Electric Power Engineers’ senior engineering manager, distribution and grid modernization, Cody Davis, recently spoke at the NARUC / NASEO IDSP Training discussing DER forecasting, hosting capacity analysis, and non-wires alternatives (NWA). Review the presentation content.

Hosting Capacity Analysis (HCA) is important for Distributed Energy Resource (DER) planning, providing valuable insights into the amount of DER that can be interconnected without requiring major system upgrades. By conducting HCA, utilities can generate location-specific data that indicates how much DER can be added before operational issues arise, such as thermal overloads, voltage violations, or protection-related concerns.

Cody reviewed several possible use cases for Hosting Capacity Analysis.

  1. Efficient project siting. By providing developers with information about interconnection capacity at specific locations, HCA helps them identify viable sites for DER projects, reducing the number of non-viable applications and streamlining the interconnection process for both developers and utilities.
  2. Interconnection screening. Knowing the hosting capacity limits allows utilities to design better interconnection screens, reducing the need for detailed studies for smaller projects and improving queue management.
  3. Distribution planning. HCA is a key input for distribution planning, helping utilities identify areas where system upgrades may be needed to accommodate future DER growth and target specific locations for capacity enhancements.

When developing HCA maps and data, utilities face various design decisions and tradeoffs, such as the frequency of updates, level of granularity, and amount of information provided. These choices impact the cost of developing the HCA and the benefits it offers to developers and utilities.

Non-Wires Alternatives: Leveraging DER for Cost-Effective Solutions

Non-Wires Alternatives (NWAs) are a non-traditional approach which uses DER as a resource to defer or replace traditional infrastructure investments, provided they are cost-effective. The three main applications of NWAs at the distribution level. The first, capacity, uses DER to inject power or reduce demand to increase the capacity of existing infrastructure. The second, reliability, employs DER to provide an alternate source of power in the event of a primary source outage. Lastly, voltage support, uses DER to help solve voltage-related issues that would otherwise require investment.

Non-Wires Alternatives procurement involves three levels.

  1. System-level initiatives that encourage DER development without specific locational targeting, such as net metering. 
  2. Geographically targeted programs that involve incentives and programs tailored to specific areas expected to need reinforcement, such as a Value of DER tariff.
  3. Specific grid needs to procure a DER solution for a known grid need, such as a microgrid for reliability.

Successful Non-Wires Alternatives projects, like the Brooklyn Queens Demand Management project in New York and the Thebes Battery project in Illinois, demonstrate the potential for DER to provide cost-effective solutions and improve system performance.

Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of Non-Wires Alternatives involves considering factors such as capital cost, implementation time, flexibility, reliability benefits, and the ability to realize multiple value streams. Utilities must also carefully manage the commitments and availability of DER resources to ensure they can deliver the expected benefits.

Hosting Capacity Analysis and Non-Wires Alternatives are powerful tools that enable utilities to effectively plan for and integrate Distributed Energy Resources into their distribution systems. By leveraging these strategies, utilities can optimize the use of DER, defer costly infrastructure investments, and provide reliable and cost-effective service to their customers.

Does your utility need engineering support for hosting capacity analysis or non-wires alternatives? Contact the consultants of Electric Power Engineers to discuss your distribution planning needs.