Grid-Emulating Hardware Testbed Boosts Power Research

Achievement date: 

Researchers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) now have a new tool to aid their studies of different utility scenarios: a hardware testbed (HTB) developed as a reconfigurable grid emulator. The testbed is sponsored by the Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Network (CURENT), anEngineering Research Center(ERC) co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and headquartered at UTK.


CURENT’s HTB can emulate different parts of the power grid, enabling researchers to study utility scenarios such as: (1) what impact large amounts of renewable energy (such as wind or solar power) will have on the grid and what controls need to be developed to deal with the intermittent and dynamic nature of these sources; (2) how might energy storage improve grid stability and/or reduce the need to build new generation plants; (3) what new technologies are needed in measurement and control to deal with cybersecurity concerns regarding the energy infrastructure; and(4) how can new monitoring, visualization, and control technologies be used to improve the energy efficiency, reliability, and loading capacity of the present electric grid.


The HTB power electronic converters shown below (left) have been programmed to emulate a variety of things, such as: (1) the synchronous generator at a hydropower station or steam-fed (nuclear, natural gas, coal) power plant; (2) large motor loads; (3) wind farm; (4) solar farm; and(5) batteries and other energy storage. Also shown (right) is the visualization and control room where an operator can dynamically control load and generation and run different test case scenarios.

This reconfigurable grid emulator will also be able to test new electric transmission infrastructures such as multi-terminal DC or hybrid AC/DC transmission lines. The testbed allows real testing of new measurement, monitoring, control, and communication technologies in a real­time environment that is closer to a utility environment than just doing simulation alone.