The Industrial Internet Consortium® announces its first energy-focused testbed: the Communication and Control Testbed for Microgrid Applications.

Industrial Internet Consortium member organizations Real-Time Innovations (RTI), National Instruments, and Cisco, are collaborating on the project, working with power utilities CPS Energy and Southern California Edison. Additional industry collaborators include Duke Energy and the power industry organization – Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP).

Today’s 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. As a result, much of the benefit of renewable energy sources in neighborhoods or businesses is lost. Efficiently integrating variable and distributed generation requires architectural innovation.

The goal of the Communication and Control Testbed is to introduce the flexibility of real-time analytics and control to increase efficiencies in this legacy process – ensuring that power is generated more accurately and reliably to match demand. This 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 testbed participants will work closely with Duke Energy, which recently published a distributed intelligence reference architecture, as well as SGIP to help ensure a coordinated, accepted architecture based on modern, cross-industry industrial internet technologies. The Communications and Control framework will be developed in three phases that will culminate in a field deployment that will take place at CPS Energy’s “Grid-of-the-Future” microgrid test area in San Antonio, Texas. The initial phases will be tested in Southern California Edison’s Controls Lab in Westminster, CA. Below you’ll find a list of quotes from the partners of the Industrial Internet Consortium and its members on the Communication and Control Testbed.

“The smart grid is a critical infrastructure component of the Industrial Internet of Things,” said Stan Schneider, RTI’s CEO and IIC Steering Committee member. “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.”

“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. “With this testbed, we are bringing together our expertise to help push the industrial internet forward by working on the architecture for the grid of tomorrow.”

“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, VP/GM, Internet of Things Systems and Software Group, Cisco. “Cisco is proud to take part in the deployment of this energy-centric testbed, combining real time analytics on a highly secure microgrid architecture, for a reliable and efficient grid of the future.”

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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