OpenWrt – poWquty (poWer quality): Computing and providing power quality information on OpenWrt routers.

Dear Freifunkers,

Please allow me to introduce the poWquty Project within Google Summer of Code 2016 at Freifunk.

The big picture behind this project relates to the energy production and consumption. Sustainable energy production and consumption are crucial for a prospering life on earth. The importance of energy led many theorists to even define the level of civilization by its energy profile. With the renewable energies shift the energy production paradigm from centralized to decentralized energy production which poses one of the next big challenges, which will influence the energy production in the future years.

From the big picture we move to the concrete case, increasingly faced when dealing with renewable energies: monitoring and control.
The emerging smart grids include an inherent need for communication for monitoring and control purposes in a more and more dynamic environment. One of the major challenges is monitoring the power quality parameters in a decentralized manner. In such case, decentralized information need to be retrieved and transported with the lowest latency possible. One way to solve this challenge could be to install expensive infrastructure to each point. The better way is to use wireless mesh infrastructure that could also serve this purpose.

Here where Freifunk comes in: The Freifunk mesh network is an outstanding example for a decentralized infrastructure that could be augmented with grid related functionalities to cope with future energy challenges. In order to use wireless mesh networks such as Freifunk for energy monitoring, we could use extra hardware that does the power measurements and use the wireless networks solely for transporting the information. The drawback of this is the need to install separate hardware. But, since all routers run on power, we could integrate the measurements into the router, which is the main goal of this project: to enable power quality measurements on OpenWrt.

Here is the initial plan how to do this. First we need to retrieve voltage samples from the power grid. For the beginning we will rely on an oscilloscope device that delivers the real time samples over a USB interface. This way voltage samples from the electric socket are retrieved at the router. With these voltage samples we can go ahead and calculate the power quality parameters, using moving window algorithms, fourrier transform, and z-transform to get the phase angle, the effective power, the frequency, and the harmonics. This calculation should be time, and memory efficient since it has to run on the OpenWrt embedded devices. Once these values are calculated we need to think about how we want to make them available for retrieval over IP networks.

Now we come to the Code: The goal of the project is to create an OpenWrt package which ensures three functionalities:
1-    Retrieving sample data from the measurement device
2-    Calculating power quality parameters form the retrieved samples
3-    Provisioning of the calculated parameters for retrieval

This project is intended to strengthen the role of open software in the uprising smart grids by providing some essential functionalities, communication devices need to have in the context of smart grids, especially in regard to the future role of the home routers in the future energy solutions.

More updates on this will follow in the next weeks.

Cheers,

Neez

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