With the acceleration of the energy transition, now is the perfect time for the energy sector to embrace open source and the transformational benefits it offers...
Growing and supporting renewable energy through a truly collaborative open-source initiative is the objective of LF Energy, a nonprofit, vendor-neutral initiative from the Linux Foundation. The group has an action plan to modernize electrical systems worldwide through open frameworks, reference architectures, and a support ecosystem of complementary projects.
“Our mission is to accelerate the energy transition by hosting, building, facilitating, and enabling the distributive computing paradigm as it relates to distributed energy resources,” said Shuli Goodman, executive director of LF Energy. “That is everything from control infrastructure to the foundations for new markets, micro-transactions, the edge devices — the whole thing.” The term “open source” indicates a commitment to sharing knowledge, thus encouraging free redistribution and access to design and implementation of solutions. Open source is one of the big points to consider to accelerate changes in the technology paradigm in order to deliver a 100% green energy transition.
While improving the network, strengthening security, and promoting collaboration are generally all positive aspects, there is a more urgent need at the macroscopic level: combating climate change and coping with its effects. This is another field where open source is playing a role.
The best-known open-source projects include computer software, such as the Mozilla Firefox web browser, and operating systems, such as Android and Linux. “Open source is an intellectual property agreement that enables collective action,” said Goodman.
LF Energy addresses reusable components, open APIs, and interfaces through projects based on open-source libraries for adoption in developer platforms. Systems integrators, vendors, developers, and end users can solve complex and interconnected problems with secure and flexible open-source software.
The challenges confronting developers of energy systems include cybersecurity, interoperability, control, optimization, virtualization of network functions, and digital management of distributed energy resources (DER). The objective of an open-source energy system is to reduce total costs by containing development costs and facilitating interconnection between systems. Scalable and modular plug-and-play components let system integrators get to market faster with solutions that can adapt dynamically to evolving business models.
“We have several projects,” said Goodman. “One is RIAPS, which is a distributive computing developer platform with an edge. OEDI is an open energy data initiative [centering on] building infrastructure for data lakes. The third one is OpenEEmeter, which is software that enables utilities to [calculate the value of their] energy-efficiency investments and … understand how those investments can be leveraged for grid flexibility, which of course is one of the most important things in the future.”
Meeting the needs of billions of distributed and connected energy devices will require some sort of digital capability to enable communication among these devices. 5G offers higher speeds and more reliable connections than current mobile communications, with data speeds 10× to 20× higher than 4G. Innovations such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, connected cars, and the smart-city ecosystem require faster, low-latency connections for the huge amounts of data they produce.
IT managers need to add flexibility while reducing the cost of deploying and managing the infrastructure.
For many years, the telecommunications industry has been dominated by proprietary technology models. The need for more capable, agile, and flexible networks requires a different way of thinking based on open source. 5G and open source have become a great combination in the telecommunications industry. A key component is the global community development model, in which developers collaborate on software innovations and improvements.
“5G runs on open source; 60% of all automobiles on the planet ship with open source,” said Goodman. “The cloud is completely foundational. All of that software is open-source — Kubernetes and the projects, some of the cloud data computing foundation.
“So there is no question about the value and the security of open source. It is far more secure than proprietary software. Not de facto — I’m not saying, ‘Pick a piece of software on GitHub and put it into your grid.’ But I think when you are talking about enterprise software, you are talking about the capacity to really look, to have all eyes focused on software and to be able to more quickly ensure cybersecurity. That’s something that we take very seriously.
“It is essential and critical that not only do utilities develop digital capacity but that they begin to understand 5G, cloud, network management, and begin to think of themselves as network operators as opposed to a utility,” said Goodman. “It is also important that they begin to recognize that micro-transactions and flexibility services are going to be essential to a distributed energy future, where we are orchestrating energy, we are shaping energy, as opposed to just ‘energy is on’ or ‘energy is off.’
“That [on or off model is] what coal and fossil fuel enabled us to do, but it was extremely inefficient. We probably lost about 60% of our energy in that model, and so now, we need to develop radical energy efficiency so that whatever electron we use is actually being dispatched and used … in an efficient and constructive manner.”
At the same time, the many freely available energy resources in the environment are waiting to be deployed to offer a 100% renewable energy grid supported by open-source hardware and software solutions. The whole universe, including humans, produces energy; it is up to us to understand how to harvest it. The best open-source energy systems have no negative effects on the environment, with extremely low costs for the maintenance and operation of equipment.
This article was first published on powerelectronicsnews.com