Vanderbilt engineers’ smart grid platform joins new Linux Foundation energy project

Vanderbilt University is the first academic partner to join a new effort by The Linux Foundation to advance open source innovation in the energy and electricity sectors, contributing both deep expertise and a platform for smart grid applications

LF Energy also has support from Europe’s largest transmission power systems provider, a network that represents 43 transmission system operators from 36 countries, and the Electric Power Research Institute, whose membership represents 90 percent of U.S. electric utility revenue.

The initiative, announced earlier this month, is focused on open-source software, and on collaboration to accelerate the transition to connected power system devices to modernize the grid.

“This initiative will allow us to share our research results with the open source community and facilitate technology transition to industry,” said Gabor Karsai said, associate director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Software Integrated Systems.

Gabor Karsai

It also will showcase Vanderbilt’s leadership in cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things on an international level, getting the School of Engineering and its researchers in on the ground floor of building a new global community of energy stakeholders.

Karsai, a professor of computer engineering, computer science and electrical engineering, also is Principal Investigator on The Resilient Information Architecture Platform for Smart Grid, or RIAPS, which provides core services for building effective, secure and powerful distributed software applications. RIAPS enables smart grid control software to run reliably, just as smartphone apps run on platforms like Android and Apple iOS that have become industry standards.

“The institute has a long track record in building various open source software tools and this is an exciting cross-sector collaboration,” Karsai said.

Through LF Energy, The Linux Foundation will host RIAPS and three other projects announced to date: OperatorFabric, a smart assistant systems for electricity, water, and other utility operators; Let’s Coordinate, a solution to enhance system coordination, visibility, communication and workflow between distributed users; and the PowSyBl Framework, reusable modular components in high-performance computing platforms used for grid modeling.

These projects will provide a hub for multi-vendor collaboration help seed an open source ecosystem for Transmission and Distribution System Operators, aggregators, utilities, vendors, and other energy sector stakeholders.

“A collaborative open source approach to development of these technologies across companies, countries, and end users will provide the innovation needed to meet our respective goals in renewable energy, power electronics, electric mobility, and rapid digitalization for the energy sector overall,” said Shuli Goodman, executive director of LF Energy.

Vanderbilt researchers developed RIAPS with and funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) and Siemens CT. Colleagues at North Carolina State University and Washington State University create the applications that run on the platform.

As part of the arrangement, Vanderbilt University has become an affiliate member of the Linux Foundation. Other inaugural members of LF Energy are RTE, a French transmission system operator and Europe’s biggest transmission system provider; ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators; and the Electric Power Research Institute

“The power industry is increasingly realizing it has to rely on software and putting together the kind of software apps they need is not easy,” Karsai said. “Having this software infrastructure and having it open sourced enables faster implementation yet deliver the kind of functionality current systems cannot.”

A key factor is the ability of energy and power transmission systems to communicate across country and company boundaries – called interoperability.

Open source code is the foundation of most public activities on the Internet, and the Linux family of free and open source software is well represented. The Android OS, for example, is a Linux derivative; the popular Firefox browser is an open source project. The world’s fastest supercomputers run exclusively Linux. A desktop, laptop or smart phone user typically exits the open-source domain to log into proprietary systems used by banks, healthcare providers, and other sectors.

Proponents of open source software development say its benefits in modernizing the grid and decentralized power transmissions include interoperability, affordability, flexibility and transparency. Open collaboration brings diverse perspectives beyond the interest of a single company and creates a more robust, sustainable framework, according to advocates.

Infographic courtesy of LF Energy and The Linux Foundation

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