Energy Systems Applications

Smart Grid and the Industrial Internet

The Industrial Internet offers the energy industry a disruptive opportunity to deliver on the promise of renewable energy. Industrial-strength data sharing can improve the ways to generate and distribute power and to enable efficient use of renewable energy resources at large scale. Connext® DDS leads the way.

A new initiative by Industrial Internet Consortium enables efficient use of renewable energy resources at large scale.
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Energy systems are a critical infrastructure. They have many needs, but share essential requirements for high reliability, performance, and scale. Many are distributed over a wide area. Connext DDS features make it the right solution for energy systems.

Connext DDS

  • Is proven. From huge hydropower dams to microgrid distribution, RTI delivers the "big iron" reliability and performance needed to power the most demanding applications. No other Industrial Internet platform is nearly as real world-tested in actual deployments.
  • Works end-to-end. Connext DDS seamlessly connects local and wide area networks. The hierarchical RTI DataBus technology can integrate a fast local control loop, connect it securely over long distances, and provide the data to IT cloud infrastructure. The RTI routing service provides an indispensable function allowing integration of resources across a wide area. No other connectivity platform puts together such a range.
  • Scales SCADA up. The GC Dam system, which is the largest power plant in North America, passes 300 thousand data values from 40 thousand points. The supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) launch control for NASA's Constellation encompasses 300 thousand points, collecting terabytes of data in the few seconds relevant to a complex launch sequence.
  • Scales systems down. On the other end of the spectrum, RTI helps implement the new micro-grid architectures that the increasing mix of local generation and dynamic loading require. Connext DDS is the design for tomorrow's smart grid.
  • Leads security. RTI drives the industry's most advanced distributed security architecture, recently codified in an adopted standard at the OMG. RTI also conducts active security research in protection, detection, SCADA designs, and distributed trust.


The largest power plant in North America, the GC Dam, is live and running RTI Connext DDS. The dam has 24 power turbines, each the size of a small house, and 12 reversible pumps. These are distributed across 4 major power houses, and connected to 3 high-voltage transmission switchyards. Up to 300 thousand data values flow through the system. Everything is coordinated by a fully-redundant control room.

The dam is both the biggest and fastest power plant on the Western Interconnect. It can go from full power (almost 7 gigawatts) to zero and back in a few minutes just by opening or closing its gates. Nuclear and coal-fired plants take hours to heat or cool down. The automated control system not only controls the flow, but also plays a key role in balancing the grid. It may be the most challenging and mission-critical control system in the power industry.

The dam's previous control system was an aging, monolithic SCADA system. The new control system is modern, distributed, secure and ultra-reliable. The greatest challenges are extreme availability, fault tolerance, performance, security and wide-area communications. For such an infrastructure, reliability is critical: the dam must never go offline unexpectedly. Because it's based on modern networking protocols, the new DDS design can leverage new technology as it becomes available, such as cloud computing, connectivity and security. The new design is smarter, more efficient and easier to evolve. The largest single power plant on the continent has joined the Industrial Internet of Things.

GC Dam aerial photo
The largest, fastest and most important power plant on the North American continent now uses RTI Connext DDS.
Power turbine
Each of the dam's 24 turbines generates enough power for a small city.
SCADA diagram
The fully-redundant, high-performance, wide-area automated control system implements a distributed SCADA based on RTI Connext DDS.

Siemens Wind Power

Wind provides clean, renewable energy. The core concept is simple: wind turbines spin blades to generate power. However, today's systems are anything but simple. Modern wind turbines have blades that sweep a 120 meter circle, cost more than 1 million dollars and generate multiple megawatts of power. Each turbine may include up to 1000 sensors and actuators, integrating strain gages, bearing monitors and power conditioning technology. The turbine can control blade speed and power generation by altering the blade pitch and power extraction. Controlling the turbine is a sophisticated job requiring many cooperating processors closing high-speed loops and implementing intelligent monitoring and optimization algorithms.

But the real challenge is integrating these turbines so that they work together. A wind farm may include hundreds of turbines. They are often installed in inaccessible locations at sea. The farm must implement a fundamentally and truly distributed control system. Like all power systems, the goal of the farm is to match generation to load. A farm with hundreds of turbines must optimize that load by balancing the loading and generation across a wide geography.

Wind, of course, is dynamic. Most every picture of a wind farm shows a calm sea and a setting sun. But things get challenging when a storm goes through the wind farm. In a storm, the control system must decide how to take energy out of gusts to generate constant power. It must intelligently balance load across many turbines. It must consider the loading and potential damage to a half-billion-dollar installed asset. This is no environment for a slow or undependable control system. Reliability and performance are critical.

