IoT Blog
IoT Blog

How to Use the Industrial IoT to Grow the Energy Storage System Market

by Olivier Amiot, Director of Marketing, Energy

The energy storage system (ESS) market is growing rapidly thanks to the conjunction of several different political, business, and technological trends, including:

  • National and regional regulatory authorities, as well as energy customers, increasingly mandating, promoting, demanding, and installing less centralized and dispatchable fossil fuel energy-based power generation and more wind, solar PV, and other decentralized and intermittent renewable energy-based power generation.
  • Energy users – both businesses and consumers -- seeking to reduce their carbon footprints by adopting more electrical vehicles (EVs) and electric battery-based backup power systems for their data centers, telecommunications infrastructure, industrial facilities, offices, and homes.
  • Advances in in the lithium-based battery technology used by ESSs that have improved these systems’ energy density, extended their lifecycles, and delivered other performance improvements that increase their long-term ROI.  

These trends have led to less expensive, higher performance ESS’s taking on an important role in providing renewable energy project owners, facility operators, utilities, and other ESS operators with the flexibility they need to balance energy supply and demand on the grid, and use more clean or low carbon energy generation. 

For example, while distributed renewable energy generation produces little to no greenhouse gases, it is generally intermittent. ESS's located onsite at solar PV plants, wind farms, and other renewable energy generation projects turns this clean energy into a dispatchable resource. While EVs are cleaner than fossil-fuel alternatives, the need to charge them can lead to high, hard to predict spikes in energy demand – spikes that ESS's can help EV charging companies and utilities manage. Data center operators, telecommunications companies, and even homeowners can now use ESS's as backup power systems, allowing them to replace (or at least reduce their use of) fossil-fuel based backup power systems. 

By helping utilities to integrate more intermittent solar, wind, and other renewable energy resources into their energy generation portfolios, EV charging stations charge more EVs faster and more cost-efficiently, and more data centers, telecommunications infrastructure, industrial facilities, offices, and homes to stay operational after a power grid failure, ESS have helped accelerate the world’s transition to a clean energy future.

Using the Industrial IoT to Address Energy Storage System Challenges

However, though ESS technology has matured over the past few years, it still comes with challenges. For example:

  • Most advanced battery storage systems use lithium-based batteries, and if the temperature of these batteries rise above a certain level they can fail or even catch on fire. ESS fires, in particular, are a major safety issue, as in a worst-case scenario one burning cell in a battery can ignite its adjacent cells, leading to a very hot and large fire that not only destroys the ESS, but creates an environmental hazard.
  • The software that manages the batteries in the ESS – the battery management system (BMS) – needs to be optimized to prevent every cell in the system from overcharging or overdischarging. If not, not only can the ESS’s performance be degraded, but its lifecycle might also be shortened, resulting in higher operational costs and a lower ROI for the system’s owner.

Fortunately, new industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions enable Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and ESS operators to overcome these and other challenges. 

Using the IIoT, these OEMs and ESS operators can securely connect their ESS’s to the cloud, allowing them to remotely monitor, manage, troubleshoot, and optimize these systems’ operation and performance. For example, with the IIoT they can build applications that allow them to remotely monitor the temperature and humidity of their ESS’s and be alerted if these environmental conditions pass a certain threshold or are otherwise abnormal. They can also collect data on how their ESS’s batteries are charging and discharging, enabling them to ensure that no battery cells are being overcharged or overdischarged, improving the ESS’s performance and extending its lifespan. 

Integrating the Industrial IoT Into Energy Storage Systems is Complex

However, until recently developing these and other types of IIoT applications for ESS’s from the ground-up was incredibly complex for OEMs and ESS operators. They could use an IoT-based cloud application platforms (like Microsoft Azure IoT Central) to create and host their IIoT application. But they lacked the end-to-end infrastructure needed to securely extract data from ESS’s, transmit this data over wireless networks, and then integrate this data into enterprise web platforms and other cloud-based IT systems. To build this IIoT infrastructure themselves these OEMs and ESS operators had to acquire expertise in IoT hardware, embedded software, wireless connectivity, back-end cloud software, IoT protocols, IoT cybersecurity and other complex subjects they were unlikely to be familiar with.

For example, they needed to create the APIs that will allow their IoT web server to use cellular modules or gateways to collect data from the BMS software in their ESS’s. They then needed to be able to orchestrate the transmission of this data to industrial equipment or cloud-based IT systems. In addition, they needed to ensure that the connection between the ESS’s cellular modules or gateways and these cloud-based IT systems was reliable and secure. 

On top of all this, they needed infrastructure that would allow them to extend their IIoT application rules and other intelligence to the ESS if they wanted to filter, prioritize, and process data at the edge. Otherwise they risk finding themselves transmitting a tsunami of hard to manage and process data from the ESS to the cloud or other equipment, as well a lower IIoT application ROI as a result of high data transmission costs.

Further complicating their efforts to build this infrastructure is the fact that ESS’s are often located in remote areas, next to or near wind and solar farms, telecom towers, or data centers. LTE cellular coverage is often limited in these areas. In addition, there is likely to be no one onsite to prevent malicious actors from breaking into the ESS and then the ESS’s cellular modules or gateways in order to try and gain access to their cloud-based systems. With many companies increasingly looking to deploy hundreds or thousands of ESS’s, the risk of a lost (due to poor cellular coverage) or compromised (due to a security breach) connection to an ESS would only increase. 

