Control of aggregate electric water heaters for load shifting and balancing intermittent renewable energy generation in a smart grid environment

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Engineering


The majority of electrical energy in the United States is produced by fossil fuels, which release harmful greenhouse gas emissions and are non-renewable resources. The U.S. Department of Energy has established goals for a smart electric power grid, which facilitates the incorporation of clean, renewable generation sources, such as wind. A major challenge in incorporating renewable energy sources onto the power grid is balancing their intermittent and often unpredictable nature. In addition, wind generation is typically higher at night, when consumer demand is low. Residential electric water heaters (EWHs), which currently account for 20% of the U.S. residential daily energy demand, are the largest contributors to the morning and evening peaks in residential power demand. The simulations in this thesis tested the hypothesis that controlling the thermostat setpoints of EWHs can shift EWH electrical energy demand from hours of higher demand to hours of lower demand, provide a large percentage of the balancing reserves necessary to integrate wind energy generation onto the electric power grid, and economically benefit the customer, while maintaining safe water temperatures and without significantly increasing average daily power demand or maximum power demand of the EWHs. In the experimental simulation, during on-peak hours for demand, when electricity prices are high, the thermostat setpoints of EWHs were set to the minimum, in order to consume minimal energy. The result was that the vast majority of EWH demand occurred during off-peak hours, a significant improvement over the base case (normal operation in which no setpoint control was implemented). During off-peak hours, the thermostat setpoints of EWHs were controlled by the utility in order to provide balancing reserves necessary to maintain power system stability when wind generation is included in the system. The EWHs were able to provide the balancing reserves desired by the utility a majority of the time. In this combined control method, the customer benefitted financially by saving in electrical energy costs when compared to the base case, the EWH water temperatures always remained within safe limits. There was only a small increase in the total energy consumption, but the peak power demand did not change.




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