OpenADR: Automated Demand Response

This page is basically about another plastic box with some stuff inside, but as is the case with many of these projects it's the software that counts. This is a demo kit developed under contract to IC Systems which implements the OpenADR protocol on the Sixnet automation platform. I was hired by IC Systems to do a couple of interesting jobs, and one of them was implemented OpenADR on one of their controllers. If you are interested in getting your industrial control system to talk to an OpenADR server, then you should get in touch with IC Systems to help engineer a solution.

Before I go on, OpenADR is Open Automated Demand Response. The protocol and information is available at The PIER Demand Response Research Center at Berkeley Labs. It enables devices connected to the device to turn on and off based on XML-issued load shed commands from a trusted server on the Internet.

The graph at right shows the effect that demand response has on load. Some industrial facilities are already making use of this, but the goal of OpenADR is to expand the capabilities into smaller loads that don't necessarily participate in the Utility-scale load shedding that happens at the multi-MW level. This graph is courtesy from an LBL news release about the protocol.

Wide-scale adoption of demand response alleviates the need for extra power generation to deal with peak loads. It also can really help when the utility runs into issues due to demand exceeding supply or during system faults, as they can shed multiple smaller loads instead of turning off neighborhoods, as is the case when there are "rolling blackouts".

This is the prototype OpenADR controller. This box is fit with a Sixnet controller, an LCD display and keypad for configuration, a power supply, and three relays to interface easily with larger contactors for load shed control. Unique in this solution is that the device also can output load shed requests via Modbus or DNP3, enabling it to easily interface with existing SCADA and plant control systems.

This is a view of the controller while open. I like using plastic front Nema enclosures for demo equipment, as it enables customers to see the actual size of the equipment they are going to get. The Sixnet controller itself is all that is required, along with a power supply. The device can be pre-configured before shipment, and therefore requires no setup in the field when it arrives on site.

The controller's outputs are only rated to 1 A, so for the demo I added large relays. Having set it up this way, I was using it to control a lamp in my apartment via a demand-response automation server and a lot of web communications. When used this way, it may just be the most advanced lamp timer ever.