During the last four years, Sandia and Montana Tech University have been working on a project funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability and the Bonneville Power Administration to build, test, and demonstrate a control system that can smooth out inter-area oscillations in the western North American power grid. This new smart grid technology leads to lower costs for utilities and consumers and greater stability for the grid.
On a hot summer day in 1996, undamped oscillations caused a large-scale power outage across the western grid that spanned eight states, affecting millions of people and costing utility companies billions of dollars. Since then, utilities have restricted power flow through the corridor which results in revenue loss and higher prices for customers. Sandia’s new controller damps oscillations in real time, enabling power flow to be closer to the thermal limits of the transmission lines.
Sandia demonstrated the 2017 R&D 100 Award-winning controller on the Pacific DC Intertie during three trials in September 2016, May 2017, and June 2017. During the trials, the team used controlled disruptions and compared grid performance with Sandia’s controller operational to counter the oscillations versus the control case. The team was the first in the nation to successfully conduct this type of testing, which resulted in a safe, effective, and economical strategy to prevent widespread outages and increase power transfer capacity. The next step is to design control systems based on other types of actuators, such as distributed energy storage, that can simultaneously damp multiple inter-area oscillation modes throughout a large power system. Read the full story or learn more about Sandia’s work in transmission planning and operations.