HomeEnergyThe smart grid and its key role in the Industrial IoT

The smart grid and its key role in the Industrial IoT

Industrial Internet Consortium member organizations Real-Time Innovations (RTI), National Instruments and Cisco are currently working on a communications and control testbed for microgrid applications.

These three companies are working with power utilities CPS Energy and Southern California Edison in the initiative.

A traditional power grid relies on a central-station architecture not designed to interconnect distributed and renewable power sources such as roof-top solar and wind turbines. The system must over-generate power to compensate for rapid variation in power generation or demands. Due to this process, much of the benefit of renewable energy sources is lost.

The microgrid communication and control testbed will introduce the flexibility offered by real-time analytics and control to increase efficiencies in this legacy process. This process will ensure that power is generated more accurately and reliably.

The testbed proposes re-architecting electric power grids to include a series of distributed microgrids which will control smaller areas of demand with distributed generation and storage capacity. These microgrids will operate independently from the main electric power grid but will still interact and be coordinated with the existing infrastructure.

The goal of the testbed is to prove the viability of a real-time, secure databus to facilitate machine-to-machine, machine-to-control center, and machine-to-cloud data communications. It will also combine processing and control applications with intelligent analytics tools. The testbed will also run in real-world power applications and interface with practical equipment.

“The smart grid is a critical infrastructure component of the Industrial Internet of Things,” RTI’s CEO Stan Schneider said. “The IIoT will span industries, sensor to cloud, power to factory, and road to hospital. This key first step will address a significant barrier to the efficient use of green energy.”

Real-Time Innovations (RTI) is providing the real-time databus software while National Instruments is providing the intelligent nodes for edge control and analytics based on their CompactRIO and Grid Automation Systems. Meanwhile, Cisco is providing network equipment and security expertise using their Connected Grid Router. These three organizations are collaborating with Duke Energy and the Standard Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) to ensure a coordinated, accepted architecture.

The testbed is organized in three phases. In April 2015, the initial phase of the testbed started as a proof-of-concept that ensures basic security and performance. The second phase of the testbed is slated for 2016. In this phase, the testbed will demonstrate the scalability of the Microgrid Communication and Control Framework in a simulated environment. The final phase will demonstrate the testbed in a real-world situation. The first two phases will take place in Westminster, California at Southern California Edison’s Controls Lab. The field deployment test will take place at CPS Energy’s “Grid-of-the-Future” microgrid test area in San Antonio, Texas.

“Grid operators manage a vast infrastructure of generation, transmission and distribution systems. We believe microgrids offer a path forward to address the communication, load, and generation challenges facing today’s grid system,” said Jamie Smith, Director of Embedded Systems, National Instruments.

“Analytics and controls are essential for a successful energy transition, addressing limited scalability and renewables, siloed networks, rigid controls and slow human intervention,” said Kip Compton, general manager of Cisco’s Internet of Things Systems and Software Group.

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