Networks for decentralized energy efficiency

Decentralized energy and network management

Advances in information and telecommunication technology have paved the way for inexpensive solutions to use and convert energy in ways that are now astoundingly efficient. One of these solutions is a new generation of ground-breaking metering and communications systems. Another solution involves managed loads and decentralized generator units. The metering industry is on the brink of a revolution, especially when it comes to the speed, frequency and detail of meter reading, linking various sectors, and broadening the latitude of operating metering points.

DEMAX (which stands for “Decentralized Energy and Network Management with Flexible Electricity Rates”) is a transfer network project being launched to develop an innovative energy management and communications system which would be made available to decentralized, commercial and private generators and loads. A Webbased communications platform built on the very latest embedded systems is also in the works. This platform will be able to integrate twenty-first century metering systems and wireless sensor actuator networks, connect into meters, and manage loads and generators.

DEMAX is backed by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. The project’s research partners for energy and communications are the Freiburg-based Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and the Lörrach-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Embedded Design and Networking (sizedn). Working with industry partners, the two initiated a pilot project within the catchment of EWS, a network operator, to demonstrate the technology underlying this innovative system while developing the right products to meet market demand. The energy management system will introduce a brand-new, decentralized “intelligence” to the distribution network. This is the first kind of “intelligence” that can handle higher-ranking demands on system operations while optimizing generators or modifiable loads at a local level.

In this industry, you find two types of communication. Tertiary communication – otherwise known as the “outdoor” connection – is most often performed with Web-based technology or a power line. Primary or inhouse communication involves connecting the meters to a sub-station within the building. The developers at the sizedn Steinbeis Innovation Center chose to focus on primary communication. Apart from the introduction of a new protocol implementation based on a wireless metering bus, this allowed meters to be connected in a cost and energy-efficient manner.

The new protocol covers all current T1, T2, S1 and S2 modes for unidirectional and bidirectional meter reading and parameter definition. The R2 mode is still in development. After a series of interoperability tests with other manufacturers, the bus can now be used anywhere. sizedn also champions the standardization efforts of the Open Metering Group and puts their decisions into practice.

Parallel to this new protocol, a number of tools to commission and monitor radio nodes were introduced. One of those tools is a product called capt²web. Based on sizedn’s “emBetter” embedded Web server, capt²web connects the wireless m-bus using XML. This makes it easy to monitor the network and link up directly to an intranet or the Internet.

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