The underlying hypothesis of undertaking this project is that DERs contribute to reducing SAIDI and SAIFI numbers and can be optimized according to grid constraints. It can demonstrate that the community could have fewer outages and better read-throughs and lead to additional DER usage across Ontario and Canada to reduce SAIDI and SAIFI numbers across all utilities.