Optimization of Distributed Generation Using Sustainable Energy Technologies in California

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Barg, Dave
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The traditional electrical power system model in the U.S. involves centrally-located power plants and a vast web of transmission and distribution networks, which make up the electrical grid. Although this model has been employed for many decades, the flaws associated with these systems have contributed to environmental degradation, threats to public health, and economic instability. Traditional systems are worn and outdated, inefficient, and commonly strained. The results of these issues are high emissions, large land disturbance, and utility fee fluctuations that are imposed on the general public. Historically, utility companies have had few incentives to manage these inefficiencies and revise practices. Legislation over two decades has forced these companies to meet more stringent emissions standards and incorporate more renewable energy technologies. Despite some improvement, additional action is necessary to improve air quality, public health, and other environmental aspects. Many of the solutions and policies to address the problems created by traditional power systems have been based on technological advancement. New generation sources have been introduced and pollution mitigation devices installed, but air quality impacts from electricity production still exist. Because of this, traditional systems have remained largely unchanged, with the exception of simple technological upgrades. The model proposed in this analysis is design-based approach to address the inefficiency of traditional systems through the reconfiguration of electrical grids. The approach is referred to as distributed generation (DG), which shifts the design and layout of power generation and distribution systems to reduce pollution by increasing efficiency and promoting the inclusion of renewable energy sources. The primary goal of this analysis is to provide an electrical power system model that significantly improves air quality and public health. The DG model operates on a smaller-scale than traditional systems. Rather than installing a central power plant, multiple DG sites are dispersed through communities closer to consumers. The DG configuration does not require transmission, as sources are connected directly to the lower-voltage distribution network. Transmission networks are comprised of the large galvanized steel towers used to carry high-voltage power lines. The distribution network includes the overhead power poles and underground lines installed throughout communities that deliver electricity directly to consumers at local transformers. DG essentially bypasses a large step necessary for traditional systems. Traditional grids involve voltage step-up and stepdown and transporting power long distances prior to connecting to the distribution networks. This process wastes electricity through heat losses and requires significant land disturbance. This analysis proposes the incorporation of the DG model on the utility-scale meet the demands of a large consumer population. The primary advantages of this model include higher efficiency ratings, adaptability, modularity, and the incorporation of a diverse group of power technologies. DG increases efficiency by avoiding transmission, which minimizes the amount of electricity wasted. Less waste means less power is produced to meet demand, resulting in lower emissions. DG offers adaptability, as systems may be quickly modified to meet demand at any given time. The modularity of systems allows easy expansion and reduction through the quick addition and removal of power sources. Also, DG can be used to supplement grid power as a base load or for peak demand conditions. DG systems are more conducive to the implementation of a diverse range of renewable energy sources because there are more sites. Central plants are generally comprised of a single power source. DG facilitates the installation of technologies that are optimal for specific site conditions and smaller-scale generation from a variety of possible owners. The small-scale dispersed nature of systems allows systems to be installed in close proximity to consumers. If there are any emissions at all, they are dispersed rather than concentrated by alleviating need for centralized power plants.
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Applied Research Paper
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