Local Distributed Power Grid Management


ARPA-E Contact: None.
Technical Subcategory: 4.4 Electrical-Electrical
Funding Request: $500,000 Funding Request.
Project Duration: 12 Month Project Duration.
Project Abstract: This project is to design and write a prototype smart grid TCP/IP server client programs for grid segment power controller and local building (home/business) power management controller that coordinate with each other over a standard IP network. Additionally, power source device controller TCP/IP server and client programs for battery power, solar power, wind power, and fuel based power generators will be written but power generation and management is simulated. To improve cyber security, the communications protocols will be byte packed, highly defined, and limited to only what makes sense and each system will maintain internal logic to only do reasonable and logical operations.


A stable, energy sufficient electric power grid is required for a stable economic economy. The near term future smart power grid must be able to better manage power for higher efficiency, quickly adapt to quick changes in power usage, be able to easily add and coordinate new small energy sources, be able to coordinate and bring up a grid segment power from small distributed power sources without power from the primary grid, and coordinate reconnection to the grid and/or other local power grid segments, for a robust and smart power grid system.

A) This smart grid energy technology will be able to improve USA economic security by allowing local small power sources to power the local grid segment and coordinate with other associated local grid segments to provide power to keep the local economy functioning when the primary power grid is down. Income and work of the small energy providers adds to and diversifies the economy, making it more stable. This enhances the energy source security since local, small, and seasonal energy sources can be easily coordinated and used. This enhances the energy cyber security since attacks on the large primary power grid components and bringing them down, would not bring down the local power grids with local distributed power sources, resulting in minimal effects, making power grid attacks greatly more difficult, ineffective, useless, and less worthy of any cyber attack efforts. (i) This will reduce foreign imports of energy by allowing the easy use of small power sources, be able to use disturbed power that more effectively uses heat currently wasted and using less fuel, and reduces transmission energy losses. (ii) Reductions in green house emissions since both electric and heat energy can be more effectively used, small eco friendly power sources and fuels can be more easily coordinated and used, and private equipment such as car battery packs can be charged at more optimal time and also provide transit load handling and power source transition handling. (iii) Improve energy efficiency of all economic sectors from the diversified, localized, and more energy efficient power grid.

B) This will help USA to maintain a technical lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies since this power management structure and systems will provide integration of power management, power generation, and usage coordination in the power grid. This architecture of grid management equipment is superior to current organization, not technically difficult to develop and deploy (from my prospective), and is inevitable that the equivalent functionality will be eventually developed and deployed, and functionally proven and result in power grid changes around the world. It is really the question of local development, deployment and export, or later import equipment and export our money at increased USA debt to the world.


The current practice and goals is top down power organization. The consolidation of energy power generation, consolidation of power of control, and build centralized power control and management. The current primary method of adding power generation to the grid is to install more large very costly fuel based generators, usually Natural Gas generators.

The current methods are undesirable since consolidated control is more susceptible to much larger major-power-grid failure, major cyber attacks, cannot directly see the instantaneous power and phase information without communication time jitter & error, and is more difficult to adjust to quick, dynamically changing conditions as compared to localized controller systems. Adding large power generators are very costly and the energy lost in heat generally cannot be used and there is no incentive to add small more eco friendly power management and generator systems.


The new innovation is having local grid segment-private power generation and/or distributed power generation, that a grid segment controller coordinates these generation systems so the grid segment can operate independent of the primary power grid and other grid segments when sufficient generating power on the segment is available. This includes coordinating grid segment startup with no power in the segment and coordinating phase shifts of all the power generators to synchronize to and reconnecting to other local segments and back to the primary power grid.

Local Grid Power Distribution

Figure 1: Smart Grid Segment with Generators and Controllers

A simplified grid segment diagram is shown in Figure 1: Smart Grid Segment with Generators and Controllers. This represents a power grid segment which may have business, residence, and/or both service types with and without local power generation and management. All the services with smart grid power generation would use a power meter with a switch that can disconnect from the grid segment and allow local power operation for their owners.

Unless enough small generators are warm and ready to put power out and/or enough battery power systems are on the segment when the primary grid power fails, the segment may need to be brought back up after the primary power grid power has been lost. Residences with no smart power management may exist, but meters with smart grid power switches would be desirable since bringing up power on the grid without the uncontrolled loads is easier since a single small power source can put voltage on the grid, and the other power sources can synchronize and attach when they are ready. Battery power and solar power can attach immediately to put power on the grid, but cold fuel based generators may take a short time to warm up before being able to put out full power and may have ramp-up characteristics. The grid segment controller can add up the current generation power available and having learned of the particular service characteristics, add services back to the grid, as power becomes available.

