Microgrid Research

Building upon its expertise in residential energy systems, Pecan Street is tackling the barriers preventing rapid adoption of residential energy storage systems. We’re overcoming these challenges by harnessing the collaborative thought leadership of our industry partners and unique insights provided by our network of participants to develop guidelines that simplify the design, purchase and installation of residential microgrids and developing prototype systems that demonstrate these performance and design architectures.

Simplifying Microgrids

The OpenARMS Alliance is a collaborative effort aimed at removing barriers to the adoption of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) in the residential sector. The collaboration is run by Pecan Street Inc. with participation and support from technology companies, utilities, public sector entities and consumers.

OpenARMS (Open Architecture for Residential Microgrid Systems) describes a number of essential configurations (modes) for a residential energy system that benefit residential customers and grid operators alike. It is not intended to be a rigid standard, but more of an open set of conventional practices that will ease the transition to a robust ecosystem of DER-based infrastructure.

In addition to describing basic modes of operation, OpenARMS provides for physical monitoring and control of legacy circuits in a residential setting to enable or disable critical loads if smart control is not available. OpenARMS ensures that the residential energy system maintains a perfect power factor and power quality when the home is operating on- or off-grid. OpenARMS also provides a practical interface for any residential control gateway to activate the modes, pull data on critical load circuits and enable /disable legacy loads that are not accessible through some other smart control protocol.

The Energy Switch: a Microgrid-In-a-Box

The front panel of Pecan Street’s Energy Switch, which displays how energy flow is being managed by the equipment.

In partnership with Concurrent Design, Pecan Street developed an open-source product archetype called the “Energy Switch” that embodies the full set of performance features described by the OpenARMS performance architecture. The Energy Switch is essentially a residential microgrid-in-a-box. It is intended as a reference design and demonstration vehicle for the development of a new generation of residential energy systems.

The Energy Switch works with virtually any type of residential gateway device or “control gateway” by enabling these devices to collect data and effect mode selection and load control through a TCP/IP-based interface. For purposes of resiliency, the residential DER microgrid is configurable with manual switches and fully capable of functioning when it is disconnected from the power grid and/or the Internet. Automatic control of legacy devices may be achieved by accessing data and control registers in the Energy Switch from any IP-based controller. This greatly simplifies residential energy management challenges by abstracting residential microgrids into a concise set of widely understood configurations.

The Energy Switch prototype, installed at a home that participates in Pecan Street’s research.

Pecan Street and Concurrent Design are pleased to make available an open-source report containing the Energy Switch design and performance materials, as well as reference documents, for third parties to develop products and services leveraging the Energy Switch platform. The materials, available as a compressed .zip file, include:

  • Open-source report on product design and architecture
  • System design and schematics
  • Bill of materials
  • Operating Manual
  • Assembly drawings
  • Third-party system performance report
  • API for remote system performance monitoring and management by individuals and third parties with cybersecurity protocols

Dive Deeper: Pecan Street’s Energy Research

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