Sandia’s hardware and analytical solutions aid in planning for the next generation grid and address emerging issues in our current systems to minimize the consequences one or more threats can have on the grid.

Addressing Aging Infrastructure and Reliability Challenges

Without dramatic improvements and upgrades over the next decade, our nation’s transmission system will fall short of the reliability standards our economy requires, and will result in higher electricity costs to consumers. Planning what updates and new transmission is needed to meet our nation’s needs is important to create a cost-effective, reliable, and flexible transmission network. Regional Transmission Organizations (RTO), Independent System Operators (ISO), and utilities face grid operation challenges that include cycling and ramping of conventional generation, transmission utilization patterns, and generation curtailment. Sandia works closely with these operators to enhance the reliability of electric power systems and prevent widespread outages or instability.

Research Areas

Production Cost Modeling

PRESCIENT, a stochastic production cost modeling tool, automatically produces probabilistic forecasts from deterministic historical forecasts for load, solar, and/ or wind power production and their respective time-correlated actuals. Optimization problems for the grid are exceptionally difficult to solve stochastically, but PRESCIENT’s solution method can take hundreds of scenarios and solve the system’s commitment and dispatch problems in tens of minutes, showing the real value of variable generation. This tool uses commercially available solvers such as CPLEX and GUROBI or freely available ones such as GLPK and CBC.

Solar and Wind Integration

Sandia National Laboratories and Group NIRE (Lubbock, TX) are developing prototype technology that will allow wind turbine generators to help stabilize the frequency of the power transmission grid after sudden loss of generation capacity or other transient faults occur. The demonstration project, funded through a DOE EERE Small Business Voucher, may eventually enable wind generators to provide valuable grid stabilization services and reduce wind generation curtailment. The Sandia team was the first to successfully develop and test similar technology in conjunction with Bonneville Power Administration, using the Pacific DC Intertie. This project will utilize turbines at Sandia’s Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) site in Lubbock, TX.

Expansion Planning

Traditional transmission and generation expansion planning models are based on deterministic optimization methodologies, e.g., mixed-integer programming. Consequently, they are unable to capture the range of uncertainty associated with renewables production – which has a major impact on the performance of any planned system. Stochastic transmission and generation expansion planning models have been recently proposed to address this limitation. These models are significantly more difficult to solve, requiring the use of advanced decomposition strategies and parallel compute platforms. Consequently, only relatively small test systems have been investigated. The purpose of this project is to scale solver technologies for stochastic transmission and generation expansion planning models to more realistic and larger-scale systems, specifically a reduced-order model of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). The resulting scalable solvers will allow for the investigation of high-resolution models of renewables production and their impact on expansion planning solutions.

Wide Area Damping Control

Sandia has developed a grid damping control strategy that employs real power injections at strategically located points in the grid based upon feedback from real-time Phasor Measurement Units (PMU). The primary objective of this work is to design and demonstrate a prototype control system for damping inter-area oscillations in large-scale interconnected power systems. A key element of the control strategy is a high-level supervisory controller that monitors the behavior of the power system, the PMU network, and the real-time control loop to ensure safe, secure, and reliable damping performance.

Understanding PMU Latencies in Closed Loop Feedback Controls

Time delays at different stages in the flow of information from PMUs to Controller to Actuator

Additional Research Areas:

  • Stochastic commitment and dispatch
  • Developing stochastic scenarios from historic forecasts
  • Multi-objective multi-resource dispatch
  • Decision support for post-contingency grid security

Phasor Measurement Units are used in Sandia’s Control & Optimization of Networked Energy Technologies Lab to advance the grid’s resiliency and reliability.

Control & Optimization of Networked Energy Technologies (CONET) Lab

The CONET lab provides a fundamental piece of a Sandia structured laboratory system for electric grid research. This lab plays a vital role in the research and development of coordinating networked and distributed systems for several different operational objectives.  Achieving these research objectives requires five basic capabilities, cross-cut by cyber security: coordinated communications, controls for distributed systems, optimal dispatch, protection and reconfiguration, and prognostics and decision support.


