Distributed technique for power scheduling advances smart grid concept

June 24, 2015 by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University
Credit: Lauren Wellcome

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a new technique for "scheduling" energy in electric grids that moves away from centralized management by tapping into the distributed computing power of energy devices. The approach advances the smart grid concept by coordinating the energy being produced and stored by both conventional and renewable sources.

Currently, power infrastructure uses a centralized scheduling approach to forecast and coordinate the energy produced at the thousands of large power plants around the country. But as systems – such as rooftop – proliferate, and are incorporated into the power grid, the infrastructure will need more advanced systems for tracking and coordinating exponentially more . Addressing this issue is essential to the idea of a that can make efficient use of widespread .

"A key challenge for renewable energy generated on-site – by home solar panels, for example – is determining how much of that energy needs to be stored on-site and how much can be shared with the larger grid," says Mo-Yuen Chow, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the new power scheduling technique.

The existing approaches to scheduling are highly centralized, with power plants sending data to a control center that crunches the numbers and then tells plants how much they'll be expected to contribute to the grid.

"This approach doesn't scale up well, which is a problem when you consider the rapid growth of on-site ," says Navid Rahbari-Asr, a Ph.D. student at NC State and lead author of the paper.

"The rise of on-site energy storage technologies presents an additional challenge, since that means energy can be stored for use at any time – making power scheduling calculations significantly more complex," Rahbari-Asr says. "In addition, the centralized approach is vulnerable. If the control center fails, the whole system falls apart."

To address these problems, the researchers developed technology that takes advantage of distributed computing power to replace the traditional control center with a decentralized approach.

"Our approach taps into the computational resources of each energy device," Rahbari-Asr says. By having each device communicate with its immediate neighbors, the device can calculate and schedule how much energy it will need to store, how much to contribute to the network, and how much to draw from the network.

"Collectively, this distributed technique can determine the optimal schedule for the entire grid," Rahbari-Asr says.

The distributed technique would also help protect the privacy of home-owners and other power generators, because they wouldn't be sharing their energy production, storage, and consumption data with a control center.

The technology has been validated in simulations, and the researchers are in the process of implementing it in an experimental smart grid system at the National Science Foundation FREEDM Systems Center on NC State's campus.

"We hope to have experimental results to report in 2016," Chow says.

Explore further: Adding renewable energy to power grid requires flexibility

More information: "Cooperative Distributed Scheduling for Storage Devices in Microgrids using Dynamic KKT Multipliers and Consensus Networks," www4.ncsu.edu/~chow/Publicatio … _GEM_Navid_CoDES.pdf

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4 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2015
So now the whole thing is now vulnerable to a virus.

Would someone please remove these academics from their ivory towers so that they can understand the realities of every day life?

You can have a smart home that can help people individually reduce their electric/gas utility bills. You can't have a smart neighborhood. It doesn't work in an individualistic society. It is not practical to explain to grandma why she should not bake cookies in the afternoon.

This concept has limits.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2015
The limits are self-imposed. Nobody says it has to be your way.

Your "individuals" will have to make a decision. I think they will bend to the pressure of money, the Conservative Deity.
not rated yet Jun 24, 2015
So now the whole thing is now vulnerable to a virus.

You think a centralized system is not? Why exactyl do you think that?

An insular system can at least be decoupled if one part is compromised. In that case you may have a blackout of a city - but you won't have a blackout over an entire continent.

It is not practical to explain to grandma why she should not bake cookies in the afternoon.

This is only for stuff like washing, drying, charging gadgets, etc. ... where it really doesn't matter when you do them. Only that they are finished at a certain point in time. This won't turn off your stove or your fridge.
1 / 5 (3) Jun 24, 2015
Here is one way it can be done:

There will be problems, but we will do it.
not rated yet Jun 25, 2015
So now the whole thing is now vulnerable to a virus.

You think a centralized system is not? Why exactyl do you think that?

I have first hand experience on this issue. I have decades of experience designing, operating, and maintaining several generations of infrastructure SCADA. I know the trade-offs. I watch the ICS-CERT alerts, both the public and the TLP AMBER stuff.

In general, the embedded software is not designed with security in mind. It is much harder and more expensive to update.

The smart grid concept is not new. It has been doodled in the margins of many engineer notebooks for a very long time. Only recently has anyone dared to scale these notions up to full scale. However, the problem is not an engineering issue. It is social. It has implications that most people refuse to admit.

The smart grid will produce better results, but not as good as what most proponents claim. And I have doubts as to whether it is worth the investment.
1 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2015
" It has implications that most people refuse to admit."

Like what?
not rated yet Jun 27, 2015
" It has implications that most people refuse to admit."

Like what?

Privacy. I can not give specific details, but I can tell you that through careful review of your electricity usage patterns, someone can not only tell when you come home from work, but how many kids you have, what sorts of food you like, and what channels you watch on TV.

This is not a joke. Those energy bills are a gold mine of information to those who can line it up with the appropriate data. I have spoken to the researchers who bragged about this.

Suffice it to say that given big data efforts and modern metering, you can discern intimate details of individual homes.

How comfortable are you with this data being reviewed by public officials of some sort or another?
1 / 5 (2) Jun 27, 2015
Oh, I agree. It has been an article of contention for some time.

But they can do that and much more with cell phones, anyway. In 1967 I helped put together test, deploy and operate the Electronic Battlefield, wherein we listened to people, trucks and footfalls while orbiting at 22,000 feet above and miles away.

I fear the "intelligence" agencies now, because they have become an independent factor, finding out they can get more power by going after us.

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