As solar panels and other distributed power-generating technologies become more common, there is growing demand for batteries that can store power for later consumption. In an August 2014 post, I wrote about the use of the Axiomtek ICO300 system as an IoT home battery controller. Since that post, this controller has become a key part of batteries used in commercial and industrial buildings to store energy generated by alternative energy sources. This use model includes factories, warehouses, and other buildings adding solar panels to reduce their energy costs.
The Battery-Operated Building
The advantage of a building battery is that it can store excess electricity generated during the day for later use. This power storage can play an important role in reducing electricity bills by enabling the use of stored power during peak periods when electricity costs are highest. Batteries can also help mitigate the voltage sags and surges that occur in the grid when clouds pass over buildings using rooftop solar panels.
The Role of a Battery Controller
To play a role in the smart grid, buildings need smart meters that can monitor energy consumption, onsite grid-connected power generation, and battery storage. In coordination with the grid, battery charging and discharging cycles need scheduling to ensure there is sufficient capacity to satisfy building needs. Optimization of battery capacity and efficiency requires running algorithms that enable providers to predict usage patterns and optimize battery operation for real-time electricity rates and loads. All this requires digital controls and real-time communications systems—in other words, an Internet of Things (IoT) battery controller.
The Axiomtek ICO300:
As reported in the earlier post, Axiomtek in conjunction with a major battery manufacturer developed an IoT battery controller. The Axiomtek ICO300 is a robust, fanless embedded system that connects to the Internet through wired Ethernet, WiFi, or a cellular interface (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Axiomtek ICO300 s a robust DIN-rail, fanless unit with options for 3G/GPS or WiFi connectivity.
Integrators can program the device to perform a number of power storage tasks:
- Charge control. To prevent overcharging or overheating, the Axiomtek ICO300 can monitor battery temperature. The device can automatically shut down the charging process when necessary and resume it when the battery is cool enough to start back up.
- Data collection and communication. The Axiomtek ICO300 can collect and communicate real-time information and alerts on current battery charge and health statistics. Data can include total battery throughput, total cycles, depth-of-discharge distribution, average and maximum/minimum operating temperature, percentage of life spent at high temperature and full charge, and calendar age.
- Data analysis. As part of the grid, the Axiomtek ICO300 can provide specific data for big data analytics in the cloud. Utilities can process this information in real-time to help stabilize the grid. Battery manufacturers can use this data to study in-field performance for future improvements.
- Energy optimization. With the right algorithms, the Axiomtek ICO300 can perform machine learning based on building usage patterns, automating the discharge of stored energy to sync with power needs, grid conditions, and opportunities for rate savings.
Designed for Industrial Duty
The Axiomtek ICO300 is a rugged Ethernet- and WiFi-enabled product that fulfills key requirements in energy automation (Figure 2). A temperature range -20°C to 70°C makes the ICO300 suitable for a wide range of environments. The unit’s fanless and cableless design features an extruded aluminum and heavy-duty steel case with a DIN-rail for easy mounting.
Figure 2. The Axiomtek ICO300 supports relevant standards in a fanless, low power design featuring the latest generation of Intel® Atom™ processors.
The unit offers two isolated 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet ports, four COM ports (RS-232/422/485), a choice of 3G/GPRS or WiFi, CompactFlash and SATA SSD (or HDD), and wide range 12V - 24V DC input. Also included are LED indicators for easy status checks and a RTC battery function for easy recovery.
Powered by the Intel® Atom™ Processor
Basing the Axiomtek ICO300 on the Intel® Atom™ processor E3815, Axiomtek provides a unit with the low-power performance, connectivity, and ruggedness to handle all charge control, data collection, and communication tasks. Up to 3x faster than its predecessors with up to 3x better energy efficiency, the Intel Atom processor E3815 is a system on chip (SoC) that uses very little energy itself – under 10 watts. The processor’s industrial temperature range supports the ICO300’s adaptability to use in uninsulated spaces or even outside buildings. With a memory capacity of up to 4GB DDR3L-1066 MHz, the processor can handle plenty of RAM for running the operating system and applications.
The processor’s high degree of integration with industry-standard high-bandwidth interfaces such as PCI Express* Gen 2.0 and Hi-speed USB 2.0 ensure expansion and storage capabilities wherever used in the grid. What’s more, Intel® processors ensure compatibility with a broad range of popular OSs, BIOSs, and software, simplifying software migration, connectivity, and data exchange with other devices – an important element in the design of smart grids.
Smart Building Batteries
As batteries become more common across the grid, they will become a vitally component for storing and managing electricity at the individual building level. Using intelligent battery controllers like the Axiomtek ICO300 with these batteries will help them become a valuable tool for helping building owners reduce energy costs and helping stabilize the grid against the fluctuating power and large output changes common with wind and solar energy sources.
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Solutions in this blog:
Axiomtek is an Associate member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance
Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine