October 2008

System integration

One package, many gifts

Layered approach builds standards into distributed power generation


  • Demand response program crucial to Oregon electric utility.
  • Linking multiple sites means one virtual power plant.
  • Object oriented layering with standards gives structure.
By Ellen Fussell Policastro

As distributed resources manager at Portland General Electric (PGE), Mark Osborn knows the importance of integrating standards into processes. His department covers distributed generation and demand response for the utility. "Distributed generation runs everything from peaking needs and backup generators for the PGE grid to renewable projects, solar arrays on customer roofs to small wind projects," he said. "To date, there's been no universal standard system for integration of distributed resources into utility system control centers or independent system operators."

Home to 2 million residents, Portland, Oreg., is the 24th most populous city in the country. To provide ample, affordable electricity to such a vast area, PGE implemented a demand-response program using industrial automation and information software, a comprehensive automated system that uses standards to manage peak electrical use periods.

Linking generators

The demand-response program provides electrical grid capacity by linking customer-owned generators as part of a virtual power plant for its dispatchable standby generation program.

This way the company can simultaneously shave peak loads on the grid by using the available aggregated generation from customers' emergency stand-by generators as part of their reserve capacity system. The distributed stand-by generation systems is one way technology, a program, and a business strategy work together to provide the supplier and customer with cost and business benefits.

During peak periods when wholesale power is expensive, the utility's EMS system control center uses this reserve generator capacity by turning on these generator assets with a single start push button.

To do this, PGE has integrated its distributed standby generator system called GenOnSys with an MES system control center SCADA system. This generator system manages 45 MW at 21 customer sites with 32 generators spread out over a large geographical area. Also connected to the system are aggregated energy renewables such as fuel cells, micro turbines at a water treatment plant, a solar grid, and a gas-fired turbine. When all these sites are dispatched, they are aggregated as a single distributed virtual power plant that provides more load capacity to PGE at anytime when wholesale power becomes too expensive.

With GenOnSys, PGE has built an information system that quickly analyzes potential problems that helps improve the efficiency of their customer generators. If a generator should start either by an outage for emergency condition or dispatched, an e-mail and cell phone notification message is automatically sent to key personnel.

Using the new system platform and HMI, the GenOnSys is able to provide a distributed real-time monitoring, live video cameras, and alarming system based on the IEEE-61850-7-420 object standard for all sites. This allows easy integration with the ION enterprise metering system, SAL databases, and Ethernet OPC servers.

"The biggest challenge was to find a system that was easy to modify and could communicate with all types of equipment and the different manufacturer protocols we had to link together," said Rod Parry, president of Factory IQ, Inc., a systems integrator specializing in energy, power, facility monitoring, and production systems, out of Sherwood, Oreg. "It also had to communicate effectively with customer generators, solar inverters, substation equipment, relay protection, small wind, and hydro generators. One of the greatest strengths of PGE GenOnSys is its ability to easily adapt to new site equipment, add new sites locally, and put units online quickly," he said.

Grid consortium gets smart

A system control center or independent system operator is a giant room that lays the utility grid out across a big wall. It shows the power flows or any problems on the wall. Operators in the control centers manage more detailed systems, the power flows, and power sales transaction between one utility and another. "If PGE wanted to fill a block of power for, say, Southern California Edison, the system control center at PGE would be in communication with California's independent system operator and also Southern California Edison to transfer that block of power to them," Osborn said. So even though Southern

California Edison is used to dealing with huge blocks of power and giant generators, "they're not very good at dealing with smaller blocks of power from renewable distributed sources (tiny ones scattered all around)," he said. There's been no real way of integrating those small generators into that big world of power, until now.

Osborn and his team worked with the Advanced Grid applications Consortium (GridApp), a consortium of utilities looking at the grid of the future, or the smart grid. "The whole goal of GridApp is to develop applications for the smart grid," he said. So PGE developed a system call GenOnSys to manage all the distributed generators. We needed to be able to have it enhanced so we could play in that big world of power.

PGE received a grant from GridApp to take GenOnSys applications to the next version, GenOnSys 2.0. "In order to be able to go into that world, we wanted a standard we and other utilities could use to allow everyone to do things the same way," Osborn said. "So everything is not an individual one-off situation."

Distributed resources standards

During meetings with organizations related to IEC, Osborn learned they were developing standards in distributed resources. Osborn eventually became a member of the IEC 61850-7-420 review group. "We based our software, database, and system and naming conventions all on that new standard. So we actually have one of the first, if not the first, application of that standard," he said.

Each manufacturer PGE deals with for generators has its own way of naming components, data points, and so forth. "So everything has a different name even though it's the same thing," he said. Naming conventions for kilowatt could be anything from KW to Kwatts or even kW. "It just depends on who programmed it in the controller or what they wanted to call things. So there was no standard naming convention," he said. "We had to adapt every single generator we hooked up with a different name so we could match their system. It created problems. When we had to do each site, we had to create everything from scratch. We couldn't cut and paste from one site to the next when we wanted to add a new site."

By moving to the standard, Osborn's team can name everything the same and connect up to what the generator calls it, "but we'll push our vendors into using the same names," he said, "so what we call a kilowatt has the same name and date." The component object model, also known as object-oriented programming, goes into the actual structure and the way the data is held.

"It's like a Babushka doll," Osborn said. "The generator is the outside doll, and the inside dolls are the drive shaft, temperatures, etc., so it's a layered approach or object oriented approach."

The IEC standard will have an object that may contain smaller objects. "Say a generator system has an engine and a generator component. In the engine section, there's temperature values, pressure, and all kinds of reading," Osborn said. "Now instead of having to name all those individual things, you can point to that generator object and all that stuff is in there. It saves you time. You don't have to build everything from scratch." The new architecture allows PGE to create those objects exactly like the standard.

The new system is a time-saver as well. "It would take us maybe a week to create a new site under the old system," Osborn said. With the new system, "our guys just did it in three hours. So it's a tremendous time savings." The object oriented programming and using the standards gives PGE a structure to follow, "so we don't have to reinvent."

There are already a number of utilities running similar programs to PGE's dispatchable program. Detroit Edison is looking at setting up something, and the company has a consulting agreement with Hawaiian Electric to help them set up a program similar to theirs, Osborn said. "They might be using our software. It's a growing area of using distributor resources. There are many companies that do this kind of thing in the marketplace. The problem is everyone is doing their own thing. I'd advocate they should all start moving toward this IEC standard."


Ellen Fussell Policastro is the associate editor of InTech.  Her e-mail is efussellpolicastro@isa.org.

Utilities from GridApp

The Advanced Grid applications Consortium (GridApp) is a consortium of utilities that join together to help modernize the U.S. electrical grid. It provides a fast-track process for engineering development, demonstrations, and validation of selected high-impact technology. The mission is to transition best technologies and best practices into broader use by member utilities. Concurrent Technologies Corporation is the GridApp organizer and provides management and technology transition support to GridApp. Funding support is provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and utility members.

GridApp has conducted interviews with select utility executives to help characterize the need for grid modernization, level of interest, and core issues for potential sponsor members. Here are some key findings:

  • Firms value R&D but do not have adequate resources to commit to it.
  • Nine of 10 rank deployment of new technologies as essential to business growth.
  • Development of new technologies is valued, but so is creating better incentives and business conditions for deployment of existing advanced technologies.
  • Few firms see commercialization of technology as a business opportunity.
  • Most seek to deploy new technology to enhance existing core business.
  • Firms seek clarification of the many options for technical collaboration.

Source: www.gridapp.org