Industrial Internet Consortium Announces Microgrid Testbed

The group, which is working to advance industrial IoT deployments across sectors, is working with a number of utility providers to develop a responsive, reliable architecture for microgrids, which rely on networks of electricity sources.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

Schneider envisions a system wherein a microgrid operator sets parameters and relies on the grid-management system, employing networks of digital sensors (as opposed to electromechanical or analog devices used in conventional grid infrastructure) to switch seamlessly between sources of electricity. "I can say, for example, 'I want to monitor this [energy source], and as long as output is above X, that's fine. If it falls below that, I need to move over to the battery system.'"

Using fast, local controllers with a standard messaging format means a microgrid operation system can leverage cloud analytics to optimize data traffic flow, Schneider explains, adding that relying on a DDS architecture will move away from specifications and protocols that are specific to the energy sector. RTI deploys its DDS-based middleware in a wide range of industrial sectors, including energy, but also industrial controls, health care and aerospace.

Following the development work at NI's test lab, the testbed participants will use Southern California Edison's Controls Lab in Westminster, Calif., to establish and test a number of microgrid simulations. "SoCal Edison has an amazing simulation facility, with all the latest electrical and substation equipment, as well as wind turbine and solar panel simulations," Schneider says. "It's a nice, safe place to run tests and [evaluate] algorithms in a realistic setting."

The testbed will culminate with a field deployment at CPS Energy's "Grid-of-the-Future" microgrid test area, located in San Antonio, Texas. There, Schneider says, participants will evaluate the communication and control architecture on a grid linked to "real houses, real [electric] cars and real solar cells."

Last month, the IIC announced its first testbed, a standards-based framework for precisely tracking both the locations and usage of automated hand tools within an industrial setting.

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