New Testing Center to Help Energy Tech 'Talk'

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The BIC opened near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in August 2013. The BIC opened near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in August 2013.

The Battery Innovation Center is making some history in the sector. The Greene County facility says it is becoming the first commercially-accredited test laboratory to certify grid devices, systems and applications to work within the Open Field Message Bus (OpenFMB) framework standard. While their terminology may sound complicated, the goal is simple – getting breakthrough battery technologies to talk to each other.

The OpenFMB framework, ratified in 2016 by the North American Energy Standards Board, enables grid "assets" to communicate with each other. The NAESB says the platform will allow the energy grid to operate more efficiently and provide secure communication among those assets.

Right now, says Battery Innovation Center Chief Executive Officer Ben Wrightsman, each application “only works with itself.” With certified OpenFMB technology, those assets will work with the entire grid environment.

"In very simple terms, think of a USB for grids," says Wrightsman. "Just like if you had a USB mouse today or a flash drive or anything that you plug into a USB to your computer, (it) automatically works…that's because of a common language. That's the same thing that we’re doing on the grid side, is having a common language for these to all work and talk with each other."

OpenFMB has been in the pilot testing stage for several years through the OpenFMB Users Group. Partners include North Carolina-based Duke Energy and energy technology services company Open Energy Solutions (OES) in California.

OES Director of Cybersecurity and Standards Larry Lackey says the testing lab at the BIC will fill a void that exists today in OpenFMB certification and testing. Duke Director of Technology Development Stuart Laval agrees, saying the center "will provide utilities, vendors and other OpenFMB users with access to a quality facility to implement, validate and certify their interoperability solutions."

The facility marks the latest achievement of the BIC in its goal to help companies get out of the lab and into the market. During an interview with Inside INdiana Business last year, Wrightsman said the center aims to take potentially game-changing technologies "out of the R&D loop."

"We're very focused on that commercialization," said Wrightsman. "How do we actually make the business sense for that product, both in getting the technical capabilities solved, getting the processes and the procedures set up, but also connecting it to end users, making sure that we have a product that it can go into, that it’s already applicable?"

While the reach of the Battery Innovation Center is global – Wrightsman says it works with about 100 firms, with a small portion based in Indiana – he says the industry has deep roots in the Hoosier state. He cites the work of companies like Columbus-based Cummins and Rolls-Royce and Allison Transmission in Indianapolis.

"Indiana has a rich heritage in battery technologies. It's good to see a resurgence of that capability here."

Wrightsman explains, in simple terms, what kind of technology the new lab will be testing.
During an interview last year with Inside INdiana Business, Wrightsman said the state has a rich history in battery technology.
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