In the hopes of enabling cooperatives to determine whether the aggregation of on-site generation and grid power will decrease the cost of electricity for cooperatives, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Cooperative Research Network (CRN) has contracted Electrotek Concepts, Edison, N.J., to develop a methodology for determining the feasibility of aggregation and dispatch of customer or third-party owned on-site generation installed primarily for backup power.

Initial studies performed by Electrotek in Deleware, Maryland, and New York showed the capability of backup generation in rural areas to supply more than 10% of peak demand. While recognizing the interests of national chains with backup generation operating in multiple utility service territories, the organizers of the CRN study, along with Electrotek, hope to identify those factors unique to electric cooperatives.

J. Charles Smith, president of Electrotek, acknowledges the opportunities distributed generation presents to enhance power supply system reliability, but he sees several technical, financial, and management issues creating problems for the technology.

“This project will develop a simple methodology for cooperatives to determine the feasibility of a simple, Internet-based system for dispatching multiple distributed generators, the best business arrangements for implementing such a project, and the costs and benefits available to them,” he says. “It represents an important step forward for cooperatives to determine the most cost-effective approach for aggregating available electric supply from existing DG units and enhancing the reliability of their electric supply systems.”

The methodology developed under the contract will be applicable to cooperatives located in all states, including those that have developed active competitive wholesale markets.