Guest Editorial | OpenFMB™ Brings a Standard and a New Tool Set to the Grid's Edge

by Aaron Smallwood

Smart grids are bringing new possibilities to how we manage energy. That’s a well-known fact, but what isn’t as obvious are the ways that utilities, vendors and other organizations are going to take advantage of the many opportunities that are rising with accelerated grid modernization. Soon, we’ll have multi-owner, multi-device grid environments, and we need interoperable breakthroughs to make them work together while providing resiliency, reliability and security. One solution that is impacting the industry is Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMBTM) has been ratified as a NAESB standard.

OpenFMB as a NAESB Standard
The North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) ratified OpenFMB as a standard in March 2016, following a successful demonstration in front more than 1,000 attendees at the DistribuTECH Conference a month earlier. Duke Energy hosted the demonstration with 25 vendor partners to prove that OpenFMB can provide a framework that enables communication between devices in the field and outside of the data center. The live OpenFMB demo in Duke Energy’s booth at DistribuTECH 2016, highlighted the collaborative efforts of these 25 vendor partners who built a microgrid that used OpenFMB to demonstrate true interoperability.

At the behest of Duke Energy in December 2014, SGIP (Smart Grid Interoperability Panel) a consortium dedicated to accelerating grid modernization, took on leadership and today facilitates the OpenFMB project and technical working group committee. OpenFMB isn’t a product – it’s a field message bus – that provides a common data model, command set and messaging infrastructure for field devices in the grid to communicate with each other.

OpenFMB as a Framework
More than sixty organizations including utilities, vendors, consultants and the Department of Energy, have worked together at a rapid pace on the OpenFMB framework. With the OpenFMB framework, intelligent nodes can exchange data at the grid edge, enhancing the abilities of microgrids and other distributed energy sources, such as renewables and storage, to collaborate with the existing distribution systems. It’s a catalyst for interoperability, and utilities have already included OpenFMB in their RFPs. The demonstration at DistribuTECH, which used challenging wireless configurations to show the flexibility of the framework, sent a clear message that OpenFMB has emerged beyond concept to reality.

In January 2016, the OpenFMB team kicked off Phase II in the project schedule: SGIP plans to publish OpenFMB code so utilities can start applying OpenFMB functionality to their operations for the first time, and vendors can start developing supporting solutions.

Coming Soon OpenFMB Online Community
SGIP is currently working with members and other technology partners to create an online community where the OpenFMB code will be published. Using an open source model to distribute the code could lead to innovations that don’t currently exist, and utilities could develop applications to solve interoperability, legacy systems integration, and other issues. The community site will also include videos, background information, event listings, links, files and uploading options for people who want to get more involved.

Upcoming OpenFMB Demo at 2016 Grid Modernization Summit November 2016
The culmination of these efforts will be demonstrated at SGIP’s 2016 Grid Modernization Summit (http://sgipconference.com) in Washington, D.C. this November. The OpenFMB committee will conduct another live demonstration at this summit, showcasing new use cases focused on Microgrid Management, Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Management and Management services. The 2016 Grid Modernization Summit will also include a Vendor Expo with 25 participants.

OpenFMB Priorities and DER Use Cases
The OpenFMB committee met in Denver during the last week of June 2016 to define use case requirements for the upcoming demonstrations. The demonstration earlier this year at DistribuTECH was a successful proof of concept upon which the November demonstration will be built.

The functionality in the use cases for the demo at the 2016 Grid Modernization Summit are focused on Distributed Energy Resource (DER) management, including:

DER Circuit Segment Management

  • Coordination of Point of Common Coupling (PCC) and Point of Interconnection (POI)
  • Voltage, Frequency, and Power Factor support
  • Solar smoothing
  • Peak power management (e.g. shaving/shifting)
  • Volt-Var management

Microgrid Management

  • Microgrid optimization
  • Unscheduled islanding
  • Island reconnection

Management Services

  • Cybersecurity
  • Provisioning

The OpenFMB committee priority goals for 2016 and 2017 include:

  • Define OpenFMB Cybersecurity Roadmap and Use Case Enhancements
  • Develop Use Cases for the November Demonstration
  • Build and Launch Online Community and Open Source Resources
  • NAESB Specification Updates

OpenFMB Addresses Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is and will remain a chief concern for operations and IT professionals at utilities. OpenFMB has a Cybersecurity Task Force chartered by the SGIP Smart Grid Cybersecurity Committee, and this committee is working with the OpenFMB Priority Action Plan team to create cybersecurity requirements and a roadmap for the framework. The OpenFMB Cybersecurity task force is focused on enhanced cybersecurity functionality emphasizing configuration, communications and provisioning that will be demonstrated at the 2016 Grid Modernization Summit on November 7th through 10th, in Washington, D.C.

In conclusion, with the rising need for interoperability across multi-owner, multi-device grid environments, the OpenFMB framework brings flexibility and a new set of tools to address distributed intelligence and innovation at the grid edge. Join SGIP, the OpenFMB committee and technology partners at the 2016 Grid Modernization Summit to see how. For more information on OpenFMB, http://www.sgip.org/openfmb/

About the Author

Aaron Smallwood is the Director of Technology Operations at SGIP. He is responsible for leading SGIP’s Program Management Office and working with stakeholders in advancing SGIP’s technology strategy and agenda.

Aaron has been in Information Technology for 20 years and in the utility industry for the last 15 years. As Director of IT Operations at the Electric Reliability of Council of Texas (ERCOT), Aaron was responsible for the multi-data center IT operations of ERCOT’s real-time grid and market systems, deregulated retail market systems, Enterprise Data Warehouse, systems integration, and market settlement systems. In other roles at ERCOT he led business/ technology alignment, IT strategy development, program financial management for the Texas Nodal Market Implementation, IT stakeholder relationship management, and the IT divisional project office.

Prior to ERCOT, Aaron was responsible for managing the relationship between IT and utility business units at Aquila, Inc., working with utility and IT leaders to ensure that IT services were aligned with business objectives and that IT was positioned to support their needs.

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