Smart Autonomous Grid Edge (SAGE) Lab

Professor Henry Schriemer, SAGE Lab Director

A smart grid integrates technologies of advanced sensing, control methodologies and communication capabilities into current electricity grid at both the transmission and distribution levels. The main research at the SAGE Lab focuses on power electronics applications in renewable energy systems, micro-grids, and smart grid. It covers a wide range of applications including smart plug in gears, hybrid systems, electric vehicles (EV), electric propulsion and integrated renewable energy sources. The stability, efficiency, control, optimization, reliability, and real-time operation of electricity grid in the presence of most power electronic systems such as micro-inverters and EV chargers is the main research interest in this lab. The lab provides a dynamic environment to train futures engineers by exposing them to theoretical and experimental challenges related to these novel technologies.


Smart Building:
A smart building achieves significant energy savings in two ways: by taking advantage of improved energy efficiency of electrical and HVAC systems and by developing on site renewable energy generation capacity. As buildings consume over 40 percent of the world’s energy, effective energy management of a building requires intimate knowledge of the building, its surrounding natural and built environment, and how this environment evolves on an hourly and daily basis. This allows building operators to actively and effectively manage the balance between tenant comfort and operating cost. SAGE addresses these complexities of energy use and costs for our clients. Whether the requirement is an accurate forecast of energy generating potential or an hour-by-hour analysis of cost-saving opportunities for predictive building control, our clients can be assured their buildings meet best practices in energy use and generation.

Smart buildings


Smart Demand Response:
While considerable attention has been paid to large-scale energy management, spanning whole grids, or more recently to micro-grids, the field of residential-scale energy management is much less well-developed, and there exists a significant gap in technology to integrate and manage the entire electrical usage “behind the meter”. For those few vendors in this space, existing HEMS functionality addresses select loads, controlling them to homeowner requirements, but there is no participation in metering or billing or transactional decisions. Moreover, available solutions do not adhere to the recently established smart grid standards, created to resolve the interoperability bottleneck, to align market sectors, and to accelerate the integration of distributed energy resources into the grid. While the language within which such communication is expressed is beginning to be effectively standardized, the use cases, control algorithms, and many details of overall system operation are yet to be implemented and/or are not well understood. We are therefore working with international vendors, such as Tabuchi Electric and Panasonic, to develop comprehensive HEMS capability to the new IEEE 2030.5 standard. In the interim, we will establish compliance through a HEMS controller, by inserting a new microcontroller between the Smart Grid Edge and the Home EMS, running code implementing selected sections of the standard for Demand Response and Load Control; Metering; Energy Flow Reservation; and Distributed Energy Resources. The communication protocol between HEMS and HEMS controller will be validated on the lab testbed to ensure all relevant use cases of the required function sets are operable and secure.

Smart demand response


Photovoltaic NanoGrid & Smart Inverter:
Resilience is about grid reliability and durability, a goal made more difficult by the growing trend toward decentralized energy resources. As a result, reliability cannot be assured merely by keeping existing facilities running and within operating parameters. Rather, resilience requires knowledge of the state of the grid that can come only from the ubiquitous deployment of a wide variety of networked sensors and control devices across the grid communicating via standards-based protocols. Ultimately, the distribution grid will need the flexibility and agility to accommodate all types of distributed energy resources or DER. The objective of this plan is to develop the technologies for increasing the penetration of PV into the utility grid while maintaining or improving the power quality and the reliability of the utility grid. Highly integrated, innovative, advanced inverters and associated balance-of-system (BOS) elements for residential and commercial solar energy applications will be the key critical components developed in the effort. Advanced integrated inverters/controllers may incorporate energy management functions and/or may communicate with stand-alone energy management systems as well with utility energy portals, such as smart metering systems. Products will be developed for the utility grid of today, which was designed for one-way power flow, for intermediate grid scenarios, and for the grid of tomorrow, which will seamlessly accommodate two-way power flows as required by wide-scale deployment of solar and other distributed resources.

Photovoltaic nanogrid and smart inverters


Smart City:
There are two research thoughts about where to install the digital distribution system’s intelligence. One group advocates a distribution grid should have all the intelligence on the edge. The other view is to put as much intelligence into it at the center (that is, in the distribution substation) as possible. It appears the correct answer is to locate the intelligence from the substation up to and including the customer’s side of the meter. Large power stations located outside of population centers produce power, which is shipped in bulk across transmission lines to cities and industrial locations, where distribution systems then deliver power to customers. Because the current system generally has no ability to store electricity, grid operators are constantly balancing the amount of centrally generated electricity injected into the system with demand. Retrofitting the system for two-way power flows and the introduction of DERs creates significant hardware, software, and data management challenges. The scope, scale, and frequency of the information required to operate safely, securely, economically, and in an environmentally friendly manner is significant. Making sense of all this information so that operators can maintain the system requires communications and operating standards.

The smart city


Smart Sensors:
At the energy distribution side, using a digital platform in smart-grid for fast and reliable monitoring enables us to perform a continuous and reliable sensing, measurement, computation, control, and protection in order to maintain the entire grid stable with a higher energy performance. All these fundamental features will facilitate the realization of IoT sensors implementation into the electrical grid and monitoring of the dynamic behaviors of the system affected by exogenous local disturbances at the grid edge. Therefore, in order to achieve all above mentioned goals the platform of Synchrophasor at the grid edge has been proposed with an advanced power electronics drives.

Smart sensors



Transactive control of the movement of electricity is necessary to transform the grid from its traditional centralized transmission paradigm, with only a few large generators, to its future sustainable state where generation is decentralized – smaller, distributed and much more variable. A smoothing of the flow of electricity is actively pursued in real-time by locally adjusting electricity use and storage within homes on the same transformer – the point of common coupling. The transaction is guided by an intelligent agent at the transformer that negotiates with its neighbourhood of home energy management systems.

Neighbourhood negotiation is key. Home energy use is typically “sparse and spiky” – high power loads are on intermittently. But consumer behavior tends to be similar. So utilities must provision for the “worst-case-scenario” – like everyone’s air conditioning turning on and off at the same time. Add in everyone’s solar panels pushing electricity back into the grid in pretty much the same way, since they experience similar variations in sunshine, and the grid can see highly “turbulent” flows with dramatic consequences for power quality and security of supply.

Instead of over-provisioning utility assets or forbidding people from placing solar panels on their roofs, utilities that implement this solution help neighbours support each other by creating an environment where individual energy use and storage is constantly adapted within customer-controlled limits through an open-source standards-compliant negotiation between the local intelligence of the transformer agent and the distributed intelligence of the aggregated home energy management controllers as mediated by their privacy-maintaining customer agents.

By creating agents that are fully standards-compliant and working closely with our industry partners to ensure that their technologies are compatible, we create a solution where all stakeholders benefit in ways that each could not do on their own. Utilities can reach down into this transactive negotiation to implement demand response, and to dispatch distributed energy resources. Customers – prosumers – can reach up to participate in the energy marketplace. By making the GREAT DR open source, we demonstrate the emergence of a commodity energy management market where vendors with standards-compliant technologies can compete on a level playing field. Effectively, what we have done is shown how all parties can be invested in monetizing sustainable distributed generation and the reliability of the grid connection.