What is the VOLTTRON™ Platform?
Our energy system is changing rapidly. Across buildings and the grid, digital technology is producing new data streams that offer in-depth understanding of the system. At the same time, integrating renewable energy generation, energy storage, and electric vehicles is adding new challenges.
To enable the integration of this new energy system, a real-time, scalable distributed control and diagnostics capability is needed that maintains high levels of reliability and security. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with support from Department of Energy developed a platform to support the needs of the changing energy system – VOLTTRON™.
VOLTTRON™ is an agent execution platform providing services to its agents that allow them to easily communicate with physical devices and other resources.
VOLTTRON™ delivers an innovative distributed control and sensing software platform that supports modern control strategies, including agent-based and transaction-based controls. It enables mobile and stationary software agents to perform information gathering, processing, and control actions. VOLTTRON™ can independently manage a wide range of applications, such as HVAC systems, electric vehicles, distributed energy or entire building loads, leading to improved operational efficiency.
VOLTTRON™ is not an application such as demand response – demand response can be implemented as an application on top of VOLTTRON.
VOLTTRON™ is open, flexible and modular, and already benefits from community support and development.
- Open, flexible and modular software platform.
- Easy application development.
- Object oriented, modern software development environment.
- Language agnostic – does not tie applications to a specific language.
- VOLTTRON™ supports a commonly used device and control systems protocols, such as, BACnet® and Modbus®.
- Low CPU, memory, and storage footprint requirements.
- Supports non-Intel CPUs.
- Supports platform services, such as, messaging, mobility and application support.
To address concerns regarding unauthorized access to or attacks on smart technologies for buildings and the power grid, VOLTTRON™ was designed with cybersecurity in mind. It includes security features such as memory protection, resource constraints and guarantees, authentication, authorization, and trust. For advanced diagnostic and control applications that require software to “move” between platforms, VOLTTRON™ supports secure application transport, including code, configuration and collected data.
VOLTTRON™ has been extensively simulated and tested under ongoing projects with the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). At the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Lab Home facilities, VOLTTRON™ successfully scheduled water heater and electric vehicle recharging operations. It is also currently used by Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, in the Buildings Technologies Office funded Transactive Network project, which examines the role transactive networks could play in improving the operations of rooftop units (RTU) on commercial buildings, while also enabling the RTUs to participate in building-grid transactions. A number of other organizations are also using VOLTTRON™ to demonstrate energy efficiency and grid services.
Nuts and Bolts
VOLTTRON™ is designed to be extensible and modular. It is equipped to communicate with building systems (e.g., BACnet® or Modbus® devices) and external services, has a built-in data historian and weather service, supports OpenADR 1.2., has a flexible messaging system (publish/subscribe), as well as utility and supporting classes to simplify application development, and logging service for saving application results and logging information.
Where to get VOLTTRON™
VOLTTRON™ is an open source technology. The source code has been released to the public and the research team invites you to download VOLTTRON™ at GitHub; here you will find a quick start page, documentation, and the VOLTTRON™ User Guide. VOLTTRON™’s non-proprietary nature makes it possible for researchers and software developers to use this tool to build applications to more efficiently manage energy use among appliances and devices.
VOLTTRON™ 3.0 was released in September 2015 and introduced more more flexible driver and data historian frameworks, a web UI for managing VOLTTRON deployments, and enhanced communication security.
VOLTTRON™ 4.0 is under active development with planned features such as:
- Services for discovering other platforms and agents based on their capabilities.
- Increased usability for deployment and management of VOLTTRON™ platforms.
- Role based authorization of agents and services on the platform.
BACnet® is a registered trademark of American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).
Modbus® is a registered trademark of Modicon Inc.