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Oracle XML DB generates power for electrical agency

A Californian power agency used Oracle Database 11g and XML DB to create an open source application that facilitates power sharing between utilities.

The Northern California Power Agency (NCPA) is using Oracle XML DB to help area utilities deal with a major technology overhaul and integrate power supplies more efficiently.

Headquartered in Roseville, Calif., NCPA is a public agency that for 40 years has assisted Californian power utilities in the purchase, generation, transmission, pooling and conservation of electrical energy and capacity. And since plans for a major technology upgrade known as the  

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Working with Oracle, NCPA created a research application that runs on top of Database 11g and makes use of XML DB -- a feature of Database 11g that provides XML storage and retrieval capabilities -- to give utilities an easier way to search and process the power settlement files. Through an open source license, NCPA will offer its Cal-ISO settlement database application free of charge to any California electric utility, marketer, generator or vendor.

The idea is to save energy market stakeholders time and -- more importantly -- money, and the NCPA says those savings will trickle down to anyone who pays a power bill.

"As part of this redesign, the databases that we were going to have were going to be extremely large [and] they were moving to an XML infrastructure on the database," said Mark Myers, NCPA's manager of IT. "So we started looking at XML DB as a way to solve our database [issues]."

According to Myers, most of California's power agencies opted to deal with the new power settlement files by building a traditional database, bringing in all of the new data, parsing it and building tables.

NCPA, however, opted to use XML DB to build an application that would allow the agency to download settlement files data directly into the specific applications that needed it. But there were some challenges along the way, particularly when it came to convincing MRTU authorities at the ISO to stick with certain XML standards.

"We had to insist that they kept the W3C standards," Myers said. "It took a couple of years to make sure that all of those standards were kept. [But] when the standards were kept, things worked great."

Myers said another big challenge was ensuring that other business users within the energy marketplace stick with the same standards as well.

"When you're in a market situation and getting that excess data from another person, if they decide to change that data, then your whole solution could be in jeopardy," Myers said. "That's why we gave the solution away, to counteract that negative. We've had upwards of 30 different companies request the application now."

For business users, the new application has been a godsend from a data-mining point of view because they're now able to search entire databases-worth of settlement information much more quickly and thoroughly than in the past, according to Bob Caracristi, manager of power settlements at NCPA.

"The performance is good, and yet I have so much more data available for me to use," he said. "The ability to look at the whole database gives us more critical insight."

The NCPA says that Oracle was instrumental in helping it come up with the XML DB-based answer to the power settlement issue.

"We've engaged with a number of customers over the years with this kind of solution," said Mark Drake, Oracle's product manager for XML DB. "It's been a very successful relationship with the NCPA."

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