5 don't-miss grid innovations from a U.S. national laboratory


By Jesse Berst


In light of recent criticism of DOE spending (such as the Solyndra loan), it's nice to come to you with an example of a DOE investment that is paying big dividends.


In September 2011, I told you about Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's GridLAB-D simulator and its graphical contingency analysis tool. Now I'm back to report additional progress from this DOE-funded lab.  PNNL is leveraging rich new data streams and high-computing horsepower to create a suite of analytic tools that will deliver new insights to control room operators -- insights that will allow unprecedented grid performance. Although currently oriented to the transmission system, I predict that many of these breakthroughs will make their way to distribution networks too.



Consider the grid-specific software architecture PNNL calls GridOPTICS, a platform that enables next-generation grid operation and planning in three key aspects:

·         Data networking and management

·         Modeling and analytics

·         Visualization and decision support


This grid-specific software architecture is fully compatible with high-performance computing (HPC) -- and it is HPC that lets PNNL and its partners push the limits. GridOPTICS, a concept conceived as part of PNNL’s Future Power Grid Initiative, already boasts cutting-edge applications such as dynamic state estimation and massive contingency analysis with more in the works.


2. Massive Contingency Analysis

PNNL is tapping into the Lab’s expanded HPC resources to parallelize contingency analysis. It has achieved a 9,600 times speed-up in contingency computations. With that speed-up, standard contingency analysis is transformed from a planning tool to an operating tool. Massive contingency analysis (N-x) can now be considered as a means of achieving unparalleled reliability and resilience.

Taking advantage of PNNL capabilities

I know about PNNL because I serve on an advisory board there. I urge utilities and vendors alike to see if there is value you can derive from this government-funded resource. Some of PNNL's creations are available for free. Others can be licensed on reasonable terms. Still others are available via partnerships and consortia. If you haven't yet explored what the lab might do for you, contact Carl Imhoff or call (509) 375-4328 or visit the Electricity Infrastructure sector website.  You might also want to scan the overview of PNNL's state-of-the-art Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center.


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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.