NISC Grid Improvement Project Entering Critical Phase - National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC)

NISC Grid Improvement Project Entering Critical Phase

Innovation is a process. The process of creating a more stable and adaptable electrical grid has reached a critical juncture for NISC and its partners in the project known as Faster-than-Real-Time (FTRT) Simulation with Demonstration for Resilient Distributed Energy Resource Integration.

Project Background

Initial work on the FTRT project started in November 2019 with simulation and experiments to compare voltage stability, reliability and economic benefits of coordinated control. Subsequent work expanded the scope to hardware-in-the-simulation-loop lab experiments and is now moving to demonstrate the FTRT system through field experiments with project partner PEPCO Holdings.

“Electric utilities want to be able to proactively detect anything that’s affecting the system immediately,” said Robert Broadwater, NISC Product Manager III. “Currently, a meter can fail, and nobody knows it. Someone’s refrigerator voltage may be at 95 volts, and we don’t know until someone complains. We can do a better job at proactively detecting problems, including failed instrumentation, failed controllers, physical attacks and cyberattacks.”

Testing at two universities, Florida State and University of Delaware, demonstrated that the FTRT can detect over 90% of failures and attacks, and respond with appropriate mitigation actions. Following a successful field demonstration phase, NISC and project partners will look at creating a production version that will be installed on Pepco feeders that currently are limited by PV-hosting capacity constraints. The field test is targeted for completion by June 2024.

Big $avings for Utilities

According to Broadwater, the benefits of such a system could be substantial—to the tune of $180,000 in savings per year for the operation of one feeder. Extrapolating those savings to all feeders on PEPCO’s system, for example, means savings of $100-400 million per year.

These savings come from very tight voltage control, which is only one of the benefits of the FTRT system. Another major benefit that PEPCO sees is the FTRT system can substantially increase the photovoltaic (PV) hosting capacity limits of feeders, perhaps up to 100%. Currently, PEPCO has many feeders where the PV hosting capacity is very low (about 20%) and where no more PV generation can be added.

The technologies and applications that NISC is developing and proving in the FTRT project has the potential to add significant value for NISC’s Member utilities. Various systems running in the cloud could forecast PV generation and load, send control signals that coordinate the operation of utility control devices and inverters, and enable utilities to plan their control schedule across an entire day, as well as plan for future enhancements to the utilities power delivery systems. That schedule and plan could then be updated in real time as load or generation levels change or are planned to be changed.

“Our goal is to assist with solving next-generation problems and offer next-generation capabilities,” Broadwater said. “We’re creating, testing and validating advanced applications that will enable utilities to significantly increase visibility and control on traditional utility systems as well as external power sources not owned by the electric utility such as PV, batteries and other DERs (Distributed Energy Resources). In addition, NISC is also designing these systems to be easily deployable in a cloud platform, reducing the deployment time significantly. Utilities can spend years just installing a single advanced system. We’re doing something at a very rapid pace that no one has done before.”