The owner of the power service can set their preferences and willingness to pay a premium for energy for when power powering up from reduced operation and might not be powered up when the primary power grid is down, since payment for local grid power maybe moderately higher. However, they might be able to use their smart phone and raise their willingness to pay and get powered up. The owners of the generators and batteries can set their preferences for levels and quantities of power-willingness and prices to put power on the grid segment, when the primary power is down. When both sides do not overlap, or not enough power is available then generators will not be powered up and power will not be delivered on the grid segment from the local generators. The highest priced willing users get power supplied first and the lowest priced generation sources will get preferences of delivery to the grid segment. The battery transit and power generation load transition services will get a premium rates per kWh compared with generators, but will not operate long unless also subscribing to provide power for higher value power periods and power charging and cycling characteristics are set in the local controller.

The small services would be single phase 240V and only have smaller single phase generators and battery systems. The larger business with large power requirements would have 240V or 480V 3 phase and would probably have generator systems and battery systems to support the maximum needs of the business. For example, a grocery store may have 1 or more 100 kW 3 phase power generators and some 3 phase battery systems and when not needing the full power, could supply some of the power to the grid during high need times, at higher premium prices.

The businesses and small customers may have strong internal reasons for owning smart grid capable power generators and battery system and be happy to get paid premium prices for stabilizing and adding power to the power grid to help cover or even pay the cost of ownership of their equipment.

The grid segment controller manages the grid segment's power generation, influences power use, and with smart grid power use equipment, controls some usage. A typical power grid segment station may have 3 or more grid segment controllers that coordinate each grid segment but can operate with only one controller functioning. However, each controller can also manage multiple grid segments. If the grid segment controller fails, power defaults to the current primary grid loading method. The Grid Segment Controller coordinates with the Grid Area Controller, which coordinates with the Grid Region Controller, which coordinates with Primary Grid controller/system all in a hierarchical manor, but can operate at whatever level is available.

All the smart grid controllers and generators send operation and control logs to log analyzer systems, which does checks and balances on the control and communications operations, and monitors for cyber attacks, errors, and need for service. Also, proper control software configuration, system management, etc. can greatly improve resilience of controllers to cyber attacks. Just because some controllers are very stupid and can be hacked to do improper things, does not mean that all controllers are susceptible to stupid cyber attacks to do stupid things.

Smart grid ideas have been around a long time but has made every little real progress because little focus has been on independent qualities of small power generation and cooperative operation and it is these qualities that will allow robust operation and easy inclusion of new, small, time varying, independently owned, and seasonal sources of power.

This will advance the state of art by creating a segment and local power control systems which allows power segment management of distributed power generation, allows the easy addition of new small power sources, and a grid segment to self power when the primary grid is down.


The primary challenge is to create a smart grid power management system that easily and quickly adapts to power equipment configurations, easily allows the inclusion of new smaller power sources, and makes the power grid more reliable and robust with very little technical risk.

The arrangement of computer & power management systems within a localized, separable power grid segment is the new innovation, but can be achieved by currently available technology.

The techno-economic challenges of changing how something is done, changing to a more complex system, changing how something works, which all costs money and time. However, the advantage of small distributed generators where both electricity and heat of generation can be more effectively utilized, which greatly improves energy efficiency has tremendous $ value. Being able to easily use small amounts of new energy types with lower green house gases and improved grid stability & robustness also has value. However, making changes costs money & it is only the understanding of the long term value as a nation that proper investments will be made.


Create prototype client/server programs for local power control program, power grid segment program, user GUI interface programs, log server, system management GUI interfaces, and controller interface client/server for battery and generator controllers along with documentation and communication protocol specs which operate on LINUX; (can be repackaged for a controller). Goal is excellent operation, robustness, and usability in high quality, efficient C programs, to set the stage for future power generator management and tests.

The work is primary programming, design operation algorithms, design control communications protocols, basic simulation of power generation systems and power usage to get a working prototype of the architecture discussed in this document.


The project will be managed and developed by Mike Polehn with over 30 years engineering experience, BS of Computer and Electrical Engineering, OSU (Oregon). Have written TCP/IP client/servers, worked on LINUX network device drivers and protocol stack, and very high performance network packet processing. Will hire ME college students locally from WSU (Vancouver), part-time and/or paid interns, to enhance their education experience.