Community Engagement

DEED grant provides access to vintage DSTAR data

Leveraging the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments program through partnerships is an important way to maximize the return on member research investments. That kind of partnership was a key reason why in 2010, DEED began participating in the distribution-focused R&D consortium called Distribution Systems Testing Application and Research (DSTAR). 

Last summer two Association members expressed interest in several DSTAR project reports and software that had been completed prior to DEED joining the consortium. As a DSTAR member, DEED was able to purchase these additional, valuable materials at a heavily discounted price using a DEED grant.

DSTAR was formed in the early 1980s when Northeast Utilities (now Eversource Energy), began looking for answers about “impulse and short circuit generation capability, measurement, and proximity to existing distribution facilities.”

Their search led them to two GE labs, the High Voltage Laboratory in Pittsfield, Mass., and the Skeats High Power Lab in Philadelphia. Five other utilities and a utility organization based in the Northeast were also looking for answers to the same questions. They all joined forces with GE to form the beginnings of DSTAR, which became an official entity in 1986.

GE remains involved with the program through its GE Energy Consulting division, acting as program manager and prime contractor. DSTAR conducts “programs” of research projects with as many as 16 projects in each program. When DEED joined the group, DSTAR had just kicked off Program 13 that was scheduled to last for two years.

Lavelle Freeman is a Technical Director for GE and the program administer for DSTAR. He said, “DSTAR research activities are directed by a committee consisting of representatives from each of the member utilities and utility organizations. Concepts for future research topics are developed from the needs expressed by the member utilities. The committee selects projects to be pursued and the funding to be allocated.”

DSTAR provides a way for new members to access data from older programs by buying in and receiving study results or in some cases, problem-solving software. In 2010 DEED began participating in the committee that selects projects. Michele Suddleson, Director of DEED said, “every 18 months to two years, we agree by vote on a slate of projects we wish to fund. GE, the administrator for DSTAR, finds us a consultant to do the work or does the work itself. All consortium members have access to the project deliverables. But something different happened last year when I heard from a few members that DSTAR had some older projects they wanted access to. I worked with those utilities and DSTAR to create a DEED grant application that the board could review and vote on.”   

The grant amount awarded was $42,684 which provided DEED members with access to results from nine different project deliverables that included studies and software devoted to topics such as fault energy guidelines for transformer enclosures, current limiting fuse application guidelines, the changing nature of loads, and WYE-Delta overhead bank discharges.

If DEED members had to execute the projects to obtain similar results and deliverables on their own, the cost would have been $1,319,277. Freeman said, “that amount represents the total R&D expenditure by DSTAR members on four specific software titles and five technical reports requested by DEED. The grant amount covers the cost to buy or license the 9 deliverables at a significant discount because DEED is an active DSTAR member.”

Accessing projects from the past is helping utilities with legacy maintenance issues but also lending a technological hand with more modern dilemmas.

Darryl V. Strother, Electric Distribution Manager for Rocky Mount Public Utilities (City of Rocky Mount, N.C.). said, “We used the LED evaluation tool developed by DSTAR. This was a program that allowed you to load your utilities economic factors and evaluate several fixtures at one time on life cycle cost.” 

Paul Jakubczak, PE, Director of Electric and Gas Systems for the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority in Florida likes the fact that diverse resources from different points of view come together in the DEED/DSTAR partnership. He said, “DSTAR leverages not only municipals, but it also has buy-in from larger IOUs and the co-ops too. It’s also a great resource for those new to the industry or public power. As we’re getting new blood into the industry they are asking the age-old question of ‘why are we doing it this way,’ or ‘why does this not work that way?’”

DEED is spreading the word about its available resources through its online database and a series of webinars it’s producing. The tools help leverage a world of knowledge for DEED and DSTAR members. Strother said, “DEED membership has so many benefits, but the one that most impresses me is reading about the cutting-edge things people are working on.  That means more to a small publicly owned utility than an IOU. As a member of DEED, you have access to all of them. Reading the completed or ongoing project list, [it] looks like a large corporate machine that has an entire staff of engineers backing them. It gives the little guy the power of a large utility.”

For additional information on DSTAR collaboration resources, click here.