Edge Computing on the electricity grid

Edge Computing: the technology enabling a step forward in the digitalisation and flexibility of the distribution grid

Informatics R&D Digital talent

Iberdrola, in collaboration with a group of industry partners and technological companies, is driving the development of a new digital platform (SSP) for secondary substations. Based on Edge Computing, it will allow the company to continue leading the digital transformation of its network business. This technology allows the distribution of advanced computing capabilities onto different nodes of the grid (in this case, secondary substations) representing a significant step in the digitalisation of the distribution grid and the ability to meet our customers' new requirements, integrate new distributed resources, and support the increasing electrification of the economy, thereby promoting the energy transition.

Edge Computing technology will allow utilities to offer a better service and drive the energy transition.
Edge Computing technology will allow utilities to offer a better service and drive the energy transition.

The energy transition is vital to meeting the goal to keep global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels defined in the Paris Agreement, as well as subsequent objectives: for example, the European Union (EU) seeks to be carbon neutral by 2050. These commitments, together with the changes resulting from the digital revolution, require an energy system capable of providing an effective response to the technical and business challenges we face.

So far, the automation of the distribution grid, and smart metering and advanced monitoring of medium and low voltage have shown that secondary substations — housing of distribution transformers — are a fundamental asset in the digitalisation of the grid. The next step in updating these assets involves the use of technologies such as virtualisation and Edge Computing — which, among other things, facilitates the real-time use of information from IoT devices — to provide them with greater flexibility, effectiveness and efficiency.

Secondary substation digitalisation

Our secondary substations currently operate with different equipment with proprietary platforms from multiple suppliers; some still electromechanical and others digital, each with its own hardware and firmware. This lack of technological uniformity, together with the progressive increase in distributed energy resources (DER) and the constant evolution of digital technologies applied to distribution systems, requires innovative solutions if we are to continue offering the highest quality of service to our customers.

In this context, the Iberdrola Group, as part of the E4S Alliance (Ariadna Grid, Intel, Merytronic, Minsait, ZIV, Nebbiolo Technologies, Landys Gyr y Circutor) and in collaboration with other industry partners and technological companies, is promoting the development of a secondary substation platform (SSP), which will allow technologies including Edge Computing and virtualisation to be implemented in secondary substations.

What is the SSP platform

The platform aims to accelerate the creation of a standards-based, open, interoperable and secure architecture by anticipating the technical and business challenges that utilities will face. With a design that reduces capital investment (CAPEX) and operating expenses (OPEX), while accelerating the time-to-market, the flexibility offered by virtualisation on a common platform facilitates the implementation of new advanced technologies, such as Edge Computing, to address the different use cases as their need arises.

The proposed reference architecture is critical to increasing the visibility of distribution assets, moving to data driven network management and preparing for the growing penetration of distributed energy resources (DER). In order to accelerate digitalisation in the distribution business, the platform will be validated in a field pilot, with a hardware prototype that will allow the comprehensive solution to be verified in a real environment.

The keys of the SSP platform

The concept of the SSP platform, in contrast to the traditional solution that requires specific hardware for each application, is based on:

  • A multi-function hardware and software. platform.
  • Standardised hardware.
  • A flexible and modular design which allows additional interface cards to be inserted, along with computer resources and other functionalities as needed.

Why integrate Edge Computing
into the distribution grid?

When applied to secondary substations, Edge Computing increases the distribution grid flexibility and allows faster deployment of new functionalities, improving the quality of service provided to our customers. Hereby a summary of an implementation at a secondary substation and some of the achieved benefits.
0 0 1 3 8 0 0 1 3 8
Enhances connectivity with
central systems for operation
and maintenance
Enables Artificial Intelligence integration, which, for instance, makes on site video analysis possible
Edge Computing
device (SSP*):

execution of algorithms using data from smart meters, IoT sensors
and other SS**
Enables easier integration of Distributed Energy Resources and
Electric Vehicles, and improves smart metering data exploitation
Medium voltage switchgears
Low voltage board
Distribution transformer
*SSP: Secondary Substation Platform
**SS: Secondary Substation


 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: Why integrate Edge Computing into the distribution grid? [PDF]

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As for the system architecture, the solution will be integrated with current core systems, which remain critical for the utility to manage the power grid. However, the platform will allow the information received from the sensors or interfaces available in the secondary substation to be processed locally, adding intelligence to the grid and increasing the quality of service.

The hardware is being designed to fit a typical utility environment and will be based on standard solutions already available. In addition, specific interface cards are being developed for some of the planned use cases. For example, for communication with low-voltage appliances (meters, sensors, switches, etc.), a communications device with PLC (Power Line Communications) technology, a PRIME base node, is required. Finally, in order to exchange information between applications, the system will have a data bus and a shared database for the different virtualised applications on the same hardware, which will enable Edge Computing or distributed intelligence use cases.

In short, in line with the drive towards the energy transition, Iberdrola is leading the digitalisation of the electricity grid with this innovative initiative that makes use of cutting-edge technologies to continue improving the efficiency and quality of service for our customers.