Power Electronics and Controls

Sandia’s work in power electronics and controls supports grid modernization by developing ways to increase resiliency, performance, and efficiency.

An Integrated Approach

Secure Scalable Microgrid Test Bed
The Secure Scalable Microgrid Test Bed can be configured to simulate complex power systems.

Sandia has an established history of applying engineering principles to achieve complete systems-view solutions. Our research objective is to look beyond proprietary systems and instead pursue integration at a national scale, among multiple vendors, by helping to architect congruent communication, controls, and interconnection. The lab’s extensive history in physical and cyber security provides unique perspectives for designing secure scalable architectures as well as identifying vulnerabilities, risks, and mitigation strategies for existing systems.

Sandia’s three-layer secure scalable microgrid grand challenge control architecture, and its Virtual Power Plant developed under lab-directed research and development, provides preliminary solutions to integrating multiple distributed energy resources in a closed loop control fashion through common communication links. Through this unique research, a laboratory development of a microgrid operating with 100% penetration of stochastic sources and loads was demonstrated while maintaining critical stability and specified performance requirements.

Sandia has made significant investments in material science and device research. Fabrication of diodes, photoconductive switches, transistors, and many other components are part of these capabilities. More recently, a Grand Challenge Laboratory Directed Research and Development project is developing wide band gap material and device development. Silicone carbine and gallium nitride are two of the materials with wide band gaps. Enabling these technologies will allow devices capable of operating at higher voltages, higher temperatures, and higher switching frequencies. This combination of capabilities will drive control bandwidths as well as more simplified and power dense circuit designs.
Component and system research include the creation of secure scalable microgrid test bed that consists of three custom DC microgrids along with some AC component capabilities. These microgrids can be operated individually, merged into one larger microgrid, or organized as a network of microgrids. This laboratory platform enables a holistic approach to hardware, control, and energy storage system design. Centralized and distributed controls approaches can be implemented as well as algorithms for demand side management. Information flow and cyber are integral aspects of this system allowing for hardening and security techniques to be developed.
With increasing renewable penetration and traditional generation being replaced by inverter-based solutions, the dynamics of the grid will change significantly. Inverter-based systems have the benefit of extremely fast response times, but the loss of inertia from traditional rotating generation will cause grid dynamics to increase in frequency. An area of expertise is dynamic simulations, both at the transmission and distribution level, to evaluate the impacts of potential future grid topologies. Synergistic with this capability is experience designing control systems that maintain or improve stability in the face of increasing renewable penetrations. These control systems span centralized designs, distributed structures, demand side management, and optimization. Techniques that span from conventional PID, to model predictive control, to Hamiltonian Surface Shaping and Power Flow Control (HSSPFCTM) based designs.