The World’s Tiniest Power Market Will Leverage Big Data to Sell Solar
It will be the world’s smallest electricity market.
In mid-December, National Grid Plc will flip the switch on an automated trading system that pays hospitals and research facilities at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to sell electricity from their onsite solar panels, batteries or other generators to doctors’ offices and businesses — the first power market ever designed within a single utility service area.
The micro-market is an example of the Uber-effect, applying big data to better monetize small assets. The same technology could be used to help homeowners sell electricity from rooftop solar panels to their neighbors, and it may be a key part of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to get half the state’s power from renewable sources by 2030.
“This will force changes on the utilities, in their planning and their operations,” said John Rhodes, chairman of the New York Public Service Commission. “This is critical to developing consumer-driven innovation.”
The market will take its cue from the New York Independent System Operator’s day-ahead power price, crunching data like weather forecasts, historic usage and current output to set a price on an hour of electricity from the various generating assets within the 120-acre campus. Unlike wholesale markets that deliver gigawatts of energy across states, this one will trade about 5 megawatts to 10 megawatts on the campus in downtown Buffalo.
Letting different systems compete to supply energy will lead to a more cost-effective mix, said Keyvan Cohanim, chief commercial officer at Opus One Solutions Inc., the smart-grid technology company that developed the micro-market.
“It’s all about helping utilities get more distributed energy on the grid,” he said. “This market will provide a natural incentive to create a decentralized, more resilient grid.”
After the devastation wrought on Puerto Rico’s electric grid and parts of the U.S. southeast following an unusually active hurricane season, microgrids are increasingly seen as a way forward to help keep the lights on.
Adding a market to the microgrid will also make it more efficient for utilities to operate the grid, and eliminate or delay investment in large new fossil fuel plants, substations and wires, Rhodes said.
National Grid, the local utility, stands to lose some revenue after the micromarket opens because the campus may use more power from its own assets and less from the grid. The company will instead get fees to participate in the market, according to Fouad Dagher, director of solution development at the utility.