IoT Makes a Power Play for the Energy Grid

Power grids are increasingly taxed by the addition of more devices, higher demand for power, and age-old monitoring systems. Active grid management solutions stabilize the grid, providing much needed visibility and analytics to balance energy production and consumption.

 

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Image credit: Indra (Solar Panels at Monash University)

Changes in power generation and consumption are taxing the electrical grid. Utility companies, no longer the sole generators of power, are integrating into their grids renewable energy sources, microgrids, and customer-produced energy.

On top of that, power demands are changing. Large customers are adding edge devices that consume increasingly more power—and not always in a consistent manner. The integration of energy storage, car charging stations, and solar or wind power can impact the quantity and availability of energy from the grid.

Power companies need to manage all those changes, which can be a near-impossible task. Decades old SCADA systems provide information about the high-voltage level of the grid. However, they offer very limited information about the medium- and low-voltage levels—the very edge where more energy assets are being added. That can lead to outages or hidden costs.

Power companies need visibility into the entire network. That’s where an active grid management (AGM) platform comes into play. An AGM system shows operators where assets are located, their draw on the grid, customer energy demands, and how to improve efficiency.

 

Improving Efficiency of the Power Grid

Spanish company Indra has created the InGrid Active Grid Management Suite. The solution shifts grid management from a centralized control system to a distributed, Internet of Things (IoT) architecture with real-time analytics. It allows operators to monitor and manage their assets at all voltage levels across the grid. With real-time edge intelligence, utilities can improve the reliability and efficiency of the power grid.

The InGrid AGM Suite, powered by Intel Atom® processors, features a modular architecture with four layers. An intelligent IoT edge node enables interoperable data capture, data processing in real-time, and multi-protocol support. 

The edge software integrates with Indra’s iSpeed, an operational technology (OT) service bus. An open, distributed real-time service bus, iSpeed integrates disparate devices in a common infrastructure to enable secure and reliable communication at lightning-fast speeds. The InGrid monitoring and control layer provides real-time network analysis on all voltage levels of the grid, including support for data containers and alternative use scenarios.

Finally, InGrid’s big data analytics provide asset performance monitoring and grid management. It uses captured data and machine learning algorithms to identify global trends, improve maintenance, and predict future use and needs.

Case Study: Monash University

Australia’s largest university, Monash University, projected that student enrollment would nearly double by 2030. That led the university to reevaluate its energy consumption, find ways to eliminate dependency on fossil fuels, and reach its stated goal of Net Zero by 2030. In response, Monash partnered with Indra to create a microgrid with renewable energy sources and manage it using Indra’s InGrid AGM.

The university is using Indra’s platform and has installed edge computing devices in 22 campus buildings, in the energy storage area, and on the inverters for Monash’s solar energy deployment. Indra’s AGM solution is integrated with Monash’s building management systems, which enables it to adjust to changing energy demands for HVAC, lighting, temperature, and other building systems. It also identifies power and recharging schedules for energy storage and car charging stations.

Ariel Liebman, professor in the Department of Data Science and AI at Monash University, notes that the long-term goal is that Monash can support its own power needs. “We want, collectively, our buildings on the campus [to] be one commercial-sized, virtual power plant,” Liebman says.

 

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