Smart grid testbed examines future grid technologies

A smart grid testbed is under development by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), in partnership with power companies Duke Energy, CPS Energy and Southern California Edison as well as Real-Time Innovations, National Instruments and Cisco.

The aim is to optimise power generation and the integration of renewable energy sources to electrical grids.

Existing power grids rely on a central-station architecture not designed to interconnect distributed and renewable power sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, the IIC said. Current systems must over-generate power so that they can cope with rapid changes in power generation or demand. This means that much of the benefit of renewables is lost, the organisation pointed out.

In order to properly integrate variable and distributed generation, power transmission networks require architectural innovation.

The Communication and Control Testbed will introduce the flexibility of real-time analytics and control to increase efficiencies in the grid, ensuring that power is generated more accurately and reliably to match demand.

Specifically, the testbed will re-architect electric power grids to include a series of distributed microgrids that control smaller areas of demand with distributed generation and storage capacity. These microgrids will operate independently of the main grid but will still interact and be coordinated with the existing infrastructure, the IIC explained.

Grid operators manage a vast infrastructure of generation, transmission and distribution systems. We believe microgrids offer a path forward to address the communication, load and generation challenges facing today’s grid system, commented Jamie Smith, director of Embedded Systems at National Instruments. With this testbed, we are bringing together our expertise to help push the industrial internet forward by working on the architecture for the grid of tomorrow.

Promoting the expansion of renewable energy on the grid is obviously good news. This test-bed could also provide a clear direction for much needed investment in smart grid technology across Europe.”

Matthew Germain , Associate Director

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