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What Is a DER (Distributed Energy Resource)?

Defining a DER (Distributed Energy Resource)

DERs are dispersed, small-scale resources that supply and/or demand electricity from the electrical grid, which is the system that transports energy from producers to consumers. DERs have helped make the grid more flexible by expanding the number of resources that can supply energy to meet demand, as opposed to relying solely on the grid.


Historically, electricity was generated and delivered almost exclusively by fossil fuel-powered plants that would transmit energy across long distances to residential and commercial users. With DERs, electricity can be generated and managed right where it is consumed. 


One familiar example of a DER is solar energy. Solar energy is distributed in the sense that it is installed at millions of homes and commercial buildings rather than at one central location. It is an energy resource because it has the capacity to generate electricity that can be used by the location as an alternative to fossil-fuel plants.      

How DERs Benefit the Electrical Grid

With their energy generation and management capabilities, DERs are able to provide energy capacity when the grid is overloaded and in turn improve grid flexibility and reliability. 


For example, energy consumers who have solar panels can use energy from this generation source rather than from the grid when demand for electricity on the overall grid is high. This demonstrates how owners of DERs can help alleviate grid stress


When DERs are leveraged at scale, they make the grid more reliable by reducing strain and, consequently, the chances of a blackout or brownout.            

Energy-Consuming Equipment as DERs

The above example clearly illustrates how energy producing equipment such as solar can act as a DER that supports the grid. Devices that consume energy, however, can also act as DERs and improve grid resiliency if usage patterns are shifted to offset periods of high demand. 


To appreciate this, imagine that all dishwasher owners currently run their appliances during the early evening, at the same time as when overall grid stress is highest. If this group collectively agreed to instead start their dishwashers overnight, when the overall grid stress is much lower, they would achieve a cumulative effect that significantly reduces peak energy demand. This shows how energy-consuming equipment can behave as a DER if it can be controlled.         

Cooling Equipment as a DER  

Like dishwashers, commercial cooling equipment such as HVAC and Refrigeration can be controlled to help offset grid stress. 


The impact of shifting the usage of a single piece of equipment from high demand hours to lower demand hours is small, but strong results can be accomplished with a network of thousands of pieces of equipment that are controlled in a remote, orchestrated, and automated environment to optimize cooling cycles against grid stress patterns.


In light of the impact that a network of energy-consuming DERs can have, there has been substantial investment in the development of solutions that connect widely dispersed DERs. One such example can be seen in the Therma° Cooling Intelligence Platform, which utilizes cooling equipment such as refrigeration units and HVAC as a resource to support grid resiliency.        

Therma° Cooling Intelligence Platform™ (TCIP™) 

While supporting grid reliability, TCIP™ ensures inventory safety and environmental comfort  by keeping temperatures within ranges set by users while optimizing and reducing your business’s energy consumption and electricity bill.


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