Paul Mitchell, President and CEO
Smartphone, smart watch, smart appliances-technology has entirely transformed modern living. However, the electric grid that powers all these and sustains the power flow all over including homes, schools, workplaces, hasn’t been modernized likewise. Smart grid, by combining information technology with the transmission of power, offers energy savings opportunities with fewer hassles for the consumers. In contrast, “there are a number of technical, regulatory, and financial challenges to deploy smart grid technologies at scale,” states Paul Mitchell, President and CEO, Energy Systems Network (ESN). Firstly, there are interoperability issues as the smart grid industry has grown more out of the energy equipment industry than a web-based technology. Secondly, the outpouring data from smart grid system has increased the demand for data management and analysis to produce meaningful intelligence for better operations decisions. Lastly, moving to smart or digital grid systems increases cyber-attack risk through millions of exposed access points.
To address these challenges, Indianapolis-based ESN accelerates energy technology development and commercialization through cross-industry partnerships and pilot projects. Partnering with Battery Innovation Center (BIC), ESN has set up an interoperability smart grid lab. The lab, with a suite of hardware, including grid simulators, SCADA and energy storage systems, Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSEs) and others, offers a plug-and-play environment. The hardware is integrated and connected to a network on which several software platforms can run. Moreover, ESN partners with Duke Energy, Toyota and more to develop and implement smart grid pilot projects that involve data acquisition, management and analysis components to show data value to operators and consumers. Additionally, the company is associated with utility companies to build a complete real-time strategy to enhance cyber security for energy companies and its customers.
“ESN is constantly monitoring the energy technology landscape to identify and endorse new technologies for commercial deployment,” extols Mitchell.
For smart grids, new controls software has increased the functionality by balancing renewable loads and managing frequency and power quality. Incorporating these technology advancements, the company developed MicroGreen, a cyber secure mobile microgrid system powered by renewable energy. The working demonstration system was deployed at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane to be tested and validated, and ESN’s partner SAIC used this technology to develop a wider suite of modular micro-grid systems for the defense and commercial market.
“Project Plug-IN began as a commercial-scale pilot project to jump-start the deployment of plug-in vehicles,” articulates Mitchell. Since it began in 2009, Project Plug-IN has led to a foray of other plug-in vehicle initiatives in central Indiana.
ESN is constantly monitoring the energy technology landscape to identify and endorse new technologies for commercial deployment
For instance, Toyota Motor Company approached ESN to validate SAE two-way digital communication (between utility control centers and grid connected vehicles) standards for vehicles using power line communication through the charging stations. ESN assembled a team of industry partners and local resources to meet Toyota’s needs. “ESN managed customer selection, installation of all the hardware and software in customers’ homes, and assisted engineers in connecting end-to-end systems testing,” states Mitchell. Moreover, the company performed data analysis and market surveys to comprehend user experience.
Moving forward, ESN considers that transportation electrification has exposed smart grid technology to the consumers. In the near future, ESN is focusing on autonomous vehicles to connect transit and the grid in a long term and favorable way and getting the energy, automotive, and IT industry together. “Solutions rarely come from one idea or perspective. ESN works across traditional industry boundaries to assemble the right set of solutions needed to get things done,” Mitchell concludes.