The Semantic Web might someday be an essential part of the smart power grid. Researchers in Europe are exploring how to use semantic technologies to make energy networks more autonomous. The S-TEN (Intelligent Self-describing Technical and Environmental Networks) project’s aim “is to exploit the 'Semantic Web' for scientific and engineering applications,” according to the project’s web site. The project will do this by creating ontologies that will make networks ‘self-describing.’ Each component, “be it a volt meter on a wind turbine or a thermometer on a weather station,” acts autonomously to report its location and status. In short, the power grid talks to itself.

“The network, which can be accessed through a web interface, shows its current status - i.e. which objects are part of it and what they are currently doing,” said researcher Bernhard Schowe-von der Brelie. “As well as providing monitoring and control of the network, this architecture can enable preventive maintenance strategies.”

The network uses semantic technology to interpret this information itself, lessening the need for human input, and increasing safety and performance. The semantic network could also use its data to improve building standards, allowing for a better understanding of individual buildings within a given geographic network.

The project's researchers believe that power grids of the future will need to be more automated, require less human interaction, and be dynamic, configuring themselves and their services in real-time without human intercession.

S-TEN would be initially used in low-risk situations such as environmental monitoring (rain, fires), control of distributed resources in electrical power networks like wind farms and solar power plants, and the troubleshooting and preventative maintenance of electrical power systems.

By Mark Alvarez