Archive for September, 2011

Smart Solar PV is Coming

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

What makes a utility want more distributed solar PV? In my experience, utilities look askance at the addition of distributed (small scale) rooftop and ground-mounted solar PV in their territories. First, these systems reduce utility revenue. Second, they create additional risks for line workers. Third, high penetrations (greater than 20%) of distributed solar PV on a single distribution feeder get increasingly disruptive to feeder operations, risking two-way power flow and potential damage to distribution substation equipment.  Fourth, “dumb” PV systems cannot be dispatched by control center operators.

But what if the distributed systems came equipped with a smart PV inverter; one that could provide ancillary services on the distribution feeder, communicate with the utility, and even provide some energy storage so that the utility could use the devices to help harmonize the power on the distribution feeder. Now that would get the utility’s attention and they may even want some of that kind of solar PV on every one of their feeders.

Standard and Smart PV Inverters

Well, that‘s the outlook for 2015, according to “The World Market for PV Inverters”, a report released recently by IMS Research.  A July 26 press release on PVmarketresearch.com  highlights the report and shows sales of Smart PV inverters passing sales of standard inverters within three years, driven by “utility concerns over grid imbalances, the growing proportion of PV connected to the grid, as well as the need for energy storage to take advantage of self-consumption tariffs and further incorporate PV into the smart grid.”  

Given the maturity of distributed generation system penetration in Germany, we should watch developments in Europe closely to understand how distributed energy resources will impact smart grid and utility operations going forward. 

John Cooper
Smart Grid Lead Consultant

John Cooper is an industry-leading author and researcher on the Smart Grid with over 20 years of experience in the utilities and energy industry. He has specialized expertise in business development and consulting at innovative electric and telecommunications companies and has led key Smart Grid projects associated with utility IP networks, AMI, distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, virtual power plants, utility-scale energy storage and more. Cooper is co-author of the newly released “The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability,” a practical perspective on the advent and evolution of Smart Grids.

Is your data center ready for a disaster?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

If you are like most employees at a medium-large sized business, you assume that your company’s data center is always going to be there and supplying your necessary applications, data and reports on a daily basis.  But what if you decided to peel the layers of the onion back and peek beneath the surface?  What you find might surprise you.  

Recent disasters such as Hurricane Irene, Texas wildfires, Mid-Atlantic earthquakes, tsunami’s, and tornado’s all highlight the need for a comprehensive and tested disaster recovery plan but most  are an “all or nothing” scenario, meaning the entire data center must be unavailable before declaring a disaster. This scenario does not look at individual component failures — the most common problems that escalate into a full blown disaster declaration.

Has your company looked at its data center infrastructure and vulnerabilities to address issues that may prevent a disaster declaration and enhance day-to-day or operational recovery?  In some cases there is nothing you can do to prevent a declaration – A direct hit from a tornado, major flooding, earthquakes, etc.  But in many cases a vulnerability analysis of your data center will uncover specific actions that can be taken to prevent a localized outage from becoming a full blown disaster.

So how do you prepare a data center for a disaster incident?

First – Conduct a Vulnerability Assessment of the data center. Five basic questions to ask are:

  1. Are you storing paper and boxes in the data center?
  2. Are your networking cables labeled?
  3. Have you looked at your data center from a power and capacity standpoint?
  4. Is physical access to the data center limited?
  5. Does the data center have heat, smoke, water sensors?
  6. Are there data security policies and procedures in place?
  7. Is the location of your data center conducive to continued operations or is the data center in a major hazard area?

You definitely need a comprehensive set of procedures for the infrastructure and for the applications. Each component, or group of components, usually has support infrastructure, and generally speaking, there’s a person or group responsible for that. So the servers are going to be under the server group, or the virtualization group, or both. All of these are generally working under an infrastructure group or an operations group, but come a major disruption, there’s a dotted-line relationship for disaster recovery management. And that kind of governance clearly needs to be spelled out, who is in charge, who makes the decision, what you do, and what sequence you do it in.

Of course there is much more to ensuring your data center survives a disaster,  but this should give you a jump start in reviewing your data center vulnerabilities.

Patrick R. Dunn, CBCP, CISSP
Practice Manager – Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity

Five Strategies For Business Survival

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Business owners invest a tremendous amount of time, money and resources to make their ventures successful, yet emergency planning may get placed on the back burner in the face of more immediate business concerns.

At some point, your business will be disrupted by either a man-made or natural disaster; it’s not a matter of if, but when. Disaster recovery planning is vital to the longevity of the business.

Natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and floods are particularly tricky to plan for because they can strike randomly and sometimes repeatedly in the same geographic location.