Modeling Tools, Control Strategies, and Improved Weather Forecasting Enable More Renewables on the Grid

Transitioning to a renewables-intensive future, a goal supported by many US states, presents numerous technical challenges. Distributed energy resources (DER), such as solar and wind, have variable power outputs that can impact grid performance and [...]

Sandia Testifies in Cordova, Alaska Hearing about Microgrids

Abraham Ellis, manager of Sandia’s Photovoltaic and Distributed Systems Integration Department, testified last week on microgrid technologies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at a field hearing in Cordova, Alaska. During the hearing, [...]

Upcoming Webinar: WEC Design Response Toolbox (WDRT)

Researchers from Sandia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will present an instructional webinar on the WEC Design Response Toolbox (WDRT) on June 14 from 9:00 a.m.–10:30 a.m. MST. During the webinar, these researchers [...]

New Sandia Grid Modernization Program Newsletter Now Available

Sandia’s newest quarterly newsletter features research highlights, event information, staff recognition, and recent publications and patents related to modernizing our nation’s electricity infrastructure. Topics focus on the primary research areas of Sandia’s Grid Modernization Program [...]

Ross Guttromson

Ross Guttromson is the manager of Sandia National Laboratories’ Electric Power Systems Research Department. Previously, he was at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with managerial responsibilities in power grid systems.  He was also with R.W. Beck and Westinghouse Power Corporation. Ross also served on the nuclear submarine USS Tautog (SSN 639), is a licensed Professional Engineer, and is a senior member of the IEEE. Ross received his B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering from Washington State University and his Executive M.B.A from the Michael G. Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.

Jean-Paul Watson, Ph.D.

Jean-Paul Watson is a distinguished member of technical staff in the Discrete Math and Optimization Department at Sandia National Laboratories. He has over 13 years of experience applying and analyzing algorithms for solving difficult combinatorial optimization and informatics problems in fields ranging from logistics and infrastructure security to power systems and computational chemistry. His research currently focuses on developing methods for approximating the solution of large-scale deterministic and stochastic mixed-integer programs with application to electricity grid operations and planning. He presently leads projects at Sandia for stochastic economic dispatch, stochastic optimization for the power grid, and stochastic MINLP. Previously, he developed solutions for real-world stochastic optimization problems in logistics (Lockheed Martin and the US Army) and sensor placement (US Environmental Protection Agency). Additionally, he led the development of programs involving the use of semantic graph technologies for performing geospatial imagery analysis. He is a co-developer of Sandia’s Pyomo open-source software package for modeling and solving optimization problems, and he has published over 45 journal articles in the areas of optimization algorithms and their application.

Laurie Burnham, Ph.D.

Laurie Burnham is a principal member of the technical staff in the Electric Power Systems Research Department at Sandia National Laboratories. She is also the principal investigator for a Sandia-funded project on grid resilience, a member of the US Department of Energy Regional Test Center (RTC) technical team and project lead for the Nevada and Vermont RTCs.  Her specific research interests include grid resilience, distributed generation, and photovoltaic technologies. In addition, Laurie is Sandia’s liaison to the state of Vermont, overseeing collaborative efforts related to solar technologies and smart-grid research. She has a doctoral degree from Cornell University.

 David Schoenwald, Ph.D.

David Schoenwald is a principal member of the technical staff in the Electric Power Systems Research Department at Sandia National Laboratories.  In his current work, he focuses on control system design for damping inter-area power system oscillations, mitigation of network-induced issues in control systems employing real-time measurement feedback, and development of performance standards for grid-scale energy storage systems.  In prior work, he has developed models and simulations for a diverse set of applications including agent-based economic models for critical infrastructures, system dynamics models for study of counter-insurgency tactics, and stability analysis of robotic swarms.  Before joining Sandia, he was with Oak Ridge National Laboratory where he developed models and controls for manufacturing applications.  He was also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he taught a graduate level course in nonlinear control systems. He received a B.S. from the University of Iowa, an M.S. degree from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. degree from The Ohio State University.

