Cerebrum – Protecting the electrical supply grid

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13931428_sNation-E has unveiled its Cerebrum (Latin for brain) super system that is aimed at protecting electrical power grids.

The Cerebrum is a highly intelligent gateway to the entire span of energy sources, enabling ultra-secure real-time energy management and cloud operations, automated processing and remote control. Cerebrum™ is the first platform that can manage and communicate with any kind of generation assets and integrate energy storages into networks. Uniquely, Cerebrum™ works on existing infrastructures, thus improving their profitability and network security dramatically.

Daniel Jammer , founder of Nation-E says that six years ago, to envision that energy will become part of a communication system was unheard of.

“Now, communicative power is a reality and we see that even low-tech such as energy has become hi-tech. With that transformation new challenges have come to light – such as transition loss and cyber security. Today, security based energy – including cyber security is a big issue. These two challenges have driven our six years of R&D to produce Cerebrum – an energy gateway that communicates with every type of power generation asset and tackles the cyber security challenge. Additionally, Cerebrum already takes into consideration the future integration of storage systems into the energy market. Initially – as with every new technology – our systems are sought after by the homeland security market and emergency services. We believe that in the near future our technology will filter down stream and will become a household commodity”.

Foreseeing the energy supply Risk Management challenge, Nation-E forms  a combination of energy ICT knowhow at the highest level, including access to areas of research and development in the energy field worldwide, strong connections with leading organizations and key officials in the energy market, as well as the ability to execute production of its systems in joint ventures with leading international companies.

The company manufactures and develops ICT systems, which enable continuous, secure, reliable power supply and efficient energy management, anytime and anywhere. “Our ICT platform is protected by the highest security layer offering advanced solutions for continuous power supply and Demand Response services encompassed in the first Energy gateway – Cerebrum,” says Idan Udi Edry, the company’s CIO.

Energy supply is slowly transforming from the traditional grid into a decentralized network of smaller Microgrids. The concept of proliferation to Microgrids aims to reduce the stress imposed on national infrastructure grids and secure power supply to critical facilities and social faculties.

The American Department of Defense views Microgrids as an evolution from standard energy supply to a diversified network of generation assets and energy islands. Connecting Front Operational Base (FOB) Microgrids and Mobile Tactical (MT) grids to the local infrastructure is not always possible or a priority, yet these remotely operated systems must operate flawlessly while the local grid can be viewed as a generation asset or backup in case the Microgrid generation source suffers a technical malfunction, or more commonly – physical or cyber sabotage.

The DoD is currently committed to 25% energy consumption from renewables by 2025. In 2010, more than 68% of the DoD’s renewables initiatives were either solar PV or solar thermal. Other than meeting obligations, studies conducted by the DoD state that the modularity of PV technology makes it an ideal source for Microgrids , including FOBs and MTs. Yet, without the ability to optimize load shifts and balance supply and demand continuously, PV may be more of a challenge for Macrogrids and Microgrids rather than an advantage.

Edry says that with proper management and levels of security, PV installations can supply energy to an island Microgrid, sell excess energy, capacity and ancillary services to the local utility. The main advantage of PV installations coupled with efficiently managed Microgrids – is the ability to act as a Demand Response resource. Today’s grid protocols dictate that all distributed generation (regardless of the source) must shut down during blackouts and do not feed power back to the utility. So an asset is generating wasted energy precisely when it is direly needed. Europe has been able to steer away from said protocol, in response to smart renewables installations that self-mitigate frequency, voltage and reactive power challenges with the implementation of cutting edge technology controls, inverters and other smart grid related instruments.

Recent developments in inverter technology allow Islanding and provide bi-directional power-supply, to and from the grid.  Communication protocols with the utility and ancillary services capacity assist the stabilization and reliability of the grid. Another feature is the ability to monitor and optimize system performance and alert the utility, the installation operator or the Microgrid operator of power quality problems.

Cerebrum is a cutting edge energy gateway designed to provide reliable, cyber secure, bi-directional power supply to and from Microgrids. Cerebrum features a hardware layer under layers of open source software.  The hardware architecture enables it to communicate with any and every utility and generation asset, manage and balance loads and island Microgrids. Cerebrum’s ability to communicate directly with the utility empowers the  gateway to stream energy to the Microgrid from different sources, thus stabilizing the Micro and Macrogrid.

