Big Data: Smart Grid and the IoTNY

 By Severe Houde

The Navy Yard in Philadelphia, being an unregulated electric distribution system, independent of the local utility, began with enormous potential and the private businesses, universities and government entities who continue to invest collaboratively are keenly aware of this. By applying technology that is not yet widespread, The Navy Yard has become a testbed for the trends that will become the future of the utility industry. 

As an unregulated electric distribution system, independent of the local utility, The Navy Yard in Philadelphia began with enormous potential. By applying technology that is not yet widespread, The Navy Yard has become a testbed for the trends that will become the future of the utility industry. Its electrical distribution system today is in immense contrast to that of just a few years ago, thanks to the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is now somewhat of a buzzword. Internet connectivity is empowering utilities to take control of power distribution and generation sources. At The Navy Yard, referred to as TNY, an energy renaissance is taking place. An antiquated electrical system is quickly becoming a cutting edge microgrid.

The Navy Yard is a 1,200-acre Philadelphia campus where smart energy innovation and sustainability is a driving force of the Energy Master Plan (EMP) being implemented by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC).

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is at its core. Enabling real-time two-way communications between the utility and the customers’ meters allows time-of-use billing, which encourages customers to reduce consumption or consider an off-peak time to operate non-critical loads. AMI also allows for in depth network management, informing assumptions about future usage and more accurate sizing of new transformers and circuits to meet peak load conditions. Networked meters also create awareness of potential outages and proactive load management.

Smart meters communicate by means of a 900mHz wireless network configured in a mesh topology. Meter data is aggregated in five-minute increments at two redundant data centers based in geographically separated locations.

Feeder management and line differential relays provide protection, control and monitoring as well as distance to fault location which assists maintenance crews. The network operations center, a state-of-the-art control room, incorporates substation controls and SCADA with operational planning, forecasting and disaster recover, historical data for network security analysis and generation dispatch planning.

Central control and monitoring means that cyber security must be managed while ensuring high availability and integrity of information and logic. Hardware and transmission mediums are all protected by physical security as well as system hardening. Antivirus, firewalls and intrusion detection systems are critical yet, with the goal of developing a comprehensive microgrid controller, the usual cyber security technologies and best practices may not be enough. Future security standards will be implemented at the processor level in order to monitor information from devices and applications within the network.

Microgrid design and implementation can be further enhanced through the utilization of innovative financing, asset ownership and O&M options to manage risk, and reduce capital and operational requirements. Microgrids also enable increased energy efficiency and renewable energy usage, and because much of the power consumed by microgrids is generated on-site, transmission losses are reduced, as are associated emissions and environmental impacts.

A principal challenge facing the planning team was how to simultaneously expand and modernize the electric grid given PIDC’s capital constraints, coupled with the high cost of building new substations and securing additional electric feeders from the local utility.

Accordingly, of the overall project’s estimated capital cost of $100 million, roughly half or $50 million will be provided by third-parties using innovative asset-financing and ownership models. It is anticipated that as much as 10 megawatts of new supply from local distribution utility PECO will be needed to complement the new distributed energy resources, efficiency and demand management efforts.

In an effort to lower peak energy demand and maximize infrastructure asset utilization, building energy efficiency retrofits, energy storage, automatic demand response, LEED high-performance buildings, new tariffs and incentives have been considered and employed. To address supply, renewable energy, cogeneration and district energy are being brought online.

By determining potentially viable options, more detailed feasibility assessments were performed taking into account upfront capital costs, operating costs, emissions, system efficiencies, and future energy and fuel costs. Projects to deploy six megawatts of distributed peak generation and up to one megawatt of solar electric are designed and will soon be implemented and operational. Additional distributed generation and cogeneration projects are foreseen in 2016-2020 that will bring total onsite power capacity of The Navy Yard to approximately 10-12 megawatts of which roughly half will be able to operate in “island” or grid-disconnected mode in the event of a prolonged power outage.

Infrastructure can be a large cost concern, and is frequently designed without cost considerations. The key is to assess system requirements and bandwidth consumption to create a cost-efficient design, while addressing network requirements. Integration of multiple systems requires conceptual design and detailed engineering to fuse power systems, IT and communications with the energy generation and distribution elements that combine to create a complete network architecture.

Further, when dealing with the transition of billing and customer information systems the critical business driver is at risk of loss or corruption if not properly handled. With all of this information being transmitted to the cloud or hosted locally, another suite of management software and best practices become apparent.

The Navy Yard’s independent and unregulated electric grid, one of the largest in the country, was estimated to reach capacity by 2014. Projected commercial and industrial growth of the yard was expected to result in the electric load increasing from 30 megawatts in 2014 to more than 60 megawatts by 2022.

Important, transformational change in how energy is generated, distributed and consumed now provides the campus with increased reliability, resilience and safety by enabling the campus to continue functioning when the main grid is down. Data and the IoTNY further provides ample intuition for future expansion and the opportunity to effectively manage peak loads, and reduce the cost of electrical power.

For a downloadable copy of April 2016 eNewsletter which includes this article, please visit the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center.




Severe R. Houde is an engineer who specializes in smart grid, microgrid and communication systems with professional experience on various types of commercial, industrial and military projects. He has worked in both government and the private sector for nearly 15 years. His technical expertise includes automation systems and wireless networking technologies for electric power distribution. He is currently assisting the team with a Department of Energy (DOE) Grant to research and developing a fully comprehensive “Microgrid Controller System (MGCS)” consisting of end-to-end functions including microgrid islanding, synchronization and reconnection, protection, voltage, frequency and power quality management and dispatch.

Past Issues

To view archived articles, and issues, which deliver rich insight into the forces shaping the future of the smart grid. Older Bulletins (formerly eNewsletter) can be found here. To download full issues, visit the publications section of the IEEE Smart Grid Resource Center.

IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Editors

IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Compendium

The IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin Compendium "Smart Grid: The Next Decade" is the first of its kind promotional compilation featuring 32 "best of the best" insightful articles from recent issues of the IEEE Smart Grid Bulletin and will be the go-to resource for industry professionals for years to come. Click here to read "Smart Grid: The Next Decade"