So how would a business survive such extreme threats?  Here are a few leading practices and strategies to help:

  1. Awareness:  A critical activity of Business Continuity actually occurs before the crisis. Informing and educating employees about programs, threats, expectations, accepted behaviors and actions will increase the likelihood that the intended response to an emergency will be achieved by making these situations at least a bit more familiar by way of repetition.
  2. Compliance:  Compliance with building code safety and frequent building code inspection checks are imperative to ensuring that your building is as safe as possible. The same method should be applied to information technology. Extreme caution should be taken when it comes to protecting your most valuable business resources.
  3. Redundancy: A variety of sources for accessing information should be available. Emails, website postings, “800” numbers to recorded messages, face-to-face information sessions, newsletters, and texting are viable methods.
  4. Frequency: During crises information changes quickly. Therefore, it is important to update messages frequently. Having a pre-established update schedule will benefit your organization during the business interruption.
  5. Communications: Often times at the beginning of a crisis there is a flurry of information, which then drops off. Crises can last for a while and people need different types of information from stage to stage. Maintaining communications continuity during all stages of a crisis is critical.

Patrick R. Dunn, CBCP, CISSP
Practice Manager – Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity

Introducing the Consonus Smart Grid Forum

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

As a leading provider of data center services, IT infrastructure solutions and multivendor support services, Consonus is embarking on new strategic initiatives to integrate high value services to mid-sized electric utilities adopting Smart Grid technologies. This section of the Consonus Blog will be devoted to the discussion of emerging IT issues associated with Smart Grid for utilities, as well as the companies that provide Smart Grid-oriented services and products.

The goal of Smart Grid is to merge proven IT principles and business practices with established utility business models to modernize vital infrastructure and bring new levels of efficiency in electricity distribution and consumption. To advance this aim, Consonus is committed to working with its sister company, UtiliPoint International, to provide a range of Smart Grid services.  From industry analysis and media coverage to IT consulting services for sound Smart Grid planning, Consonus has the capabilities to provide a variety of tailored IT services and products to execute Smart Grid plans.

Join me in this emerging online forum to discuss and share your perspectives on the historic transformation of our most vital infrastructure, to develop a greater understanding of this complex transition, and to explore ways your company can benefit from all the changes ahead.

John Cooper
Smart Grid Lead Consultant

John Cooper is an industry-leading author and researcher on the Smart Grid with over 20 years of experience in the utilities and energy industry. He has specialized expertise in business development and consulting at innovative electric and telecommunications companies and has led key Smart Grid projects associated with utility IP networks, AMI, distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, virtual power plants, utility-scale energy storage and more. Cooper is co-author of the newly released “The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability,” a practical perspective on the advent and evolution of Smart Grids.

Business Wake-Up Call: Are You Prepared?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Businesses in the Northeast are still feeling the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Irene.   Just a few weeks prior, a mild earthquake struck the Mid-Atlantic region and caused structural damage; people are still rebuilding.  And then there were the tornados striking the South and Midwest. This is your wake-up call folks! 

Were You Prepared?
How did you fare after the tragic floods resulting from Irene? Were you prepared for questions from your executives when the news came in regarding Hurricane Irene and subsequent 100 year floods?

  • Did you think to reach out to suppliers and employees in the region to begin the situation assessment? Or to stock up on needed resources before the flooding? Were you able to deliver products after the event or were there disruptions in your supply chain?
  • Did you think about engaging procurement and human resources as partners to determine the impact of the disaster and potential exposure?
  • Did you prepare to field questions from customers, business partners, and concerned family members?

Based on my experience watching organizations react to crises and other disruptive events, it’s common to see executives and those assigned Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity activities do the following:

  1. Get caught up as witnesses, watching the drama play out in the news just like everyone else, without always connecting the dots as to how the event may impact the organization’s interests. (This is where having a Disaster Recovery Plan would be of vital importance or having a person on staff whose sole responsibility is Disaster Recovery or Business Continuity Planning.)
  2. Focus (almost exclusively) on the day-to-day planning process, rather than taking an active role in participating in the response, including the situation assessment process.
  3. Fail to reference business impact analysis and risk assessment-related information in a potential crisis in order to judge possible exposure — what may be affected.( Ok – so you may not have this in place, but perhaps enough of a wakeup call has been issued and now your company realizes the time is right to conduct a business impact analysis and risk assessment.)

September is National Preparedness Month.  Now is the time to either create your Disaster Recovery Plan or update your plan if you have not done so recently. Another hurricane and even more tornadoes are currently on the weather radar…don’t wait!

Patrick R. Dunn, CBCP, CISSP
Consonus Practice Manager – Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity