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Center for Power and Energy

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Syncrophasors monitoring grid, preventing blackouts

ECE researchers garnered two of only four stimulus grants from the Department of Energy (DOE) to modernize the power grid. The awards, totaling $2.6 million are headed by James Thorp and Arun Phadke.

Collaborators for decades, Thorp and Phadke have developed a number of advances that strengthen the electric utility industry’s ability to prevent power grid blackouts, or to make them less intense and easier to recover from. According to the DOE, Phadke and Thorp’s newly funded work will now advance technologies that rely on the exchange of synchrophasor data among electric utility companies and other electricity entities.

Synchrophasors are high-speed, real-time synchronized measurement devices used to diagnose the health of the electricity grid. With synchrophasor data, electric utilities can use existing power more efficiently and push more power through the grid while reducing the likelihood of power disruptions like blackouts.

This new research will build upon a recently completed three-year project funded by the California Energy Commission through the Public Interest Energy. Its findings indicated the use of wide area synchrophasor measurements in electrical power systems can be of significant value to power companies. These measurements can reduce the likelihood of false trips by protection systems and lessen the likelihood of contributing to a cascading effect.

Thorp’s team will develop and demonstrate tools using synchrophasor measurements to reduce the likelihood of false and inappropriate triggers of transmission system circuit breakers that protectively shut down electrical flow and contribute to cascading blackouts.

Members of the team include colleagues from Pacific Gas and Electric Co., Oakland, Ca., Southern California Edison, Rosemead, Ca., San Diego Gas and Electric Co., San Diego, Ca., Mississippi State University, the California Energy Commission, Sacramento, Ca., and Quanta Technology, Raleigh, N.C.

Phadke’s team will develop analytic tools and calibration techniques for measurement devices to implement an innovative synchrophasor-based tracking system to monitor the state of the electric grid. The techniques will better diagnose the sources of network unbalances and identify actions needed to remedy them.

His project team includes researchers from Dominion Virginia Power, Richmond, Va., and Quanta Technology, Raleigh, N.C.

Virgilio Centeno is working on both projects.

-Lynn Nystrom