A common standard for energy storage in 2016

The MESA Standards Alliance plans to release open standards for energy storage this year. Photo credit: 1Energy Systems – Battery Innovation Center

The MESA Standards Alliance plans to release draft open standards for energy storage this year. Photo credit: 1Energy Systems – Battery Innovation Center

By Jason Deign

A draft open standard for energy storage could be released as soon as the end of this year, according to a US body.

The move could help bring down energy storage costs by making it easier to swap out system components, said Darcy Wheeles, programme director at the Modular Energy Storage Architecture (MESA) Standards Alliance.

“Standards will allow the components of energy storage systems be more plug and play,” she said.

“So if you have a new battery technology that comes along, you can replace it in the energy storage system without having to reconfigure all of the communications and do that additional round of non-recurring engineering.

“If you have common communication your instalment costs, your development costs, can be reduced immensely. It’ll allow vendors to not have to spend time with each client reinventing the wheel to standardise how they are going to talk.”

First MESA-compliant system

The first MESA-compliant system went live in January this year with Puget Sound Energy. The project, and another due in the second half of 2015, is being tracked to see what cost savings it leads to.

“Anecdotally we are hearing it is saving tremendous amounts of cost and energy,” Wheeles said. “I’m hoping that by the end of the year we’ll start to have some hard data.”

The MESA Standards Alliance specification is based on existing standards from groups such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

It also relates to work done by the California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission and SunSpec Alliance.

Some of the most significant building blocks of the new open standard are the IEC’s 61850 standard for electrical substation automation and the IEEE’s 1815 distributed network protocol.

Interoperability and testing centre

In July the Alliance opened its first interoperability and testing centre, at the Battery Innovation Center near the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane in Indiana.

“The need for a physical location where companies can bring their products, plug them in, verify their compatibility with published standards and test their ability to interoperate is clear,” the Alliance announced.

Its work was given a further shot in the arm last month when Duke Energy, America’s larges electric utility, joined the Alliance.

“Duke Energy joins a dozen equipment manufacturers, software suppliers, and public and private utilities whose objective is to accelerate the growth of the energy storage industry,” said the Alliance in a press release.

Wheeles said it was important to work with energy storage buyers such as Duke in order to make sure any resulting standard would be assured of being adopted by vendors.

“There are some vendors who believe that their proprietary system is their value add,” she said. “They see what we are doing but are not participating at this time. I understand that. There’s definitely disagreement in the industry.”

Getting all vendors to agree

Getting all vendors to agree could be a significant challenge, however.

Attempts at standardisation in the smart grid industry have been spectacularly unsuccessful, to the point that there are still hundreds of standards involved and navigating them requires a map.

Another problem for the MESA Standards Alliance will be to make sure its work is applicable outside of the US. So far its membership is heavily biased towards America, with not a single non-US utility represented.

That said, the potential to help reduce energy storage costs plus a lack of other standardisation initiatives means the MESA standard should hopefully be taken seriously when it is made available for public review.

It could be as early as the end of this year, according to “a really aggressive timeline,” said Wheeles.

What is not in doubt, she said, is that “there needs to be harmonisation in this field. There is work in this space but it needs to be expanded to cover the range of use cases that energy storage can provide.”

3 thoughts on “A common standard for energy storage in 2016

  1. Pingback: Open standards for utility storage tech could be published by end of year | Amazon Discounts

    • You’re absolutely right, of course. It will be interesting to see if the standards that finally get applied to electrical storage can transferred/applied to other areas.

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