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distributed energy resources (DER)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A distributed energy resource (DER) is a small-scale unit of power generation that operates locally and is connected to a larger power grid at the distribution level. DERs include solar panels, small natural gas-fueled generators, electric vehicles and controllable loads, such as HVAC systems and electric water heaters. An important distinction of a DER is that the energy it produces is often consumed close to the source.  

When using renewable power sources, the intermittent nature of some resources creates a need for using multiple renewable resources, as well as a means to tie them together, manage and store their output. Energy storage such as batteries and fly wheels are required for hardware such as wind and other turbine types, solar panels, and tidal generation units. In order to get the most of the energy produced, these power sources and storage devices need to be tightly managed by way of electronic management devices, which include inverters and software such as Storage Distributed Resource Schedulers (SDRS).

DERs are commonly used to manage a number of smaller power generation and storage methods in residential, commercial and industrial sectors.They may be used by utility providers, businesses and individuals in the production and storage of renewable power or for backup power sources. The technologies are fundamental requirements of more advanced power grids such as smart grids.

Benefits of distributed energy resources 

The inclusion of distributed energy resources into the grid has several benefits. Customers with DER assets can expect to pay less for electricity because they can sell power back to the grid.

In areas where there is a high reliance on wind, solar and other variable energy resources (VERs), distributed energy resources can be used to help improve quality of service and reliability of service. 

This was last updated in March 2019

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