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DER Imperative: Data and Control at the Edge

At the dawn of a new decade, electrification trends that defined the previous decade don’t show any signs of abating. From 2010 to 2018, rooftop solar installations in the U.S. increased by 688 percent[1],[2]; the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is forecasting another 166% increase by 2024. In a similar forecast, SolarPower Europe is projecting the non-U.S. residential PV market to grow by 205% through 2023.[3]

 

In addition to the growth in rooftop solar, vehicle electrification is also poised for growth. BloombergNEF is predicting the global EV market will grow from 2 million in 2018 to 10 million in 2025 (and to 56 million by 2040). In addition, residential storage is expected to follow similar trends to support distributed solar and EV installations.

 

Looking to a more near-term horizon through the implementation of Rule 21 this year, the SunSpec Alliance anticipates that nearly 250,000 new smart inverter-based DERs will be installed on the grid in California per year.[4]

 

The Need for Fundamental Solutions

 

It is widely agreed upon that managing the grid in presence of DERs at high-penetration requires access to new sources of data and the ability to interpret that data for actionable insights. There is an argument made by some this is leading to a turf war between utilities and private sector disruptors because of the fact that “. . . most utilities have neither the information nor the controls necessary to manage the new distributed grid,”[5] while many technology-enabled start-ups are working to collect and manage data from DERs directly for their own platform.

 

The problem is fundamental – many DERs need access to the grid services and markets to provide value for owners, and grid operators need visibility and control of DERs to ensure safety and reliability. And, while the use of advanced analytics, system optimization, and grid edge control promise to improve reliability and lower costs – grid operators and DER owners are still limited by the primary challenge of collecting and exchanging data from many, various devices and systems.

 

While there are many obstacles to overcome when acquiring data from DERs, there are several main overarching problems that need to be solved:

 

– Non-harmonized Standards and Devices. The emerging DER market is comprised of many independently developed devices, standards, protocols, and regulatory requirements. For example, there is a set of protocols for distributed generation (IEEE 2030.5, SunSpec Modbus, DNP3 and others), a similar set for energy storage technologies (IEEE 2030.5, SunSpec Modbus, DNP3, OpenADR, and others), another different set for electric vehicles to grid (IEEE 2030.5, OpendADR, OCPP, ISO15118, and others) and finally another set of protocols for demand-side management technologies (OpenADR, IEEE 2030.5, CTA-2045 and others).

 

– Massive Data Volume. In 2016, the author of a Forbes article highlighted the data volume problem well: “A smart meter pinging your household for consumption data will generate around 400MB a year. Over 134 million U.S. households that translates to 53.6PB. And if you wanted to read the data every second – a level that would let a software program identify and perhaps fine-tune consumption in an unobtrusive manner – you exceed 42 exabytes.”[6]

 

– Cyber Security. According to a 2019 report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), the grid is becoming more vulnerable to cyberattacks due to industrial control systems (such as those that comprise smart inverters and control microgrids) and IoT.[7]

 

Focus on the Edge

 

To solve for these imperatives, utilities and other energy providers should be looking to the edges of their operational systems and to software-defined solutions that help harmonize the DER ecosystem, help integrate massive amounts of data, and help secure the grid.

 

When talking about the edge in the context of the electric grid, we are referring to both the physical edges of the utility-owned grid, as well as at the edge of the grid operator’s information technology network. The electric distribution system can be described to have three edges that need to be addressed:

 

– Edge – This is where the grid is interconnected to consumers and energy resources.  This is where communication harmonization and autonomous control takes place, working to support community and system-level operational goals.

 

– Community – This edge is most typically represented by the electric distribution substation. Applications here are responsible for distribution system coordination, aggregation of community data, and system protection.

 

– System – At the upper edge of the grid, a utility’s headend systems need to connect to devices and other systems on a field area network.

 

By pushing harmonization, integration, and security functionality to the edge (along with advanced applications in the future), one can reduce the latency of control actions, improve privacy and cybersecurity, and reduce bandwidth requirements.[8]

 

By using a software-defined approach, rather than the traditional hardware-based approach (i.e. the use case is defined by the software application sitting on a generic, environmentally suitable compute platform), operators can manage solutions centrally to scale massively and roll-out new features and security upgrades in days (or hours).

 

Congruence.IQ

 

Congruitive’s Congruence.IQ (C.IQ) product suite are software-defined edge solutions for utilities and energy operators, helping simplify the acquisition, transport, and integration of data for the operation of their networks – allowing the stakeholders to realize the benefits of IoT and DER adoption while improving security and reducing the costs of integration.

 

With its IEEE 2030.5 CSIP implementation certified by SunSpec for use in California, the C.IQ Edge Gateway is a software-defined communications network gateway with protocol and data model translation, advanced control functionality, and unsurpassed flexibility.

 

The C.IQ Substation Gateway is software for virtualizing substation automation onto a common, IT-based platform. Aggregate grid data into a single point of integration, provide access to advanced analytics and higher-level systems for DER data aggregation and control, and provide substation operators with advanced awareness via a local human-machine interface.

 

Further empowering our utility customers at the high-level system edge, C.IQ Connect integrates data between all legacy utility systems (e.g., SCADA, ADMS, AMI, etc.) and devices, including new grid-edge devices (e.g. DERs, EVs, microgrid, etc.) seamlessly to reduce costs and increase value creation. In addition, Congruence.IQ centralizes utility security governance and expands that governance to edge devices via transport encryption and certificate-based management to help reduce exposure and cyber risks.

 

Key Take Away

 

Simplifying the acquisition, transport, and integration of data over energy networks, Congruitive gives utilities and renewable energy producers the technology they need to manage and control power distribution at the edges of their grids. Our suite of software-defined solutions acquires, transports, and presents complex energy data for analysis, action, and automated control – so you can keep the energy flowing to customers effectively, efficiently, and safely.