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How SOA could change the way you buy electricity

Imagine that your appliances have the ability to power up or down, in real time, based on up-to-the-minute electricity costs. An SOA-based marketplace proves the possibility

By Joanne Cummings, Network World
October 22, 2007 12:02 AM ET

Network World - What if IT could be used to eliminate the West Coast's notorious rolling blackouts or huge regional power outages like those experienced by the Northeast and Midwest in 2003?

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., decided to find out. With IBM as a partner, they built a demonstration network called GridWise that showed how an event-driven service-oriented architecture (SOA) can be used to build a power marketplace that lets residential and commercial customers change their electricity consumption nearly in real time, based on price and other factors. During the yearlong, Energy Department-sponsored marketplace demonstration, customers spent less money on power, and utilities easily accommodated spikes in demand without affecting service levels.

The marketplace, an SOA application ran on an IBM WebSphere Application Server at PNNL and received data in real time from various Web services about electricity's current wholesale price and most recent closing price, as well as whether those prices were trending up or down. It communicated with specialized, "smart" appliances at participants' sites via IBM-developed middleware built within what IBM calls its event-driven architecture (EDA) framework and running on the WebSphere server. The EDA middleware provided the link between the transaction-oriented marketplace and the more physical world of the controls-based appliances.

Rob Pratt, GridWise

"We found that through this system, we could influence people's loads in a very rapid fashion," says Rob Pratt, program manager for the GridWise project. "And that really helps out some of the more difficult tasks in managing fluctuations and potential outages in the power grid." In addition, customers saved an average of 10% on their electric bills.

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