Last week, the Industrial Internet Consortium -- a group of more than 150 companies working on a common path toward ubiquitous, standards-based machine-to-machine communication -- launched an ambitious project aimed at bringing real-time data analytics and control to the world of microgrids, and potentially, the grid at large.
Building on work being done by Duke Energy and its Coalition of the Willing vendor partners, the project, officially titled the Communication and Control Testbed for Microgrid Applications, is seeking to test a common set of technology standards and data models for distributed energy devices and computing platforms.
The end goal is to allow smart solar PV inverters, energy storage systems, plug-in electric vehicles, responsive building energy loads, and other grid-edge systems to work in real time with the utility smart grid platforms theyre connected to -- not through complicated, project-by-project integration, but in a more plug-and-play fashion.
Thats a tough challenge, as weve noted in our ongoing coverage of efforts on this front. To date, the worlds microgrids have been built with components from different vendors, using different technology implementations, which makes integrating them a complex and time-consuming task, not easily replicable from one project to the next.
While microgrids are being designed and built by grid giants like Siemens, General Electric, ABB, S&C Electric, Schneider Electric and Toshiba, power system specialists like Power Analytics and Spirae, and even third-party solar companies like SolarCity, theyre not necessarily being put together in ways that can accommodate innovation and participation by third parties.
But this new project, which includes IIC members Real-Time Innovations, National Instruments and Cisco, utilities Duke Energy, Southern California Edison and San Antonio, Texas municipal utility CPS Energy, and the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) industry organization on board, is one of the most comprehensive efforts yet to bring standards to this nascent industry.
It also has an interesting set of underlying technologies to build on. The first tool is the secured messaging protocol Data Distribution Service (DDS), originally developed for the U.S. Navy to connect shipboard IT systems in a real-time, peer-to-peer network, which is now in use to operate Siemens Wind Power turbines and big U.S. hydropower projects. Real-Time Innovations is providing its open implementation of DDS for this project, and National Instruments and Cisco are providing the networking and computing platforms to carry it into the field.
The second is the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) distributed intelligence reference architecture, published by Duke earlier this year (PDF) to show other utilities and vendors how it and its partners are connecting disparate devices in ways that allow them to communicate and react to rapidly changing conditions on the grid. Thats led SGIP to launch a working group to codify the data models, service requirements and standards for OpenFMB, so that they can be replicated by other industry players.
So how will these technology tools be put together in ways that could lead to real-world implementations? Brett Murphy, director of business development for RTIs Industrial Internet of Things business group, explained how the partners plan to move from proof of concept to real-world implementation over the next few years.
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