HOMER’s Role in the Clean & Smart Grid

Distributed power systems will be an essential element that improves the reliability, resilience, and flexibility of the upcoming smart grid. Supplying more energy due to new technologies such as plug-in vehicles must be balanced with the need for reduced emissions. Distributed power systems can reduce stresses on the electrical grid because they are able to be located in the middle of urban areas. This places a premium on new technologies such as renewables, storage, and hybrid power systems that have low to no emissions of traditional air pollutants. This is in addition to the global goal of reducing carbon dioxide.

The challenge is exacerbated by the relatively small size of these technologies. That size is crucial for the siting flexibility required to improve the grid’s reliability, resilience, and flexibility. The development process for smaller generation systems must be radically different from the process used to develop traditional generation systems. While tradition generations systems are hundreds of MWs in size, a distributed power system with a few MWs of capacity would be considered large. Some distributed power systems, such as photovoltaic systems and plug-in hybrid vehicles, can be connected at 110 volts and are no larger than a few kWs.

The electrical utility industry has developed numerous analytical tools that utility professionals use to help design large generation system. The cost and complexity of these tools makes them unusable by the variety of people outside of utility professionals who must be involved before distributed power systems can achieve their potential as part of a clean and smart electric system. HOMER is for the rest of the world that needs to understand the issues and tradeoffs involved with renewable, distributed, and hybrid power systems.