Over the past few decades, electric grids around the world have undergone drastic changes. With nations ramping up renewable generation capacity and winding down coal and other fossil fuel plants, the infrastructure and professionals who operate and maintain these systems have had to adapt at ever-increasing rates.
This trend will continue through the 2020’s as the rise in popularity of solar, wind, and other Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) combined with large scale electrification means the grid will have to evolve to manage higher demand and flows of electricity traveling in more directions and over longer distances. We will also have to implement new technologies and strategies to manage this higher demand on the grid in conjunction with the inconsistent nature of the renewable power in order to avoid large scale power outages.
Battery Energy Storage Solutions (BESS) on the rise
A key technology in combatting this issue that has resultingly seen a noticeable uptick in the past few years is Battery Energy Storage Solutions (BESS). This newer form of DER can be deployed in many different scenarios at varying scale to help support the grid. A few examples include installation as a standalone resource on an industrial site or in conjunction with photovoltaics (PV) on a solar farm. In both of these cases, battery storage can be deployed to help manage the balance of supply and demand on the grid.
As a standalone resource, batteries can be charged during off-peak times when electricity is most abundant (and therefore cheapest) and then discharged later during peak demand periods. This not only allows the owner of the asset to save money on their electricity bills but also effectively removes the demand of that specific facility from the grid for a period of time. In the solar farm example, a similar scenario plays out but on the supply side of the equation as opposed to the demand side. In this case, electricity can be stored when the PV arrays are generating at peak efficiency, and then injected into the grid later in the day when demand is approaching the peak.
To manage the operation of these battery storage resources, engineers have developed various types of Battery Management Systems (BMSs) that allow operators to remotely and/or automatically charge and dispatch the asset. Although these systems and the batteries they operate are both very innovative in nature, they are handicapped by the out-dated connection methods they are forced to rely on. Thankfully, this gap in technology can be solved by crossing over into the ever-popular world of Blockchain and cybersecurity.
Blockchain meets Batteries
At the moment, SCADA and OpenVPN are two popular platforms for connecting BMSs to batteries. However, these traditional platforms lack scalability and are generally unsecure solutions since OpenVPN establishes an end-to-end connection per battery and grants users full access to batteries, and SCADA is configured to efficiently support customers on a local network at the customer’s site rather than on the internet.
As distributed batteries expand, a highly secure and scalable platform is needed to serve batteries over the internet or 5G network. Integration of Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain is an innovative approach developed by Edgecom Energy Inc. and Infilock Inc. to support the BMS. This Software as a Service (SaaS) not only connects to any kind and number of batteries along with the relevant sensors but also secures connections over the internet on multiple levels.
Firstly, this SaaS platform encodes device management and security policies, like authentication and authorization, in smart contracts distributed across multiple data centers. This ensures the availability of the BMS and prevents cyberattacks. Secondly, data is encrypted and stored in a chain of hashed blocks. Thus, the SaaS prevents unauthorized access to data at any point. Additionally, all data is encrypted using customers’ certificates and transmitted using Transport Layer Security (TLS). The end result is piece of mind for the owners and operators of the asset as their battery is tamper-proof at all times and a grid that is more effectively managed.
By applying the innovations currently being made in the cybersecurity space to world of DERs, a secure and scalable solution to help manage demand on the grid is finally within reach.