Quick Take: File this under "when all you have is a hammer." When you're a smart grid specialist, everything looks like a smart grid problem. But the new research described below suggests that the best way to enhance grid reliability and synchronization may be to tune the generators. The researchers hope their findings will lead to better controllers for smart grids and more reliable operations. â€“ Jesse Berst
Researchers have discovered that there's more to power grid synchronization than the transmission lines alone. According to a report on phys.org, researchers at Northwestern University, Stanford and Los Alamos National Laboratory found that "the leading factor for grid stability is not the network structure itself, which most previous studies have focused on, but the relation between the network structure, the state of the grid, and certain parameters of the generators."
Stability of synchronized states in power grids can be enhanced, the researchers determined, by tuning generator parameters rather than modifying the entire network.
The phys.org report goes on to explain:
"In the future, a smart grid could measure the state of the grid with high-speed sensors called phasor measurement units, and then communicate the data to an online control system that could adjust the parameters of the generators as necessary. In this way, smart grids could act as self-healing systems that can quickly recover from failures without human intervention, as well as help prevent failures from occurring in the first place."
Results of the study are published in Nature Physics.
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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.