Balancing supply and demand with DERMS

Balancing supply and demand — arguably the biggest challenge for the energy industry. What's more, rising reliance on renewable sources means that the challenges have compounded. As the industry moves away from aging central plants to decentralized energy resources, how could Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS) be used? Let's take a look at a successful DERMS project.


What are DERMS?

As the name suggests, DERMS are used for managing the distributed energy generation and storage devices available to the grid. DERMS software platforms are designed to forecast, monitor, control and coordinate distributed energy resources (DERs) from an array of sources — this includes solar cells, wind farms and storage systems across the power grid.


A DERMS allows the operator to know at a glance where every asset is located on a distribution system. For complicated energy grids, these systems can also manage large numbers of distributed assets, including volatile renewable sites.


Benefits of using DERMS

This simplified visibility and control allow users to quickly understand the energy landscape and make necessary decisions about the flow of power. If system operators are working with an overwhelming number of individual devices and disconnected energy sources, it's easy to lose sight of where the energy is going. This lack of insight can affect decision-making and profits when it comes to fluctuating supply and demand. DERMS compile the entire energy picture together and allow operators to "dial in" control to the right level for their needs.


Alongside optimized energy use, DERMS can help optimize profits from energy sales, providing at-a-glance monitoring and defined limits based on factors like the time of day and the amount of energy being produced.


These systems play a large role in optimizing power delivery and preventing outages due to load surges — a problem that tends to be more prevalent with certain types of power generation.


DERMS for renewables

Inconsistent power delivery is a more significant problem in renewable energy applications, where natural changes in elements like wind and sunlight can be unpredictable. A DERMS is one way to control these sources and minimize the impact of this inconsistency on power grids and energy use and sales.


Let's imagine a grid that incorporates several different renewable generation sources, including a hydroelectric plant and a wind farm, both of which are in different geographical regions.

Unlike hydroelectric plants, in which power can be better managed, wind farms often struggle to manage unpredictable surges in power. For instance, when high wind speeds occur, there is no method to limit the power generated and nowhere to store excess energy. This operation is particularly common for wind farms, as much of their generation occurs at night, when energy demand is low.

Ergonomics for Renewable Energy

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Ergonomics for Renewable Energy

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When these surges in power occur, they risk causing outages and blackouts on the grid due to unprecedented surges of energy that overwhelm the system. To avoid this problem, energy is more likely to be directed away from the grid. Therefore, the energy is wasted.


With control over the entire distributed grid, operators could use a DERMS to better manage this unprecedented power surge. In this example, reducing the energy supply from the hydroelectric plant by shutting off one area of the dam could be effective. This would allow for the surge in power from wind to be fed safely into the grid, without causing a sudden outage.

However, DERMS must incorporate various other systems to allow this level of management. This includes Distribution Management Systems (DMS), Outage Management Systems (OMS) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems. By combining these technologies under one umbrella, operators are provided with complete visibility of the power picture and the insight to make necessary decisions. That said, achieving this complicated architecture is not always simple.

zenon as a Distribution Management...

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zenon as a Distribution Management System

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With various systems in place to account for a wide range of energy generators or storage devices, ensuring all systems can talk to each other is a common industry struggle. This is particularly difficult due to the huge range of protocols used for individual systems in the energy industry.

KOMIPO (South Korea)

Success Story

KOMIPO (South Korea)

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For this communication to be possible, utility providers must choose an independent software system. An independent system is not locked in to specific protocols or devices and allows you to obtain a top-down view of the energy landscape. Using individual systems for each energy source can add more points of confusion and inefficiency. Independent DERMS integrate the many different systems and devices in play and provide necessary visualization for a complex connection of otherwise unlinked equipment.


Another useful component of these centralized systems is the ability to merge information from these systems into one report or visualization for whole-picture analysis.

DERMS software in action

One of these independent platforms is COPA-DATA's zenon Software Platform. zenon can be used to connect via different protocols under the DERMS umbrella. This was demonstrated in a project on the Korean island of Jeju, where zenon was used to balance the power of a wind farm on the nation’s smart grid-test bed.


Using DERMS, the Korea Midland Power Co. sourced a revolutionary Electrical Equipment Control and Monitoring System (ECMS) using zenon. This was based on the IEC 61850 protocol — an international standard defining communication for electronic devices at energy substations.


Managing data from seven wind turbines and a high-performance lithium-ion cell Battery Management System (BMS), the project needed a platform that could accurately monitor data from various sources. What’s more, because the project was dealing with renewable energy, it needed to ensure the grid would not be overloaded with power, even when supply fluctuates. 

The Korea Midland Power Co. used zenon to display data from every distributed asset to its operators. This allowed them to control how much energy is stored in the batteries and how much is transferred directly to the grid. To take this a step further, the software also allowed operators to define rules about when energy should be stored in batteries. This incorporated data about energy value, allowing the company to manage energy in a timely and lucrative way. 

KOMIPO (South Korea)

Best Practice Sheet

KOMIPO (South Korea)

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For example, during the night when energy is cheaper because of lower demand, the system ensures energy is stored in batteries and is only sold back to the grid when it can achieve the best price. Not only does this demonstrate DERMS' ability to optimize energy efficiency, but also to optimize profits.


Balancing supply and demand is one of the energy industry's biggest challenges. The growing reliance on renewable sources only heightens this issue. Looking to the future, as renewable generation plants continue to gain momentum, DERMS will become essential in optimizing the distributed generation and storage devices on the grid.


Learn more about implementing DERMS with COPA-DATA

Are you looking for better ways to control energy movement in your facility or maximize energy storage, use or sales? The zenon Software Platform can help. Learn more about how zenon helps energy industries, or reach out to us to talk with a representative.