Sierra Wireless-Duke Energy team on microgrid tech pilot


The partnership has created the Coalition of the Willing (COW-11) to pilot and implement a microgrid solution in North Carolina, US.

Canadian headquartered telecoms company Sierra Wireless said COW-11 will focus on establishing a simple and cost effective power grid by enabling advanced interoperability between grid monitoring and control systems.

Under the project, Sierra Wireless is providing its 4G LTE AirLink gateways using the embedded application ALEOS Application Framework (AAF) for translation of DNP3 protocol into MQTT.

DNP3 protocol is installed in electric utility’s equipment whilst MQTT is an IoT messaging protocol.

Jason Krause, Sierra Wireless senior vice president, Enterprise Solutions, said: “Conversion of DNP3 to MQTT protocol at the edge of the network enables our AirLink gateways to read and write data directly from connected electric meters, and publish-subscribe information to a common message bus.”

Krause added: “This feature allows disparate network components to communicate with one another, where they previously could not.”

Stuart Laval, manager of technology development, Emerging Technology Office at Duke Energy, said: “The results from COW-II demonstrate that enhanced microgrid operations can be achieved using an OpenFMB architecture to quickly combine data between grid-edge nodes, in a scalable and resilient fashion.”

Laval reiterated: “This is encouraging for power utilities looking to improve efficiency and customer service, while managing their ageing infrastructure…”

Microgrid developments in N.America

In other microgrid news coming out of America, US utility Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) in late January said it is embarking on a microgrid in Bronzeville, a neighbourhood and district in the community area of Douglas, Chicago.

The project received a US$4 million grant from the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative to deploy solar power and battery storage technology, in a bid to keep the state police department headquarters operational, as well as other critical buildings, such as medical centers, running in the event of a power outage.

The microgrid in Bronzeville has the ability to disconnect and function independently from the larger grid. According to The Chicago Tribune, the mini-grid “offers stability in the case of a mass power outage and provides cyber security.”

The senior vice president of Technical Services at ComEd, Michelle Blaise, said that the microgrid will begin with solar power and storage, serving approximately 800 customers and could potentially build upon that.

In statement by Mohammad Shahidehpour, director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at Illinois Tech, likened microgrid technology to building a house.

He said: “We keep adding to it [microgrid]. You build the house, but you keep decorating.”

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Nicholas Nhede is an experienced energy sector writer based in Clarion Event's Cape Town office. He has been writing for Smart Energy International’s print and online media platforms since 2015, on topics including metering, smart grids, renewable energy, the Internet of Things, distributed energy resources and smart cities. Originally from Zimbabwe, Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication Studies. Nicholas has a passion for how technology can be used to accelerate the energy transition and combat climate change.