Mapping is an indispensable tool for electric utilities to understand their distribution networks and related capacities to maintain power quality and reliability. The addition of new distributed generation, including rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, can present a challenge to utilities, particularly as the volume of interconnection requests and the resulting total capacity of installed systems per distribution circuit grow. Maps aid project reviewers and utility planners as they assess the impact of interconnecting each system to the grid and seek to forecast and understand the operational impacts of the fleet of systems’ generation.
In this post, I’m eager to describe a new PowerClerk® integration we’ve recently undertaken that includes a demo that you’re welcome to try for yourself.
In order to power such visuals, it’s important to capture, store, and make accessible distributed generator fleet data (e.g., system locations, generator specifications). In a ￼previous post, we described in detail the importance of having a system-of-record and key considerations when capturing energy program data.
Beyond serving as a system-of-record, PowerClerk is designed to be integrated with external systems such as a utility’s Customer Information System (CIS). Integration keeps those systems updated as each project’s status and additional details change throughout the workflow. We’ve supported a number of existing customers who have integrated their billing and CIS to PowerClerk.
As we explored additional ways to leverage integration with utility CIS, we discovered the opportunity to pull data from the CIS into a PowerClerk form (for example, an interconnection application form). In this way, PowerClerk can validate data in a form (e.g., customer identifiers such as account number or meter number), as well as populate data into the form. In the latter case, PowerClerk can pre-fill portions of a form to reduce the amount of manual data entry required from applicants.
Today PowerClerk is populating customer contact information so it exactly matches the utility CIS’s records, automatically generating meter set requests, and populating circuit data. Additionally, via an integration with a contractor state licensing board’s web service, we’re also populating contractor license information into PowerClerk forms. We’re eager to highlight customer successes in these areas in future posts.
As we’ve worked closely with customers in each of the above projects, we’ve recently become aware of the importance of visualizing data in map form for our customers. In particular, doing so in a Geographic Information System, or GIS can be especially helpful.
Geographic information systems
It’s one thing to have generating asset data stored in a well-structured database, but visualizing that data can be extremely powerful, particularly when tracking a number of projects spread across statuses in a workflow. After confirming the value in integrating PowerClerk and customer GIS, we quickly found that Esri’s ArcGIS is a product many of our existing utility customers use today. So, we became an Esri partner, which enabled us to begin experimenting and to develop a demo integration that we’re happy to share below.
In this demo, we’ve leveraged public information about Naperville, Indiana, which is often used in other ArcGIS demos. Using PowerClerk’s data import feature, we created a representative dataset of PV systems on two different distribution feeders in PowerClerk. Each feeder has a “pipeline” of proposed systems across three statuses: Application Review, Approved for Construction, and Inspection Pending. Each feeder also has a number of completed systems in Permission to Operate Status.
In Figure 2, we’ve chosen to display a few relevant attributes of each project including the Project number (generated by PowerClerk), status, system size, and service address. We also chose to include the feeder number in the status, but that could easily be a separate attribute. You’ll also notice various icons being used to represent status. Distribution circuits are displayed in a separate layer. Want to investigate for yourself?
Using PowerClerk’s ability to trigger automatic Actions from forms or upon status change, we’re able to automatically create new points in an ArcGIS feature layer, as well as update those points. So, as a project moves along the workflow and reaches the Permission to Operate status, that project’s icon could automatically be updated in the ArcGIS layer.
By pairing the flexible capabilities of PowerClerk® and ArcGIS, customers will be able to easily design layers like the ones in this demo and deploy them across a range of maps that could be made visible internally to the organization, as well as externally to other stakeholders.
We’re working on utilizing analytics in ArcGIS maps to automatically calculate and visualize the available capacity per distribution circuit. Given the ever-increasing penetration of distributed generation interconnected to distribution systems across the country, the ability to display this information transparently would seem to be beneficial.
We’re also interested to hear your feedback. What business problems could you envision this integrated solution solving? Are there other systems you’d recommend we consider integrating? Please feel free to pass along your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.