Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Epri shows how grids can communicate with DERs

Steve Rogerson
January 23, 2019
Grid operators can communicate with distributed energy resources (DERs) to enhance the use and value of energy storage and solar generation connected to smart inverters, according to an application note from a collaborative team led by the Electric Power Research Institute (Epri).
Application note AN2018-001 provides a DNP3 profile for communications with distributed energy resources. The team includes the DNP Users Group, Mesa Standards Alliance, Sunspec Alliance, Enernex and Xanthus Consulting, and is funded in part by the California Energy Commission.
“DERs are developing rapidly to provide new capabilities in serving customers and the grid,” said Ben Ealey, Epri senior project manager and the project’s primary investigator. “Yet without a standard way for utilities to communicate with new technologies, they cannot reach their full interactive potential. We closed gaps in older communication models, which didn’t have the words to command new capabilities of smart inverters and battery storage. We’ve added new words for utility grid operators to use that can unlock emerging capabilities of DERs, most specifically within the storage domain.”
The application note integrates information from the latest field tests as well as smart inverter functionality and provides a standard information model for communicating with DERs using IEEE standard 1815-2012 (DNP3) that complies with functional requirements in California Rule 21 and IEEE standard 1547-2018. Generally, application notes provide examples of and suggestions for implementing standards in a specific domain of the industry. This application note contains a standardised list of DNP3 inputs and outputs and the specific mapping of information communicated within each point. It also includes functional definitions and mapping with the internationally recognised information model IEC-61850-7-420.
Given that relatively few newer DERs have been installed, there has been limited adoption of standard DER information models for DNP3 systems. However, as the grid integrates more DERs, such communications models become essential for ensuring that utilities and the public can increase the operational functionality and financial value of distributed and traditional grid assets.
Prior to this project’s completion, the Mesa (Modular Energy Storage Architecture) Standards Alliance plans to update the Mesa-ESS specification – a standard framework for utility-scale energy storage system data exchanges. The update will address configuration management, operational state and functions applicable under the DNP3 profile for advanced DER functions. To support the application note’s implementation, the Sunspec Alliance is developing a conformance testing framework to validate proper implementation in storage and solar systems.
This project will continue until March 2019 and is funded in part by the CEC through the Electric Programme Investment Charge (EPC-15-089), which funds clean energy research, demonstration and deployment projects that support California's energy policy goals and promote enhanced reliability and safety, at lower costs.
California-based Epri conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, non-profit organisation, it brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address problems in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety and the environment. The institute's members represent approximately 90 per cent of the electricity generated and delivered in the USA, and international participation extends to more than 30 countries.