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Cal Energy Commission awards $1.5M to Berkeley to advance open-source advanced smart charging technology; OpenVBOSS

The California Energy Commission is the University of California, Berkeley $1.5 million to develop an advanced smart charging technology that maintains plug-in electric vehicle consumer needs while reducing charging loads, to achieve electricity grid benefits. The project will focus on controlling the charging of PEVs in residential and small commercial settings using a novel and flexible open-source, open-software architecture charge communication and control platform.

The proposed project addresses the problem of access and signals/controls for local data streams in order to control electricity systems loads for grid management. PEVs are proliferating in California under the Advanced Clean Cars Program, sometimes in geographic clusters; this is creating potential load management issues for electrical utility grids at the feeder and transformer level.

Strategies exist to coordinate and manage these loads through low-cost, open source and architecture platforms for PEV load control, with minimal barriers to implementation and equal data security to more closed systems, according to the proposal.

However, without a major “state change” to the prominence of such open-software platforms, many competing proprietary interests will attempt to promote their proprietary systems, the project team said. These proprietary systems will come with attached user/licensing fees, greater barriers to adoption, and restricted overall potential impact on improving grid operations and furthering the acceptance of renewable energy resources as they are further expanded in the California grid mix.

The proposed “Open Vehicle and Building Operation System Services” (OpenVBOSS) software platform will be designed to be implemented at local residential and small commercial settings with minimal costs of implementation to achieve key utility grid support goals.

The project will be fully cognizant of past and current efforts to develop communication standards and protocols such as Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR); Smart Energy Profile2.0 (SEP2); Zigbee; Society of Automotive Engineers J1772; International Standards Organization 15118; etc., but itself would be accommodating of a wide range of potential protocols and data stream requirements. This project addresses a critical need for the promotion of open-source platforms for PEV load control, focusing on the residential and small commercial level.

The software platform will be developed in conjunction with user needs assessments from the BMW North America LLC i ChargeForward pilot program; assessments of control algorithms for grid feeder loading through PEV charge control; types of control signals that may be utilized (e.g. from local utility grid or California Independent System Operator); and data safety/security considerations.

Additional project considerations will be included for assessing system-wide benefits of PEV charge control in a 2015-2030 scenario and mechanisms for returning grid values back to users based on overall grid and system benefits calculations.

The OpenVBOSS software platform code and project documentation will be widely disseminated through the project reports, professional conferences, journal publications, and other distribution means.

Presumed benefit to ratepayers would include:

  • greater electricity reliability and lower costs by reducing potentially strained transformers and feeder circuits at the distribution level;

  • providing better potential throughput through existing power grid nodes by allowing for better coordination of PEV loads; and

  • allowing PEV loads to be deployed to help manage the issues created by the increasing level of intermittent power generation expected to be integrated into California’s grid under the state Renewable Portfolio Standard program.

The project also offers the ability to help vehicles provide additional grid services in “virtually aggregated” clusters, such as local voltage and frequency support, fast ramping capability, and potentially an even broader set of grid services such as reactive power compensation.

Many of these services could be employed with simple, easy-to-implement concepts that only involve modulation of one-way power to the vehicle, rather than somewhat harder to implement “vehicle-to-grid” power concepts that involve bi-directional power flow.

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