Test Bed Allows Real-Time Simulation of Distributed Grid Hardware

Achievement date: 

One of the world’s first real-time, distributed, hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testbeds for a smart grid took shape under the guidance of researchers from the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems Center.

FREEDM, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center (ERC), is headquartered at North Carolina State University.


The testbed allows for smart grid experiments (such as power and energy management or fault injection) to be validated against a simulated electric power system without risking damage to the real power system. Real-time tests (simulating the system in the same time that it would take to actually run) show how hardware and software can operate in concert to achieve distributed grid intelligence for a real power system.


Referred to as the “DGI-HIL testbed” (for Distributed Grid Intelligence, Hardware in the Loop), the system is the result of three years of software development by the Center. The DGI-HIL is also one of the first test beds to fuse algorithms for a distributed system – that is, one that doesn’t rely on centralized control of grid assets – with a real-time simulation.

As shown in the accompanying diagram, each DGI node represents a computer inside a solid-state transformer (SST). These computers run what are known as DGI processes, which compute and communicate with one another the ideal method to manage power flows, manage the “plug-and-play” capability of adding generating capacity, and monitor system operation.