After nearly two years of work, The Energy Mashup Lab is creaking into public operation. Since Dave Cohen and Toby Considine initially sketched out its activities in the Fall of 2013, we have been putting the pieces together. William Cox joined us in 2014. Our goal is open source software agents for self-assembling microgrids.
Much of the work is routine business. We are incorporated as a 501C3 non-profit. We have a working web site, We have a merchant account to process memberships. We have set up secure private forums and list servers. Dave has contributed his award-winning software for energy-aware agents for home and office systems. William is creating the stub architecture and is days away from the secure code repository in which to nurture the work.
Some of it is refining the mission. The Lab is aimed at the microgrid owned and operated by the owner and operator of the site is supports. A microgrid that is operated by its inhabitant, personal or commercial, should have no interaction with its containing grid other than economic negotiations over supply and demand. For microgrids to be everywhere, you must be able to put them together easily. Our goal is that a homeowner can pick up a major appliance on a Saturday and have it fully integrated into his home microgrid before dinner.
Such a microgrid is a necessary enabler of rapid technology innovation. By limiting interactions to standards-based economic communications, the larger grid has no need to see or understand the technology within the microgrid. The owner can readily adopt new technology (for use, recycling, generation, conversion, storage, ...) of energy, because the larger grid can see only the net effect, i.e., the negotiations over supply and demand.
Our approach is economic agents. The agents are participants in an internal market negotiation over time. If you consider the matter, the laptop, or the tablet you reading this with fits almost every definition of microgrid. It can disconnect from the grid and continue to operate. It deals with supply and demand internally, adjusting operating parameters based on whether power is available or not, and whether they are in active use. It has internal energy storage. What it lacks, though, is an economic interface on the plug. In the same way, the consumption-only Heat Pump microgrid and the consumption-only Refrigerator microgrid need know nothing about each other—they need only know not to buy at the same time from the home’s internal market. As supply and demand align, the load curve is smoothed and the aggregate market position is improved.
An economic interface is the lightest path to integration. The Lab’s agents will need to go beyond the published OASIS specification Energy Interoperation to discover the market it is in. These standards-based economic behaviors will be grafted onto the energy-aware autonomous agents.
We will have a library of the types of agents. (I count eight.) Technologists and manufacturers will be able to download the agent that meets needs of their system and technology. They will be able to wrap their system in the agent façade, and be microgrid ready.