The Open Energy Information Initiative (OpenEI.org) is a free, open source knowledge sharing platform created to facilitate access to data, models, tools, and information that accelerate the transition to clean energy systems through informed decisions. It is a Linked Open Data platform bringing together energy information to provide improved analyses, unique visualizations, and real-time access to data.
OpenEI – managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by its National Renewable Energy Laboratory – follows guidelines set by the White House’s Open Government Initiative, which is focused on transparency, collaboration, and participation. Platform topics include buildings, the clean energy economy, geothermal energy, incentives, international clean energy analysis, low emission development strategies, renewable energy news, and solar energy.
Debbie Brodt-Giles, OpenEI project leader, explains the impetus for creating the site: “Although much of the world’s energy-related information and data are available as resources on the Internet, they are dispersed among innumerable individuals and organizations, available in widely disparate formats, and highly variable in quality and usefulness.” As a response, the OpenEI platform facilitates access to data and empowers the energy community to use and contribute to the collection of information and data. Brodt-Giles says, “As a wiki-based platform, following Linked Open Data methodology, OpenEI links the world’s energy-related information and data with the energy community (policymakers, developers, researchers, etc).”
OpenEI selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) because of its flexibility, scalability, and availability. Brodt-Giles says, “We have an international audience, and we need our system to be reliable and available to all our users on a 24/7 basis. As our platform grows, we anticipate very large datasets to be contributed, so being able to scale quickly is important.”
OpenEI makes use of several AWS services:
- Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)– Hosts all key OpenEI software components (including Apache, Semantic MediaWiki, MySQL, and OpenLink Virtuoso).
- Amazon Elastic Block Storage (Amazon EBS)– Provides block storage for OpenEI databases.
- Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)– Provides backup of all OpenEI data and primary storage for OpenEI’s new “Datasets” mechanism.
- Elastic Load Balancing– Provides load-balancing for incoming network requests.
The diagram below illustrates the deployment architecture for OpenEI’s Wiki and Linked Open Data components:
Brodt-Giles notes, “Key platform software for OpenEI includes Apache, Semantic MediaWiki, MySQL, and OpenLink Virtuoso. Customization to meet the specific needs of OpenEI has been performed primarily through PHP. Common deployment and operations for OpenEI have been automated using various AWS command-line tools.”
OpenEI hopes to make more use of AWS offerings as part of the natural growth of the organization. Brodt-Giles says, “AWS is providing OpenEI with a reliable computing environment that meets our needs for agile development, scalable resources, and high-volume access.”
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