New standard emerging for grid operators to communicate with DER smart inverters

utility communication standard

A collaborative team published a new Application Note to help grid operators communicate with distributed energy resources (DER) and enhance use and value of energy storage and solar generation connected to smart inverters. Led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the group includes the DNP Users Group, the MESA Standards Alliance (MESA), SunSpec Alliance, EnerNex, and Xanthus Consulting, and is funded in part by the California Energy Commission (CEC).

“DER are developing rapidly to provide new capabilities in serving customers and the grid. Yet without a standard way for utilities to communicate with new technologies, they cannot reach their full interactive potential,” said Ben Ealey, EPRI senior project manager and the project’s primary investigator. “We closed gaps in older communication models, which didn’t have the ‘words’ to command new capabilities of smart inverters and battery storage. We’ve added ‘new words’ for utility grid operators to use that can unlock emerging capabilities of DER, most specifically within the storage domain.”

This DNP3 application note integrates information from the latest field tests as well as smart inverter functionality and provides a standard information model for communicating with DER using Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standard (IEEE Std.) 1815TM– 2012 (DNP3) that complies with functional requirements in California Rule 21 and IEEE Std. 1547TM-2018.

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Generally, “application notes” provide examples of and suggestions for implementing standards in a specific domain of the industry. This Application Note contains a standardized list of DNP3 inputs and outputs and the specific mapping of information communicated within each point. It also includes functional definitions and mapping with the internationally recognized information model IEC-61850-7-420.

Given that relatively few newer DER have been installed, there has been limited adoption of standard DER information models for DNP3 systems. However, as the grid integrates more DER such communications models become essential for ensuring that utilities and the public are able to maximize the operational functionality and financial value of distributed and traditional grid assets.

Related developments

Prior to this project’s completion, MESA plans to update the MESA-ESS specification – a standard framework for utility-scale energy storage system data exchanges. The update will address configuration management, operational state, and functions applicable under the DNP3 profile for advanced DER functions. To support the application note’s implementation, SunSpec Alliance is developing a conformance testing framework to validate proper implementation in storage and solar systems.

This project continues through March 2019 and is funded in part by the CEC through the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPC-15-089), which funds clean energy research, demonstration, and deployment projects that support California’s energy policy goals and promote enhanced reliability and safety, at lower costs.

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