Last month, the MESA Standards Alliance officially released the first draft of a protocol for communications standards between utility control centers and energy storage systems (ESSs). This marks an important development for the ESS industry given the relative lack of existing standards and the increasingly diverse range of products in the market. Founded in 2014, the MESA Alliance is an organization of industry groups including both product vendors and utilities working to accelerate the growth of the ESS industry. MESA is developing open, non-proprietary specifications and standards for multiple types of ESSs.
Compared with the broader energy industry, standards for ESS components and software have barely begun to develop. Yet there is a clear need for standardization. Many vendors and other stakeholders in the industry cite the diverse operational characteristics of ESS components and the differing utility interconnection protocols as barriers to growth and cost reductions. There are basic standards currently in place covering ESS design and the integration of systems into the grid, and efforts are underway to update these protocols or supplement them with more in-depth standards. To date, the main standards for ESS come from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), most notably the group’s TC 120 standards. However, these standards are more high-level and cover aspects such as defining unit parameters, testing methods, environmental issues, and system safety.
MESA’s protocols are among the most comprehensive standards in the industry, aiming to accelerate the market through greater system interoperability, scalability, safety, quality, and affordability. A key focus for the grid is on standardizing communications between components within an ESS and between a system and the grid. This type of standardization can give customers more choice in the market and reduce project-specific engineering costs. These standards will also hopefully reduce training costs and improve safety for field staff through uniform procedures for safety and efficiency. The two primary segments of MESA standards are:
- MESA-Device: Addresses system design for the components of an ESS, including the storage medium (batteries), inverters/power electronics, and meters
- MESA-ESS: Specifies how an ESS communicates with the utility’s grid control and power scheduling systems (and is built on the DNP3 protocol)
The recently published draft protocol is for MESA-ESS and primarily addresses ESS configuration management, ESS operational states, and the applicable ESS functions. MESA hopes that these standards will enable electric utilities and grid operates to more effectively deploy and manage ESSs—including fleets of multi-vendor systems—to meet various needs with minimal custom design or engineering.
As the ESS industry has matured, software and controls platforms that communicate with grid systems are emerging as key to the technology’s value. However, there are a growing number of software platforms available, each with differing characteristics. Navigant Research’s new Energy Storage Software: Aggregation, Asset Management, and Grid Services report explores these platforms in detail. More open and official standards in the industry could result in greater interoperability between the various platforms, thus enabling greater customer choice. These developments can allow technology suppliers to focus on their core competencies and will hopefully lead to more rapid cost reductions and innovations.