Integrated Microgrid Control Platform

Gabor Karsai | Vanderbilt University



The main technical objective of the project is to demonstrate how foundational technology for microgrid control and integration, developed through Department of Energy Advanced Research Project Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) funding, can be applied in a field environment. The specific goals of the project are:

  • Demonstrate advanced, distributed microgrid control algorithms that solve the dynamic, real-time reconfiguration and optimal dispatch problem of networked microgrids,
  • Construct a concrete and functional demonstration based on a distributed software platform: an ‘operating system’ for power grids that serves as a reference implementation for future installations.

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Technology Description

The technology to be demonstrated has two ingredients:

  • A collection of advanced, distributed microgrid control algorithms that implement various control and energy management functions, and
  • A generic, distributed software platform -- an operating system like Android for cell phones -- that serves as the foundation for a wide variety of software applications for the power grid.

Both of these are necessary, as the problem requires an integrated solution that combines results from power systems engineering, control algorithms, and distributed, real-time, embedded computing. Our team has been developing an integration technology for the past 3 years, under ARPA-E funding, in the context of a project titled ‘Resilient Information Architecture Platform for Smart Grid (RIAPS)’ - a distributed operating system for grid applications, and the project will be a field test of the technology. The project approach

  • Allows for the formation of a network of microgrids with dynamic boundaries through platform group formation features,
  • Allows for low-cost incremental expansion of networked distributed energy resources and critical loads through the platform’s component plug-and-play architecture and reusable interfaces,
  • Delivers inherent system resilience due to the distributed peer-to-peer control with no single point of failure and inherent cyber-security features,
  • Simplifies the microgrid controller design process by reusing control algorithms and component interfaces through a ‘code base’ of reusable solutions, and
  • Addresses cyber-security concerns by incorporating security controls compliant with the Department of Defense (DoD) Risk Management Framework (RMF), and National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) 800-53 and 800-82 guidelines using state-of-the-art technological solutions.

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The benefit of the project approach is in the reusability of the algorithms, and the interfaces across many DoD installations and microgrid use cases, as implemented in highly-configurable and reusable software components. The research team envision that controllers for new microgrid configurations can be inexpensively constructed by composing (‘wiring’) and parameterizing existing software components. Our approach builds on an open source platform that allows for easy integration of state of the art and legacy equipment into a microgrid management system. Different from other commercial offerings, the project solution is

  • Fully open source allowing for applications, component interfaces, energy management and power management algorithms to be used across any number of installations and use cases.
  • The approach is distributed, allowing for simple system scaling, and reconfiguration, as the microgrid grows, and as the boundaries of the microgrid or its critical loads move. This is in contrast to the state of the art solutions that are designed to be closed to the user, and are typically designed to be centralized. The life cycle cost advantage comes from the reusability of the interfaces and algorithms.

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Dr. Gabor Karsai

Vanderbilt University

Phone: 615-343-7471

Program Manager

Energy and Water