Smart grids moving toward open source development

A collaboration between the Department of Energy labs, DistribuTECH, AEP, and Battelle have unveiled their latest test of smart grid open source software.

At DistribuTECH last week, big Midwest utility AEP and Battelle, the Columbus, Ohio-based group that helps run $6.5 billion in annual research and development budgets for customers including DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), unveiled their latest take on turning open-source code to grid use. The tool is called Grid Command, and it’s an interesting mashup of some open-source code from PNNL, called GridLAB-D, and a lot of new data and functionality built to suit AEP’s needs.

It’s all part of AEP Ohio’s gridSMART demonstration project, which won a $75 million DOE stimulus grant in 2009 to test out more than a dozen different smart grid technologies, including distribution management, volt/VAR control, advanced metering, home area networks and community energy storage. The goal is to cut demand by 15 megawatts and save customers more than $5 million over the lifetime of the project.

Battelle’s role was to figure out how all these technologies might affect the distribution grid as they scaled up, Jason Black, grid systems research leader at Battelle, said in an interview last week. Besides the not-so-simple act of actually measuring and reporting back on each system’s performance, AEP and DOE wanted to better predict how its power quality -- and cost -- variables would change as a result of changing levels of penetration of new technology.

The use of open source software is quite possibly the next step in understanding how the smart grid works and how to improve its functionality.

Read more about the open source smart grid here