News: Regional Grids Help Distribute Energy

The debate between regional and localized energy grids is as old as renewable energy sourcing. Proponents of the latter argue that moving to a regional grid will harm prospects for greater development of distributed energy resources; in relying on a regional power source, communities are less likely to develop their own means of capturing renewable energy. If the regional source fails, many argue that communities will turn to fossil fuels. However, a recent analysis and study shows that these concerns are unfounded. Green Tech Media reports that a regional grid operator is most beneficial for renewable energy development.

First, implementing a regional grid operator allows for easier management of the generator’s variable output. In coordinating energy generation, the utility may be shared by more customers. In blending a variety of renewable sources, there will be a more constant source of energy. A regional model also allows for diversification; rather than relying solely on solar power, a region can draw from wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and other types of renewable energy sources. If solar panels don’t produce enough energy (this is a strong possibility, as solar energy can be unpredictable), the region can fall back on alternative sources.

Second, a regional grid operator can better plan energy transmission. A regional system operator may optimize power dispatch across the entire network, which will work to reduce the congestion currently caused by contractual rights and charges. In having one cohesive system, the grid operator and power supplier can work together and eliminate unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. This widespread energy will also benefit electric vehicle users, as they will be able to utilize a low-cost charge anywhere within the region.

Finally, a regional grid with a coordinated market will be cleaner. Current research identifies solar and wind generation as the lowest-cost power plants to operate. The power generated in plants around the region can be used to power locations without access to the land necessary to create generators. More renewable energy will get developed, less will be turned off due to local imbalances, and customers will enjoy cleaner and cheaper power regardless of their location within the region.