DER Control for Distribution Systems

DER Control for Distribution Systems

DER Control for Distribution Systems

Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are being deployed at large scale in many areas throughout the world.  Often these resources are deployed by third parties interested in reducing their marginal cost and/or life-cycle cost for electricity, managing risk of grid outages for critical infrastructure, or for other non-energy purposes such as sustainability.  However, capital costs for these resources are often expensive, and their existence can put strain on traditional grid assets designed to handle uni-directional power flow to satisfy load at the grid edge.Hierarchical control of DER considering distribution system constraints

Grid operators can either rely on constructing a system that is robust to these new resources, at great expense, or they can attempt to harness these grid edge resources to manage power quality and cost issues they create. Industry, regulators, and market makers are interested in managing the power quality and cost issues that DERs create, but they need to be leveraged in a way that coordinates the sometimes conflicting needs of every level of grid management, from wholesale markets and transmission to distribution systems and utility programs. The Grid Integration Group (GIG) develops control and optimization approaches to help navigate these conflicting objectives and to support all levels of power grid operations.

What We Do

We develop control and optimization approaches to manage DER to provide power systems services at minimal cost. Our work employs spatio-temporal hierarchical controls, consistent with wholesale market timelines, to utilize DER for various power systems needs. Power flow Berkeley Lab's FLEXGRID at FLEXLABdriven optimization problems couple DER (including Photovoltaics, Batteries, Electric Vehicles and Demand Response) operations with distribution voltage and power management with wholesale market-based energy and ancillary services to simultaneously unlock value at multiple levels. We employ both centralized and distributed real-time control techniques. Our researchers pioneered a real-time, distributed, model-free control method, called Extremum Seeking, for power system applications.

Our applications are tested in simulation and in Hardware-in-the-Loop at Berkeley Lab’s FLEXGRID.  FLEXGRID is a facility with Photovoltaic and Battery inverters connected to a grid emulator that is run by an OpalRT real-time simulator. FLEXGRID allows distributed controllers to be integrated with the hardware they control in order to evaluate performance.



Projects and Tools

Federated Architecture for Secure and Transactive Distributed Energy Resource Management (FAST-DERMS)

FAST-DERMS is a novel utility control architecture that enables the provision of reliable, resilient, and secure distribution and transmission grid services through:

  • scalable aggregation and near real-time management of utility-scale and small-scale distributed energy resources via reliability-constrained stochastic optimal commitment and dispatch; and
  • seamless integration of any centralized distribution management system (DMS), transmission energy management system (EMS), DER aggregator or virtual power plant (VPP), microgrid management system (MGMS), and transactive or distributed stochastic DER controls.

A DOE Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium Project, led by partner lab NREL.


Community Control of DER for Wide Area Reserve Provision

This project aims to develop and demonstrate algorithms for advanced distribution management systems (ADMS) that allow DERs to improve distribution system operations and simultaneously contribute to transmission-level services by:

  • elevating load buses to the level of generator buses with respect to the degree of control authority they present to system operators; 
  • simultaneously optimizing distribution-level measures, such as equipment capacity and nodal voltage magnitudes; and 
  • limit impacts of distribution model error by employing real-time, model free
  • integrate and demonstrate algorithms into our partner’s commercially available Network Management System.

A DOE Office of Electricity and Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium Project, in the Advanced Distribution Management Systems area.

Integration of a DER Management System in Riverside (A DOE ENERGISE Project)

The project develops and validates a Distributed Energy Resource management system that automates integration and control of DER clusters with advanced sensor data to improve distribution system operations and simultaneously contribute to transmission-level services. The ongoing project includes both Hardware-in-the-Loop and field demonstration. Berkeley Lab led efforts to deploy distributed voltage management and phase balancing approaches based on extremum seeking.

The project is a DOE project in the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy’s ENERGISE program.


The Distributed Optimal and Predictive Energy Resources (DOPER) Controller

DOPER ( is an open-source model predictive controller (MPC) for distributed energy resources. It optimally coordinates DERs and controllable loads, such as Photovoltaic (PV) with smart inverters, battery storage, electric vehicles, as well as building components such as lighting, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), and lighting to minimize the total energy cost for the asset owner, increase building occupant comfort, while providing additional services to the grid. The grid services implemented include time-varying pricing schemes, the response to critical periods in the grid, and participation in frequency regulation markets. 

Distributed Optimal and Predictive Energy Resources framework

Distributed Optimal and Predictive Energy Resources framework



Jason MacDonald

Principal Scientific Engineering Associate
(510) 486-7085