Ameren Using Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Software to Integrate DERs into Utility-Scale Microgrid

The microgrid energy systems integration, control and management landscape is shifting amid efforts to open up and expand platforms and architectural frameworks from a core centered on battery-based energy storage systems (BESS) to the expanding range of machine-to-machine communications, Energy Internet of Things (IoT) devices and cloud services.

Schneider Electric numbers among those leading the push. Commissioned in April, the France-based company showcased the hybrid energy microgrid it recently commissioned at its Boston One US corporate headquarters via a Facebook LiveStream on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Management on Aug. 3 announced that St. Louis, Missouri-based utility and energy services group of companies Ameren is using Schneider’s open, IP-based EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor software to manage the integration of disributed energy resources (DERs) – natural gas, solar and wind generation and battery storage – into the utility-scale hybrid microgrid it’s running at its Technology Applications Center (TAC) adjacent to the University of Illinois campus in Champaign.

A Utility Scale Hybrid Microgrid in Champaign, Illinois

Schneider Electric introduced the latest version of EcoStruxure in the US this past November. Designed primarily for use in buildings, data centers, industrial facilities and power grids, the latest iteration of the microgrid integration and management platform is open, scalable and provides interoperability across IoT devices, equipment and networks, Schneider touted. That’s a key point given the rapidly evolving power and energy technology market space and consequent lack of standardization.

Unveiled in May, Ameren’s Champaign hybrid microgrid is one of the few in the US operating at utility-grid scale, capable of serving live customer loads on a utility distribution feeder. As explained: “It operates at utility-scale voltages, between 4-kilovolts and 34.5-kilovolts, with multiple levels of control. Additionally, it is the only known microgrid in the nation capable of seamlessly transitioning the power source for an entire distribution circuit from exclusively distributed generation sources to the traditional power grid.

“By integrating microgrids into our system, we’re taking a critical step in providing a cleaner and more resilient grid for our customers,” Ameren Illinois SVP Ron Pate elaborated.

“Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor gives us a next-generation solution that will meet our needs today and enable us to scale our microgrid to provide new services and incorporate new resources for our customers in the future.”

An Open, Secure Platform for Microgrid DER Integration

As Schneider explains, EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor is “a cloud-based, demand-side energy management software platform, simplifies the integration of DER and allows facility managers and microgrid operators to collect, forecast and automatically optimize the operation of DER using predictive algorithms. As part of Ameren’s microgrid, it optimizes all of its DER, while offering tariff management, demand response requests, peak shaving, CO2 tracking and storm hardening services. The innovative platform enhances performance, optimizes energy usage and supports energy security, providing critical power to Ameren’s network of users.”

Cybersecurity is a key facet of the platform. Incorporated within is “onsite hardware for secure cyber communication and algorithms for up to two days of DER optimization with offline capabilities,” Schneider notes.

More generally, communications with multiple energy management solutions are carried out via an interactive Web interface that provides a comprehensive view of the entire facility’s energy profile. Real-time data source integration encompasses PV solar, building load, EV charging, battery storage, co-generation and back-up natural gas generation, enabling autonomous optimization of energy usage across all DERs.

“By deploying EcoStruxure Microgrid Advisor as part of its microgrid, Ameren’s facility is building a smarter, cleaner energy infrastructure and maximizing the use of its distributed resources,” Phillip Barton, director of Schneider Electric’s Microgrid Competency Center.

“The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform provides them with an innovative and easy-to-use tool to better manage the production and consumption of its renewable energy and control energy spend with advanced predictive and learning algorithms.”

Andrew is a well seasoned and traveled freelance reporter and editor, covering the the nexus where new energy technology, markets, ecosystems and political economy intersect and overlap.

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