Without secure, end-to-end, IIoT infrastructure able to securely connect to ESS’s in remote locations, OEMs and ESS operators could not use their IIoT applications to securely extract, orchestrate, and act on data from these ESS’s  -- data that would allow them to confirm that these ESS’s are operating properly in real-time, with sufficient energy levels needed to feed energy into the grid during a period of peak energy demand or power a data center, telecommunications or industrial equipment during an electrical service disruption. 

Octave Simplifies the Industrial IoT for Energy Storage System OEMs and Operators

Fortunately, Octave, Sierra Wireless’s all-in-one edge-to-cloud solution for industrial assets, delivers OEMs and ESS operators all the IIoT infrastructure they need to securely extract, orchestrate, and act on data from ESS's. 

Octave includes edge devices (cellular modules or gateways), wireless network connectivity, and cloud APIs in a single, integrated package. This provides OEMs and ESS operators with all the IIoT infrastructure they need to use simple API calls from the cloud to remotely monitor, control, optimize, and otherwise manage their ESS’s. With Octave, OEMs and ESS operators have the IIoT infrastructure they need to extract the right data from their ESS, at the right time, and then transmit it to the right system.

For example, Octave features Ready-to-Connect edge devices with pre-provisioned, secure cellular wireless network connectivity optimized specifically for the needs of IIoT communications. In addition, OEMs and ESS operators can use Octave’s industrial equipment APIs to quickly connect these edge devices to their ESS’s analog sensors, controllers, data loggers, and other sensors and microprocessors using Octave’s built-in Modbus, CAN-Open, and other protocols. Thanks to these built-in APIs, OEMs and ESS operators can easily extract data from their ESS’s BSS so it can be transmitted to the cloud.

In addition, Octave also offers OEMs and ESS operators edge device computing capabilities that allow them to orchestrate the filtering, prioritization, and processing data at the ESS before it is transmitted it to the cloud – helping them reduce data transmission costs and avoid having their cloud-based IT systems overwhelmed by a tsunami of ESS data. In addition, OEMs and ESS operators can use Octave’s cloud APIs to easily integrate ESS data into cloud-based IT systems. 

A Multi-Layered Approach to Securing ESS Data

Octave’s built-in end-to-end security enables OEMs and ESS operators to protect their ESS data from cyberattacks. For example, Octave’s Data Vault security technology orchestrates the deployment and management of layers of protection around all elements of an IIoT application, including its edge devices, network connectivity, and cloud. 

Data Vault’s multi-layered protection includes:

  • A secure boot that ensures the firmware used to boot the device is authentic and comes from a trusted source.
  • The provisioning of Octave devices with unique credentials at the factory, credentials that are authenticated by the Octave cloud to ensure secure communications with the device.
  • A device firewall configured by default to only allow secure communication with the Octave cloud.
  • A private Access Point Name (APN) that defines the network path for all of the device’s cellular-data communications, helping prevent malicious actors from intercepting or manipulating data as it is transmitted from the device to the cloud.
  • Continuous rotation of device security keys and automatic security updates to the edge devices’ firmware.

Sierra Wireless compliments these and other components of its multi-layered Data Vault security technology with an encrypted and authenticated worldwide network, monitored 24/7/365 by its Global Network Operation Center (GNOC). 

Reliable Wireless Connectivity

On the cellular network side, Octave’s Ready to Connect devices automatically connect to more than 600 partner networks in over 190 countries. These devices use 5G-ready Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, like LTE-M, which unlike 4G LTE networks can connect to ESSs even when they are located in rural areas, deep inside buildings, or even underground. These devices also include a 2G fallback capability that allows them to connect to the cloud even in areas where 4G and 5G networks have not yet been fully deployed. 

With Octave, OEMs and ESS operators don’t have to worry about certifying edge devices, provisioning cellular wireless services from multiple network operators, building and managing IIoT security infrastructure, or that an ESS at a remote location will not be able to connect to their back-end cloud-based IT systems – allowing them to concentrate on building better IIoT applications for their ESSs.

Use Cases for Energy Storage System IIoT Applications

Octave provides OEMs and ESS operators with the infrastructure they need to quickly build IIoT applications for a variety of use cases that involve remotely monitoring, managing, troubleshooting, and optimizing their ESS’s. For example, these IIoT applications can:

  • Alert them if the temperature, humidity, or other environmental conditions in the ESS might be reaching a level at which they might impair the ESS’s operation.
  • Identify deterioration in their ESS’s performance that indicates the ESS has been overcharging or overdischarging its cells, and then modify its operation to avoid this from happening again.
  • Allow them to troubleshoot an ESS that is not operating correctly, avoiding the need to send a technician onsite to fix it.
  • Gather detailed historical data on how their ESSs operate, which they can analyze to generate insights on how to reduce the cost of these systems, improve their performance, or extend their lives.

With Octave OEMs and ESS operators can deploy a variety of IIoT applications that improve the operation and performance of their ESS’s, while also making them less susceptible to outages, downtime, or security breaches.

Accelerating the Growth of the Energy Storage System Market

With Octave simplifying and de-risking the development of IIoT applications for their ESS’s, OEMs and ESS operators can focus on using the data from these systems to improve how their ESS’s store and deliver electricity. 

In doing so, not only will they increase the ROI of these ESS’s , but they also expand the deployment of ESS storage around the world, making it easier for us to add even more solar, wind, and other intermittent renewable energy to the grid, more EVs to our roads, and more clean battery-based backup power systems to our data centers, telecommunications infrastructure, industrial facilities, offices, and homes.

Start with Sierra to learn more on how Octave can help you use the IIoT to unlock value from your ESSs in ways that enable you and your customers to further accelerate the world’s transition to a clean energy economy.