Five Considerations for Designing DERs with Increased Energy Autonomy
istributed energy resources (DERs) are significantly changing the way energy is produced, stored and distributed. Ideally, they are mobile and rapidly deployable to deliver power and essential resources when and where needed, especially after extreme weather events or emergencies. These DERs create energy autonomy by providing energy independence and self-sufficiency.
DERs can have a profound impact by providing extended periods of energy autonomy when the grid is down or unavailable. Combining renewable energy sources such as solar and battery storage with backup power from hydrogen fuel cells and wind turbines to achieve days, weeks or months of uninterrupted power can be complex and challenging, especially if the DERs need to be rapidly deployable. Here are five considerations to simplify the process.
1. Define the use case
The first consideration is to determine how the DER will be used. By determining how the DER unit will be used, you can then specify the type, size and additional energy sources that will need to be integrated to accommodate its energy and distribution requirements.
Questions to ask:
-Primarily, will it be used to export power from renewable energy sources or will additional resources such as clean water, telecommunications, medical assistance, office space, EV charging, refrigeration or personal care such as toilets, showers, laundry or cooking facilities be needed?
When and where will the DER be deployed?
-Will it be used only for grid outages and emergencies or in an ongoing manner?
-Will there be a need to cluster the DERs, for example, in a first responder base camp or to support evacuees after extreme weather events?
-What is the DER’s required life cycle?
-Who will transport and operate the DERs?
-What skills are required of the operators and how will they be trained?
2. Define mobility and footprint
Typically, a DER is used intermittently during grid outages or for emergencies. DERs used primarily for export power are constructed from smaller, 10 to 14 foot, dual-axle trailers and towed by a three-quarter-ton truck. DERs that incorporate other resources, such as an emergency office or telecommunications hub, generally are constructed from a larger, 16 to 20 foot, dual-axle trailer and towed by a one-ton truck.