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OpenADR Supports Smart Grid Technologies

Smart Grid technology products are gaining more traction in the market, thanks in part to the open-source OpenADR communications specification developed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and its research partners.

The OpenADR specification provides a common "language" for Smart Grid technology developers, allowing building control systems to respond automatically to Internet-based signals that provide electricity grid prices and reliability messages.

Mary Ann Piette

Mary Ann Piette is Deputy Head, Building Technologies Department, EETD, and Research Director of the Demand Response Research Center.

Building controls take pre-planned steps to reduce electricity use in a process called automated demand response (Auto-DR), which is a significant enabling technology of the Smart Grid. Funded by the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research program, Berkeley Lab's Demand Response Research Center (DRRC) has led a multi-year research program to demonstrate Auto-DR, in cooperation with California utilities.

For Auto-DR to be viable on a national scale, there must be a common "language" that any company's building control software and hardware products can use to communicate with one other. OpenADR is that specification. As an open-source specification, any company can make products conforming to OpenADR.

OpenADR was developed by Berkeley Lab researchers, led by Mary Ann Piette, and their partners, including start-up company Akuacom. Together with Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, and California's other investor-owned utilities, they developed and demonstrated the OpenADR specification in California's grid.

Honeywell Acquires Akuacom

In mid-May, Honeywell acquired Akuacom, a move that further positions OpenADR as the basis for communications among Smart Grid technology products. In addition to Honeywell and Akuacom, more than 30 energy management and control systems vendors offer products based on OpenADR.

"Many major controls companies, utilities, and grid systems operators have deployed OpenADR-based programs that reduce peak electric demand by tens of megawatts," says Piette. "Honeywell's acquisition of Akuacom is one of many recent developments that further solidifies OpenADR as a national standard and enables multiple vendors, utilities, and ratepayers to deploy tens of billions of watts of automated demand response nationwide." Honeywell is one of the largest building controls companies in the United States, and its products are widely used in commercial and residential buildings. Akuacom is one of several companies offering products that incorporate the OpenADR information exchange model. It began conducting research and field-testing with Berkeley Lab in 2005.

New Products Based on OpenADR

The private sector has been introducing new hardware and software products that incorporate OpenADR into the marketplace. Recent products from such companies as Tendril, Residential Control Systems, BuLogics, and Our Home Spaces have expanded OpenADR into residential and small commercial applications. The products include hardware devices and visual displays that link to the grid and provide automated demand response capabilities to homes and businesses.

OpenADR has received broad interest. Smart Grid projects underway in Quincy and Tallahassee, Florida, use OpenADR as the communications specification. Several utilities, including NVEnergy, (serving Nevada and northeastern California), the Bonneville Power Administration (serving the Pacific Northwest), and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District have all identified OpenADR as the communications specification to follow in their Smart Grid plans. OpenADR is in use in a commercial building project by Natural Resources Canada. The California Independent System Operator, which oversees California's electricity grid, is conducting a project to integrate renewable resources into OpenADR. And researchers at Berkeley Lab have also responded to queries from South Korea and India about using OpenADR in their Smart Grid planning.

In 2009, OpenADR was selected by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as the basis for smart grid demand response communications over the Internet. The Smart Grid standards roadmap that NIST is developing for the nation incorporates OpenADR.

"The interest that the private sector is showing in OpenADR, and in Berkeley Lab's automated demand response research generally, demonstrates that this technology is ready for broad adoption in the marketplace," says Piette.

—Allan Chen

For more information, contact:

  • Rish Ghatikar
  • (510) 486-6768
  • Sila Kiliccote
  • (510) 495-2615

Additional information:

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