Collaborative Large-Scale Testbed Research Boosts America’s Grid Power

Achievement date: 

A multi-region, large-scale testbed operated by researchers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) is bringing us closer to full real-time monitoring and dynamic control of America’s electric transmission grid. Benefits include higher efficiency and reliability, lower cost, better accommodation of renewable energy sources, fuller use of energy storage, and improved load balancing in peak usage periods. The testbed and research are an initiative of the Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) that is headquartered at UTK.


A testbed is a platform for conducting rigorous, transparent, and replicable testing of scientific theories, computational tools, and new technologies. The CURENT testbed enables a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of changes and new technologies on the operation of future power grids. Testbed models include different scenarios of generation mix and operation, wide-area measurements, new actuation technologies, and new control strategies. The researchers integrated data sets from three major U.S. power transmission grid models: (1) the Eastern Interconnected (EI) System—from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountain states; (2) the Western Interconnected System—managed by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) for states west of the Rocky Mountains; and (3) the Texas Interconnected System—managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Of note, these three interconnections fall under the authority of the National Energy Regulatory Commission (NERC), an independent organization whose mission is to ensure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America.


The overall objective of CURENT’s Large-Scale System Testbed program is to represent large grids of the future, such as that of North America, at several resolution levels both for evaluation of new technologies and to drive research efforts. The success of the testbed enables comprehensive assessment of the impact of the changes and new technologies on future power grid operations. The models used in the testbed include different generation mixes and operating scenarios, wide-area measurements, new actuation technologies, and new control strategies.

The CURENT testbed is constantly revised and improved, building on knowledge gained in research efforts.   Measurement models of noise, error, and missing data have been implemented in the testbed platform. Dynamic state estimation is under development to replace conventional state estimation of the grid. Also, a new web-based visualization tool has been implemented with more flexible functions for users to interact with the platform. In the system model—a conceptual model that describes and represents a system—a large test system has been implemented with integrated data from EI, WECC, and ERCOT; a reduced EI and NPCC model have been fully tested with transient and sub-transient (vs. steady) state  current studies; and various wind energy scenarios have been tested for the WECC model. Other activities include system separation scheme studies and integration of commercial tools such as ePHASORSIM to model and test new controls.