By Frédéric Wauquiez, Senior Product Manager, Renewables & DER Orchestration, GE Digital, Grid Software
The IEEE 2030.5 communication protocol brings significant value to electrical grid operators by helping them to connect to and leverage the world of distributed energy resources (DERs)—big, small and aggregated.
Why the need for a new protocol?
The rising volume of DERs on the electric grid jeopardises every legacy power engineering paradigm in place. These devices create backfeeds and voltage challenges, as well as hidden load, balancing and inertia issues. As such, grid operators cannot afford to ignore these devices. Even at low penetration levels, utilities need to build their situational awareness of where DERs are located, what kind of asset they are, and what their current status is, in addition to associated consumption levels or storage availability. Operators need to be able to closely monitor DERs, as well as control them, especially when traditional grid levers are not sufficient for optimal network operations.
In addition, most DERs do not belong to electric grid operators, they belong to the prosumer, and are being marketed as part of innovative service offerings – housing, transportation, etc. Therefore, DERs are usually attached to an interconnection or aggregation contract which states the limits to their use by the prosumer and the aggregator or the grid operator (e.g., max number of times the DER can be dispatched per day/week/month, max ramp-up time, minimum advanced notice period before a dispatch, etc.). When controlling DERs, the utility needs full awareness of all contractual frameworks and operational constraints already in place.
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One may think that SCADA communications will suffice, being the traditional method to connect with any breaker, transformer, or other devices on the grid. But for many utilities the number of small and disperse DERs on their network are now adding up to tens or hundreds of thousands, and are expected to continue to grow into the millions. Unfortunately it isn’t economical to connect each and every DER with a SCADA protocol. For small DERs, SCADA communications and dedicated Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) hardware are prohibitively expensive. A residential DER owner will never be equipped with the same type of communications as an electrical substation. What a residential DER owner has available is the Internet. With that in mind, what operators need is a communication protocol that runs on the Internet.
The IEEE 2030.5 Protocol
In order to answer the above-mentioned challenges, the IEEE 2030.5 protocol has been built for Internet-based communications for very large numbers of small devices, and designed with a rich data model to fully represent all of DER parameters. Based on the most advanced DER data model currently available this protocol borrows from CIM, from IEC 61850, and goes way beyond, to represent all the technical and contractual parameters of DERs throughout their lifecycle. It also covers the spectrum, from the smallest thermostat to an aggregator head-end. This protocol opens up a whole new world of connectivity and is able to interface, via the Internet, to even the smallest DER, either a single or group of DERs, or even directly to an aggregator.
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IEEE 2030.5 is designed using widely-adopted technologies to accomplish this, such as TCP/IP and HTTP, the familiar web protocol. The reasoning for this is that IEEE 2030.5 is intended to be an Internet of Things (IoT) profile. It utilizes well-known IoT technologies, and essentially profiles them in such a way as to enable a high level of interoperability.
What utilities can accomplish with IEEE 2030.5
IEEE 2030.5, and its underlying data model, is by far the most advanced standard to represent and manage DERs across the utility and non-utility ecosystem in a coordinated fashion. The largest of distribution-connected DERs will still be able to use SCADA, when affordable. But IEEE 2030.5 vastly expands the range of devices that can be monitored and controlled and allows utilities to scale the volume of DERs they can connect to and leverage.