Electric energy networks are the cornerstone of the civil infrastructure of our society. These networks provide the energy essential to carrying out daily operations in education, health care, commerce, entertainment, defense, and government. However, electric energy markets, due to their vertical integration, often exclude customers from the processes associated with energy production, pricing, transmission and distribution. Smart grids and distributed generation schemes have been proposed as mechanisms to modernize energy grids and balance the current power structures in electric markets. In a smart grid, computers and communications networks are attached to the power generation, transmission, distribution and load elements, establishing a mechanism to gather information, control generation, control demand, diagnose problems, bid for prices in energy markets, and forecast energy consumption. However, a smart grid creates interdependencies between the energy network and the computer network since the energy network powers the computers that in turn control the operation of the energy grid. In this project, a team from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (UPRM) will study smart grids and the interdependency between the energy grid and the IT infrastructure that is setup to manage it. This project champions a transformation of the electric grid, moving it away from being centered on centralized utilities that supply most, if not all, power services. Instead, the grid becomes a marketplace of third-party power-service suppliers, who compete to sell their electric services over the Internet. These services include energy block purchases, storage, billing, weather forecasting, energy demand forecasting, and other ancillary services. This brings in an important societal element – it empowers common citizens, whose homes are now renewable energy generation systems, to become suppliers and key actors in the energy market. This project is thus aimed at designing and developing the basic science and technology for an Open Access Smart Grid in order to create truly sustainable energy markets.
In this project, the smart grid is modelled as a collection of interdependent electric and cloud services, whose collaborative interactions help manage the smart grid. All the electric services (e.g., energy, storage, billing) are exposed to users as REST-based cloud services, enabling the development of algorithms and applications for customers, power producers, and other users to consume or subscribe to these electric services, collect operational data and customer feedback, and support analytics to predict electric energy demands. Microgrids and renewable energy systems will be important components in this framework, as they enable modularization of the grid into autonomous or semi-autonomous subsystems. The research team will develop methods to map reliable power microgrids into electric services that can be rapidly brought online to compensate for lost generation capacity or to obtain more affordable energy. A major challenge with microgrid systems is activating them without introduction major power disturbances in the system. Another challenge is forecasting the availability of renewable energy, which will be addressed this by developing rain-cell tracking frameworks for solar and wind output estimation services, and the determination of local sensors requirements to improve short-term forecasts services. Finally, the team will apply the social acceptance model to the development, implementation, management and assessment of the Open Access Smart Grid with the purpose of identifying the institutional change necessary for the integration of all stakeholders and the effective democratization of electric services.