To more simply and cost effectively operate an increasingly complex and crowded grid, greater interoperability across disparate devices and systems is needed. For greater responsiveness, more decisions need to be made at the edge, which is only possible if there is more intelligence in the distribution network. These two concepts currently drive a number of industry initiatives where OMNETRIC Group plays a key role. Our latest project with the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) implementation of an open-source, interoperable platform with edge-based analytics at the distribution scale – is now well under way. This project consolidates and builds on the ground-breaking work we are doing with Duke Energy and CPS Energy.
The NREL project is a collaboration between Duke Energy, CPS Energy, the University of Texas San Antonio, Siemens and OMNETRIC Group. The goal is to implement a distributed control hierarchy based on an open field message bus (OpenFMB) architecture. This architecture breaks away from traditional proprietary, centralized control concepts, allowing decisions to be made at the edge of the grid to deliver more timely responses to changing conditions.
NREL is managing the Integrated Network Testbed for Energy Grid Research and Technology Experimentation (INTEGRATE) project, which will see participants, including the collaboration that OMNETRIC Group is part of, test their technologies in NREL’s unique megawatt-scale Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).
The groundwork for this effort with NREL was laid in two projects: Duke Energy’s Coalition of the Willing (COW) industry interoperability initiative, where the technology to implement a distributed intelligence platform, now called OpenFMB, was put to the test and has resulted in the publication of a distributed intelligence reference architecture; and CPS Energy’s Grid of the Future project to implement an interoperable platform hosted on CPS Energy’s grid and is expected to enable enhanced reliability at lower costs and easier integration and implementation of microgrids, renewables, analytics, and data federation via the OpenFMB to deliver transformational, next-generation smart grid solutions – e.g., for smart cities.
Why is this work important?
Today, distributed energy resources and microgrids are controlled by discrete, proprietary controller products. Edge-based analytics and greater interoperability present a tremendous opportunity to go beyond the capabilities of the present installed base, improving performance, lowering integration costs and improving risk mitigation. This offers a technical and economic advantage to the industry.
By taking control closer to the edge, utilities can improve the performance of the devices they are managing and controlling – because they can look at the situation at the edge, run the device closer to its operational limit, and respond faster to changing conditions when compared to today’s centralized, proprietary systems.
An example? With OpenFMB, we can build adaptors to easily integrate a battery system, solar array, and other components from different vendors, creating a microgrid. The products and/or services are linked together using the OpenFMB without having to resort to proprietary interfaces, reducing the cost and complexity of a microgrid implementation. Once connected, these distributed assets can quickly react to localized situations and report their actions to a higher-level management system (e.g. EMS, DMS) instead of having an EMS/DMS aggregate disparate points across the system to analyze and determine how to manage the microgrid while performing its regular functions. The time savings and grid performance benefits from such a solution are substantial. This creates interoperability (use of products from multiple suppliers), increases functionality, and offers greater value to customers and to the utility.
This new OpenFMB architecture also allows utilities to leverage and augment new products coming to market, such as Siemens’ Micro Grid Management System (MGMS). The MGMS works the same way a distribution management system (DMS) works today. By augmenting the MGMS with OpenFMB software and edge applications, users can create a new control strategy for a distribution system or aspect of it that would allow it to integrate devices and operate more efficiently in harmony with a traditional DMS, or in lieu of a DMS.
The NREL project– implementing an interoperable platform at the distribution scale
NREL has some of the same equipment at its Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) that will be installed at Duke Energy and CPS Energy. OMNETRIC Group will implement integration protocols on equipment and develop adaptors (using the OpenFMB) putting code directly onto devices. In other cases, we will initially simulate pieces of the solution, with the help of other capabilities at the ESIF, to decide on features and microgrid components. The result will be a patchwork quilt of actual and simulated devices that will allow us to evaluate microgrid performance and ease of integration.
From this first effort, currently underway, we will develop our first iteration of the platform. We will then get the system up and running at Duke Energy’s McAlpine substation test area in Charlotte, NC. This will serve as a field demonstration of an islandable microgrid with onsite PV generation and battery storage to support the neighboring firestation. In the field demo, we will be working on two different use cases: reliability and quality of the grid; and improved weather forecasting and how to use it to operate the microgrid differently.
We will also be doing an implementation at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas with CPS Energy, helping the utility realize its Grid of the Future vision. CPS Energy will use different equipment than Duke Energy, demonstrating the flexibility and interoperability capabilities of the OpenFMB.
After approximately 18 months, NREL plans to open the testbed at ESIF for further studies. We also hope to continue to leverage the Duke Energy and CPS Energy implementations to improve and refine this new platform.
The NREL project
By integrating OpenFMB with the MGMS we can evaluate the merits and enable centralized control of the microgrid versus a distributed control or a hybrid approach.
For hybrid control, we will deselect some of the functionality in the MGMS and run that at the edge of the grid rather than have it aggregated for the microgrid as a whole. In other instances we will perform the control function at the edge but notify and send specific data from that control function to the MGMS, ensuring a coordinated approach and allowing the MGMS to keep track of the microgrid as a whole. This will ensure regardless of control scheme the microgrid is still connected to the grid and/or Independent System Operator. In a nutshell, the platform will allow the utility to still perform centralized management even though there is distributed control.
Our aim as we implement these microgrids is to figure out localized versus centralized assets will work together to solve some of the grid’s toughest challenges.
Distributed intelligence in action
With the NREL project, the MGMS, and OpenFMB, we will identify new approaches to deal with the two-way power flows that distributed energy sources bring, making the grid more responsive and efficient, as well as to develop the architecture to make it possible. Islanding is a good example. For example, if a storm is approaching, analytics and distributed capabilities can drive planning and operations to identify and coordinate service for critical installations like hospitals, putting them into ‘island’ mode to enhance their reliability during challenging weather. In this way, utilities can run critical installations independently and coordinate when and how to bring them back into the central grid. Another alternative would be to combine intermittent energy resources together with storage to emulate traditional generation in order to derive the benefits of solar and wind power without traditional operational complexities. It’s important to these solutions to allow a utility to select different suppliers for each component in the system so that future capabilities can be easily integrated.
As the industry pushes to develop new interoperable platforms and drives more intelligence into the distribution network, it is essential to use a consistent set of standards and protocols. To drive this approach forward, OMNETRIC Group is working with the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), a consortium created to accelerate and advance grid modernization in the US through interoperability and the leadership talents of its members.
At SGIP, OMNETRIC Group participates in the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) Priority Action Plan, which will provide a specification for power systems field devices to leverage the non-proprietary and standards-based Internet of Things (IoT) reference architecture platform, which is the heart and soul of our work with NREL.
These are exciting times! Do keep an eye out for updates on developments with this project.