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Architectural Details and Routing Protocols for Energy Internet

Bill St. Arnaud

The Energy Internet is based on the same principles as that of the classic Internet except that energy rather data packets are routed between sources and destinations. It sometimes also referred to as mico-grids or nano-grids, but generally these terms are a misnomer as they really refer to a smaller version of the traditional electrical grid.

Traditional power systems are passive, hierarchical and for the most part have no intelligence or management. Although there is a lot of talk of Smart Grids, it is largely a retrofit technology to add some semblance of intelligence and control to traditional power systems and usually goes no further than the meter base at your home or business.

The Energy Internet is not intended to displace the traditional electrical grid but help manage the electrical distribution of power from the plethora of small solar panels that are popping up on roofs of campuses and homes. The traditional electrical grid has difficult challenges handling the very spiky and intermittent loads offered by local rooftop solar panels and windmills.

The Energy Internet can significantly save on power costs, especially from always on, low power electronic network devices and computers. These devices now consume up to 40% of the electricity in a typical home and even larger percentages in business and universities. The Energy Internet is an ideal match for delivering power from local solar panels to these devices.

The Energy Internet is also useful infrastructure for powering critical network functions and other services during major power outages of the traditional electrical grid. It is expected that the number of outages on the traditional grid will increase significantly due to severe weather as a result of climate change.

The basic construct of the Energy Internet assumes there are multiple loosely coupled energy sources such as solar panel arrays, plugged in electric vehicles, battery storage, wind mills etc. The main electrical grid with appropriate routing interface, may also be one of the loosely interconnected devices, but it is not the hierarchical main connection that we see in today's electrical systems. These energy sources, as well as their sinks are interconnected by a variety of generally low power links such as Power over Ethernet (PoE), USB, 400/60 HZ multiplex power, and pulse power over Cat5/6 cable. As well these sources and sinks may be interconnected with more traditional powers buses such as 110/220 and 48v DC interconnects, again assuming they have the appropriate power routing interface.

Many companies are already making routing and switching products for the Energy Internet such as Solatron and GridOn, but as yet there has been no standardization of Energy Internet routing and signaling protocols.
With Energy Internet it is assumed that many energy consuming devices power also have their own local power storage or generation independent of the electrical grid. Some examples include:

  • WiFi node with its own solar panel
  • Backup battery power on computer
  • Electric vehicle with its own battery bank
  • Street lamps with their own solar panels
  • Smart phone/tablet solar powered charging station
  • UPS power packs etc.

Each energy consuming or producing device has an energy router (typically chip based) to signal availability of excess power or conversely to signal the need for additional power to continue operating. An Energy Internet assumes a peer to peer architecture between routing nodes. The enterprise LAN or Internet network is used for out of band signaling and routing between the various nodes.

Neighboring devices pass on routing information and power is routed from a device with surplus power, on a hop by hop basis, to a destination using a number of power channels as mentioned previously such as PoE or pulse power over Cat 5/6 wiring.

In general the power loads for an Energy Internet tend to be small, typically less than 1 KW. It is therefore ideal for providing redundant distributed power to existing intelligent networked devices such as computers, routers, servers, WiFi nodes, eVehicle charging stations etc. Most of these devices usually have their own on board battery storage which allows for techniques such as round robin charging or store and forward power distribution.

Suggested signaling and routing protocols for the Energy Internet Open Shortest Power Function (OSPF) for routing of power within a single management domain and Border Gateway Power Routing (BGPB) between management domains. BGPB for example would be used by household neighbors to share power between themselves independent of the electrical grid using old copper or coax cables for interconnection. With pulse power these cables can carry up to 5Kw of power.

OSPF and BGPB are loosely based on the Internet routing protocols OSPF and BGP, but carry extra parameters necessary for the routing of power as opposed to packets.

By Bill St. Arnaud , Green IT Networking Consultant
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Solar Hosting Farms (The Colocation Equivalent For Solar Panels) Ray Marshall  –  Jan 30, 2014 10:22 PM PDT

Perhaps in the not too distant future we will have solar hosting farms to host our solar panels like we have colocation facilities to host our servers.

http://elq.typepad.com/currents/2009/08/currents36-10-marshall-2009-0726.html

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