Jim Ellison

Jim Ellison’s research interests are at the intersection of policy, economics, and technology.  He uses production-cost modeling to quantify the benefits of grid-scale storage and to examine the impacts of variable generation on the grid.  His interests include retail tariff and wholesale market design. Prior to his work in the Electric Power Systems Research Department at Sandia, he worked in the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center modeling energy infrastructure for the Department of Homeland Security.  Prior to Sandia, Jim worked for the AES Corporation in the former USSR as a business developer, a power plant manager, and a distribution company manager.

Brian J. Pierre, PhD

Brian J. Pierre is a senior member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories in the Electric Power Systems Research Department. His most recent research is focused on power system resilience and power system controls. Prior to his work at Sandia, Brian worked at the NASA Glenn Research Center and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Brian received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering focused on electric power systems from Arizona State University.


Matthew J. Reno, PhD

Matthew J. Reno started working at Sandia National Laboratories in 2003 and is a senior member of technical staff in the Electric Power Systems Research Department. His expertise in quasi-static time series analysis of distribution grid feeders and circuit reduction methods has led to transformative changes to speed up feeder modeling. Matt received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.


Cesar A. Silva-Monroy, PhD

Cesar A. Silva-Monroy is a senior member of technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories. His expertise is in the areas of power system operations and planning, renewable energy integration, and electric energy storage. His research focuses on applying novel modeling and computational techniques to increase the efficiency, reliability, and resilience of the electric grid. He currently leads projects for the Department of Energy/Office of Electricity and the Department of Homeland Security. Cesar received his M.S. and Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, Seattle, and holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia.

Felipe Wilches-Bernal, Ph.D.

Felipe Wilches-Bernal is a senior research engineer in the Electric Power Systems Research Department at Sandia National Laboratories. Felipe’s work includes power system wide-area control and monitoring using phasor measurement units, studying the impact of communications on real-time control, and developing the future smart-grid. He also has experience analyzing the effects that high levels of wind energy penetration have on the bulk power system. Felipe obtained his Ph.D. in electric power and control at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY; his M.Sc. in control and signal processing at Université Paris-Sud XI in Orsay, France; and his B.Sc. in electrical engineering at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia.

Anya Castillo, Ph.D.

Anya Castillo is a senior R&D systems engineer at Sandia National Laboratories where her work focuses on the union of power systems engineering and economics. Current project work spans both transmission and distribution systems in order to assess the integration of technologies, markets, and regulation that will meet ongoing challenges and support future grid requirements. In her previous position as an operations research analyst with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Anya played a lead role in identifying opportunities to enhance operational efficiency through new modeling software and optimization of ISO/RTO market operations. She holds a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in engineering systems from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University.

Mohamed Elkhatib, Ph.D.

Mohamed Elkhatib has been with Sandia National Laboratories since April 2015 where he is currently a senior member of the technical staff. From 2011 to 2015, he was a transmission planning engineer with the Independent Electricity System Operator of Ontario where he performed system impact assessment studies for major modifications to Ontario’s transmission system. From 2010 to 2011, he was a distribution planning engineer at SM International Inc. in Toronto where he performed technical connection assessments for Hydro One’s distribution system. His research interests include power system protection, distribution system modernization, integration of distributed energy resources in bulk power system operation, and power system resilience. He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Ricky Concepcion

Ricky Concepcion joined the Electric Power Systems Research Department at Sandia National Laboratories as a member of technical staff in 2014. He has conducted research in the areas of state estimation, dynamic simulation and control of high photovoltaic penetration transmission systems, and energy storage system valuation. His other research interests include signal processing in the smart grid, statistical signal processing, and optimization. Ricky received a B.S. in engineering physics and an M.Eng. in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

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