Two key features of Cerebrum are the ability to cyber secure Microgrids and manage generation assets. In case of a physical or cyber attack on local infrastructure adjacent to an FOB, Cerebrum will Island the FOB Microgrid, jump start generators and re-direct the Renewable Energy produced to feed the isolated FOB or MT, thus allowing continuous operations and very possibly save lives. In such a scenario, stationary base Microgrid coupled with Cerebrum will be able to continue to operate and offer Demand Response and ancillary services to the utility instantly on request.

The DoD is the single largest global consumer of energy. Challenges such as security and reliability of energy supply have driven the DoD to investigate the best practices for energy consumption whilst assuring optimal security and reliability. 64% of the DoD’s energy supply is electricity. Yet 99% of the DoD’s electricity is supplied via utility grids – leaving it largely vulnerable to remote and cyber warfare.

In 2009 the utility grid was graded D+ (continuously descending) by the American Council of Civil Engineers. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory statistics show that 80-90% of power failures originate at the distribution level. Estimates claim that the faulty status of the American grid costs American consumers 140 billion USD in 2012 due to power outages.

These challenges have been met with the concepts of ‘Microgrids’ and ‘Islanding’. Microgrids, according to the DoD are: “A group of interconnected loads and distributed energy sources with clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity with respect to the grid. A Microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid connected and island-mode.”

As part of the lessons learnt from the last decade of warfare, the DoD has come to the conclusion that Microgrids are the optimal solution to reduce high priced energy costs in the theatre of battle and front operation bases. The DoD has classified three types of Microgrids:

”        MT Microgrids  – modular small systems, deployed and deconstructed within less than a week.

”        FOB Microgrids – remote fossil fuel systems able to interconnect to primitive infrastructure

”        Stationary base (SB) Microgrids

Potential capacity and revenue from SB Microgrids are far greater than the economic benefits of FOB Microgrids or MT Microgrids. One of the tools developed by the American National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to quantify the economic value of Microgrids in the face of Energy Security threats is the metric VEES (“Value of Electrical Energy Security”). VEES factors the missions of the base, the performance of the supplying utility – based on System Average Duration Index (SAIDI) and System Average Interruption Frequency Index (SAIFI). An analysis of power supply failures at two military bases in 2011 concluded that an annual culmination of 9.5 hours of power shortages in San Diego would cost almost 3 million USD; in Virginia a power outage of almost 25 hours per annum would cost over 7.5 million USD.

In Q4 of 2012, 9% of stationary bases had already implemented some form of Microgrids with fossil fuel orientation, and some architecture even include complementary Electric Vehicle (EV)’s as storage units, newer approaches include Microgrids with Renewable Distributed Energy Generation (RDEG) offering enhanced security and reliability.

The military market operates under paradigms different than those used in the private sector. Even so, the economic factor still plays a role in its decisions on how to implement new technologies. Considering rising costs of fuel (even with logistics and security costs discarded) combined with the inherent challenges of maintaining poor performing diesel generators, it is not surprising that Microgrid based approaches could effectively lower kWh costs. By connecting existing generators (whereby loads are shared) the overall generator performance is elevated, thus reducing fuel costs. Additionally, Microgrids can provide, both economic and security Damage Response services to utilities. Microgrids, combining Energy Management systems, communication measures and storage will optimize their potential value. Despite some utilities’ allegation that Microgrids are potentially lost loads – an optimized Microgrid is an asset to a utility. For optimum benefit, utilities should manage the Microgrid, allowing the end user to control the connectivity and islanding policies.

In front operation bases which are, more often than not, positioned in a hostile environment, the advantages of Microgrids are evident. Reliable Power supply is a matter of life and death for troops in the field or base premises even if we ignore the considerable reduction in operation costs. In Afghanistan, 85% of diesel fuel is trucked 800-1500 miles, rendering convoys favorable targets for insurgents – an estimated 15% of casualties in Afghanistan are linked to the fuel supply chain. When transported by air, the price of a gallon of diesel skyrockets to an unprecedented 400USD per gallon. With the continuous development of renewables – especially waste-to-energy applications and solar PV – the structure of the Microgrid will become even more flexible in combining generating assets.

“Our technology will save lives and money. Today a gallon of fossil fuel in Afghanistan costs the American military 400$. These costs can be almost instantly absolved, lives that are lost during logistics can be saved, and infrastructure and insurance costs can be grossly diminished. Smart, intelligent and most importantly – cyber secure infrastructure is today’s demand, and Nation-E can supply it.” Mr Jammer concludes.