A consortium of national labs and nonprofit organizations has announced the “Plug & Play DER Challenge,” which aims to improve interoperability as a means toward easing technology integration across various devices and systems, including related end-use systems like buildings, electric vehicles, and distributed energy resources, or DERs, according to an Aug. 2 statement posted on the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab) website.
“Lack of interoperability drives up costs, reduces system performance, and creates vulnerabilities,” Bruce Nordman, Berkeley Lab research scientist, said in the statement. “Particularly, in the case of DERs, interoperability-related problems make it more difficult to integrate high amounts of renewable energy sources and energy storage.”
DERs are smaller decentralized electrical generation, storage, and flexible load devices and methods that connect to the electric distribution grid, the statement noted.
The challenge is being organized and administered by Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC), which is a partnership between DOE and 13 national laboratories to bring together experts and resources to collaborate on national grid modernization goals, according to the statement.
The statement noted that the challenge is being rolled out in collaboration with DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Smart Electric Power Alliance, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, alongside other project industry advisors.
In the first phase of the challenge, teams will devise specifications for an interface that supports DER integration, and then develop proposals for demonstrating the integration process with hardware and software, according to the statement.
A webinar on Aug. 16 will introduce participants to the requirements, the statement noted; presentations and initial concept proposals are due on Sept. 7.
Qualifying submitters will be invited to present their concepts for a DER integration interface at North American Smart Energy Week, Sept. 24-27, in Anaheim, Calif., according to the statement.
The Plug & Play DER Challenge will conclude with live demonstrations of the hardware and software interface for integrating DERs with a utility grid, the statement noted, adding that the demonstration will take place at a public event targeted for 2019.
According to the Challenge overview document, the GMLC Interoperability project has outlined a strategic vision of interoperability for the electric system, which the challenge aims to demonstrate in reality.
The Interoperability Maturity Model (IMM) measures the level of maturity of capabilities that ensure interoperability and simplify technology integration, the document noted. The IMM criteria are the foundation for evaluating challenge submissions, with emphasis on novel ideas that showcase advanced interoperability capability, the document said.
The Energy Services Interface (ESI) is a concept for how DER facilities interact with the electric grid – including possible third parties – based on a service-oriented paradigm, the document noted. Presently, utilities are unsure of what set of grid services they should seek from DER facilities, how they can or should coordinate with them, and what level of control or visibility they have into individual DER, according to the document.
Vendors of individual DER are unsure of what technologies or grid services to support in their products, the document noted, adding that vendors of hardware and software systems that coordinate DER at a facility level – that is, that create systems that support an ESI – are thus unsure of what to do.
In this situation, general integration mechanisms that span DER technologies are needed and the ESI concept is a way to bring commonality to interfacing with those different technologies, the document noted.
The ESI topic involves issues of system architecture, boundaries of responsibilities, business relationships, and coordination that drive the provision of grid services, so all submissions necessarily must describe assumptions about all of those, the document said.
The demonstrations should clearly show advanced interoperability capability through ease of integration, the document noted.