Siemens Wind Power is one of the world's largest wind turbine manufacturers. Siemens Wind Power uses Connext DDS to integrate its entire farm. Connext DDS satisfies all its requirements, providing fast, reliable communications across many turbines. With Connext DDS, a Siemens Wind Power farm is a smart, distributed machine. It optimizes power, monitors its own health and reacts to its environment. It epitomizes the power of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Siemens Wind Power fields farms of 500 turbines with over 100,000 blades. Connext DDS enables fast control within turbines and distributed gust mitigation across the array. RTI will also integrate with predictive maintenance and business diagnostics.

Oil and Gas

Modern oil and gas production, transportation and refining require superior monitoring and process control. Previously deployed data distribution technology limits the ability to quickly and reliably integrate equipment, add analytics and improve automation. The Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) offers industry leaders an opportunity to transform their infrastructures to take advantage of far more data and processing at the network edge and in the cloud.

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National Instruments and Toronto Hydro

Today's power generation isn't all multi-billion-dollar plants. Today's power systems are also small, efficient microgrids that will soon populate neighborhoods and industrial sites. Generation, distribution, and use are becoming far more local.

Modern industrial and houses now employ solar panels, local wind generation, local power storage, and backup generators. These sources are dynamic; a cloud passing over fundamentally changes the generated power flow. Loading is even more dynamic. Plugging in an electric vehicle can draw 5x more power than the rest of your house combined. As these vehicles become more popular, grid demand will grow quickly.

When combined, these new, local sources and loads change the game for power control. The old designs, consisting of central offices balancing power to substations over long, slow lines, simply won't work. The new designs require fast local control backed by intelligent generation and distribution architectures. Communications must traverse wired and wireless connections over secure links. Popular protocols such as 61850 and DNP-3 must be integrated seamlessly. The grid itself must enter the age of the Industrial Internet.

Toronto Hydro, Canada's largest utility, uses Connext DDS to connect a network of inexpensive National Instruments CompactRIO hardened computers. The microGrid architecture improves grid responsiveness, reduces operational risk, and improves quality of service. Decentralized power management eases oversight at feeders and substations. It handles evenly dispersed power generation and increases grid efficiency. Using National Instruments hardware and LabVIEW software makes programming and understanding the system simple.

The microgrid architecture fundamentally implements more responsive, modern networking. It distributes intelligence throughout the system. It increases efficiency while lowering costs. It makes the entire system more understandable, adaptable, and connectable. It blends generation, distribution and control into a single system in the Industrial Internet of Things.

Microgrids are fundamentally changing power distribution. Toronto Hydro combines Connext DDS middleware and National Instruments CompactRIO hardware to enable more efficient monitoring, control, and distribution of power.
Locally-managed microgrids can incorporate local demand and generation fluctuation much more efficiently than central-office-controlled designs. Integrating legacy infrastructure makes the design practical. The recent approval of an advanced security standard for DDS makes the end-to-end system fundamentally secure.

Advanced Security for Power Systems with PNNL

Improving power system efficiency and cost is not enough. Modern systems must also recognize the very real threat environment facing power-system infrastructure. RTI is extremely active in researching, implementing, and standardizing secure architectures for industrial systems.

A recent DNP-3 retrofit experiment at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) confirms the potential. For this demonstration, RTI and PNNL replaced a DNP-3 connection with a secure network running an early version of Connext DDS Secure. Connext DDS Secure is compliant with the recently-adopted DDS security specification. The PNNL test replaced a legacy DNP-3 insecure serial link that connected control center and a substation. Both stations contained representative components from operational grid hardware.

Practical security must combine both protection and detection. A Connext DDS Secure network protects the communications with a fully secure network connection. Perhaps more importantly, the network allows simple analysis of the data flowing between endpoints. Thus, an operator display can tap into the flow to show network status. Automated detection systems can also tap the flow. To demonstrate the potential, RTI implemented an intelligent Lua-programmable RTI Prototyper module to analyze the data values and communication timing. It was able to detect many types of attack, including Denial of Service, unauthorized commands, unsupported requests, unauthorized firmware upgrades, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

The DDS-based design is fast, reliable and secure. It shows how to practically implement security in the Industrial Internet of Things.

The PNNL security retrofit test replaced a RS232 link running DNP-3 and with a simulated modern WAN network. Both ends used real representative electrical components.
The DDS network replaces the old DNP-3 line between stations. Instead of the insecure DNP-3 line, the Connext DDS Secure link protects the WAN transmission with an encrypted link that is fully compliant with the DDS security standard. It also allows intelligent attack detection. The system was able to detect and respond to many types of attacks.
An optimized energy system of the future may use DDS to both control generation and microgrid distribution. Both already use DDS today. A cloud-based application can subscribe to this information and use it to balance grid power generation and load. Another application may use other popular IoT protocols to collect and analyze usage information. The RTI routing service offers easy integration; an intelligent load-management application could use it to access both systems.