Ongoing Research on the Smart Grid

Arnie de Castro By Arnie de Castro, Product Manager, SAS

IEEE is holding its 11th Conference on Innovative Smart Grid Technologies in Washington, DC from February 17 to 20, 2020.  Paper submissions have been much more than last year’s, and the attendees will be presented with a good variety reflecting the ongoing research on the smart grid.  These include the development of new equipment and monitoring devices, systems and control technologies to manage the grid, and analytical capabilities to simulate, optimize and protect it. The following is a sampling of the different areas touched by this year’s research.

Monitoring. The utility industry has taken strides toward digital transformation (what people call the process of making the smart grid).  More and more smart (AMI) meters are being added to the grid.  Utilities use a redundancy of PMUs to be able to monitor and record the situation of the grid in a time-synchronized manner.  Together with the associated computers, controls, communications and automation, this technology is expected to provide more efficient operation of the grid, quicker restoration, increased integration of renewable and distributed energy systems, and improved security.

Cybersecurity. Over the past decade or so, utilities have had more visibility over what has been happening in the grid.  But it is an understatement to say there is more work to be done.  The grid continues to be under attack.  Together with technologies that enable us to coordinate the grid and enable the expanded use of renewable resources come vulnerabilities to cyber intrusion.

Renewables. With their promise of a cleaner environment, also present technical obstacles. Unlike nuclear, fossil and many hydro resources, the two most viable renewable resources – solar and wind generation – are highly variable.  There is also the issue of inertia (or the lack of it in solar PV) which makes it more difficult to keep the grid from collapsing when more PV stations have replaced rotating machinery.

Storage. Many are looking to the day when battery technology becomes common in the utility industry.  Pumped storage hydro has long provided the backbone of energy storage to the grid and has proven very effective in supporting the need for steady nuclear plant generation.  But these sites are limited, and with tens of thousands of megawatts of variable generation, pumped storage hydro is not nearly enough to make up for the sudden drop of generation at sunset.  Some compressed air storage is available, but batteries have the advantage of location flexibility.

Modeling. With the rise of new power generation and consumption technologies comes the need to simulate grid distribution using more complex models.  These models ensure accuracy for simulating the steady-state operation of the grid, but more importantly its dynamic and transient response.

Reliability and safety. More and more, utilities are being held to account for the effects of their grid operations.  This becomes more important as both natural and man-made threats to the grid are increasing.

Analytics. From system and device characterization, to state estimation and forecasting all the way to optimization, the data analytics has seen expanded use.  This includes applications ranging from time series analyses to more advanced deep learning techniques.

From devices to control to analytics technologies, this year’s conference promises a rich offering of the ongoing research to enable intelligent and resilient communities with the smart grid.

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