SInce we founded The Lab, we have been searching for a foundational project to establish the core software of The Lab. When we were writing the US National Smart Grid Roadmap, I would regularly state that in the future, every building must consider itself a microgrid. This thinking was fundamental to the paper “Understanding Microgrids as the Essential Architecture of Smart Energy”, which has been re-published around the world and been used as a guide in developing nations.
But it was all too hard, and the work of integration was too great. The un-kept promise of Transactive Energy was always moving toward a path of zero-effort integration. Microgrids will not have arrived until I can go to Home Depot in the morning, buy a generator or a storage system, and have it fully integrated into my home microgrid before dinner. As you know, we are a long way away from this.
Fractal microgrids, the integration model described as the “Essential Architecture” were part of this. By limiting the scope of integration to a small set of near peers, the complexity is limited. Any group of local microgrids can themselves be organized as a single microgrid, without any of them exposing their internal operations or control systems. This model supports both privacy and cybersecurity. In the same manner, and microgrid can be divided into a constituent set of member microgrids, each self-operating, and each invisible outside the containing microgrid.
It has still been too hard, and too slow.
The NIST CTS Agents project looks to change that. After decades of calling for an ill-defined “Internet of Energy”, it is still not here. The actual internet, though, arrived with the delivery of two open source software projects, the Apache Web Server and the Mosaic Web Browser. Suddenly everyone was able to build web sites that everyone could get to. Suddenly everyone could get to whatever web site they wanted, and interact with it.
This project is aimed to produce both Open Source Transactive Energy Market Platforms, and Open Source Transactive Energy Agents. Every Agent can both buy and sell on the Market Platform. We are using modular design to enable local systems that use, store, or generate power to plug into the Transactive Energy Agents using open standards (derived from ASHRAE/ANSI/NEMA 200, also referred to internationally as ISO17800). Every Marketplace can be fitted with a Transactive Energy Agent to enable it to participate in larger microgrids run by larger markets. As one Navy officer said, this model brings logistics to electric power.
There have been such projects before, but they have been proprietary. This one is based on open standards. It is designed for a modular ledger, so the market can be based locally, or using any cryptocurrency that seems correct, or even run on CME systems. Many open sourced energy projects have used Academic licenses that restrict re-use in commercial products. This one uses the Apache 2.0 license, which means the Actor Shell can be fitted to a proprietary hardware product, and be able to be represented by a Transactive Energy Agent talking to a microgrid-specific market on an open platform.
What will it be like when Energy Management Systems, Energy Storage Systems, and Energy Generation Systems become plug and play?
You can watch the progress of the project in The Lab’s github: https://github.com/EnergyMashupLab/NIST-CTS-Agents