February 27, 2017

Grid Smart: Special Issue Features PNNL Transactive Energy Expertise

IEEE's Electrification Magazine focuses on understanding and effectively deploying transactive systems


Widespread communications, distributed energy resources, and new control paradigms present both a challenge and an opportunity when it comes to energy use and management. The December 2016 issue of IEEE’s Electrification Magazine(Offsite link) focuses on transactive energy, an emerging energy management approach to bridge this divide.

Two of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s own leaders in the field of transactive energy, Ron Melton and Jason Fuller, introduce the special issue by outlining their vision for a transactive energy future, and point to a wide range of contributors who provide their expertise. Subject areas include how transactive energy systems behave in ideal and adverse conditions, a platform that eases system deployment, and whether these systems provide enough benefit to deploy. The pair also introduces two emeritus chairs of the GridWise® Architecture Council—a team shaping the architecture of a highly intelligent, interactive electrical system—to provide background on broader work surrounding these systems and ongoing challenges.

Several contributors to this special issue are leading transactive energy experts from PNNL. Read the summaries below or access the full articles online.

VOLTTRON™ — An Open-Source Software Platform of the Future

VOLTTRON(Offsite link) is a flexible, scalable, distributed agent-based environment that seamlessly integrates energy data, devices, and systems. VOLTTRON enables traditional energy monitoring and control methods as well as emerging strategies to fully integrate distributed energy resources with the grid.

VOLTTRON has been tested and deployed for several areas of use:

  • Intelligent Load Control. VOLTTRON can be used to manage loads to energy or cost targets in a building or group of buildings. The platform can be applied to any controllable load in a building, such as rooftop air conditioning units and lighting.
  • Market-Based Transactive Controls. This agent-based approach leverages highly optimized control as part of an overall energy strategy rather than an explicitly programmed feature. Through transaction-based control, each device can "negotiate" deals with its peers, suppliers, and customers to maximize revenues for utilities while minimizing costs to the consumer.
  • Flexible Building Loads to Support Renewable Integration. As an example, total building electricity load is met by using a combination of renewable sources—say photovoltaic (PV) generation—and power from a utility. When there has been significant penetration of PV, flexible loads such as hot water heaters or lighting can kick in to compensate for loss of PV generation, say when cloud cover occurs. This provides short-term relief and less use of utility power.
  • Automated Retrocommissioning and Self-Correcting Controls. Deploying multiple grid and energy-efficiency services via the VOLTTRON platform makes a case for a transactive system framework by increasing value and cost efficiency for consumers. For example, algorithms that automatically identify an operational problem in a building’s system could report the problem to the building operator or even self-correct the issue.

See article(Offsite link).

Evaluating Transactive Systems — Historical and Current U.S. DOE Research and Development Activities

Eleven years ago, the Department of Energy funded PNNL to conduct a novel field demonstration— helping the Bonneville Power Administration determine if a non-wire solution could help defer a transmission line upgrade in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. The results of this early demonstration inspired transactive system innovation.

A few years later, the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration joined PNNL researchers with 11 utilities in another opportunity to advance transactive systems testing across five northwestern states. Today, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, are funding further transactive systems research and development. Four areas of current focus include:

  • Valuation. Researchers are striving to determine the value of transactive mechanisms for coordinating a wide array of distributed energy resources as well as the value streams that transactive systems unlock by enabling such coordination where previously unimagined.
  • Hybrid Economic and Control Theory. Can transactive systems really work? Researchers seek answers about whether economic theory or control system principles describe and accurately predict the outcomes of transactive systems, as well as what can be done to ensure that a transactive system will converge towards an optimum solution.
  • Architecture/Interoperability/Outreach. Introducing transactive system techniques into power system operations—including architecture and interfaces with the grid—requires alignment and interaction across the electricity stakeholder community. Collaboration and outreach are critical to ensure industry adoption and use.
  • Simulation. To test ideas and designs before deployment, simulation needs to model economic principles and market-like structures with cyber-physical systems. Additionally, human behavior — a research challenge difficult to characterize and predict — must be taken into consideration.

See article(Offsite link).

Technology Leaders — Transactive Energy

Transactive energy systems are creating interest because of rapid changes occurring in the electric industry. New personal and utility-owned devices will be able to impact the grid directly and also interact with each other. Today, utilities possess less-than-perfect predictions of when customer-generated energy will be available, or when customer demand will arise. The electrical system must become more flexible and respond rapidly to changing conditions and circumstances.

Buildings in the U.S. consume more than 75% of electricity generated. According to Mark Knight, the key to addressing this challenge is coordinated smart buildings that use transactive systems. While the optimal solution may yet be murky, he believes that entrepreneurialism

See article(Offsite link).

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About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science. For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Published: February 27, 2017