Innovations Spark New Capacity for Large-scale Power System Testbed

Achievement date: 

:  Researchers have developed new capabilities for the multi-region, large scale testbed operated at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK), enhancing efforts to evaluate the impact of innovative technologies on the operation of large future power grids. These advances increase the ability of the testbed’s comprehensive software platform to demonstrate and verify performance of new technologies in a large-scale power system by continuously simulating monitoring, control, communication, and visualization. The testbed and research are initiatives 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.


The LTB is a key tool in CURENT’s efforts to advance a nationwide power transmission grid that is fully monitored and dynamically controlled for high efficiency, high reliability, low cost, better accommodation of renewable sources, full use of storage, and flexible demand-response to power requirements. Researchers are constantly building on knowledge gained to revise and improve the LTB’s software modeling platform. Among the latest enhancements is ANDES (Analytical Dynamic Engine for grid Simulation), a new Python programming language-based grid simulator that enables fast and flexible prototyping to test and validate software performance. Two voltage-source converter (VSC) models, as well as a high-voltage direct current (HVDC) model, also have been implemented in ANDES to study a multi-terminal HVDC using 50% renewable fuel sources. In addition, the testbed’s visualization tool has been refined to allow visualization and simulation engines to be synchronized, greatly enhancing the ability of users to observe interactions in real time. Further efforts have been carried out to interface the LTB with external power system simulation software packages such as ePHASORsim and GridDyn.


A testbed is a platform for conducting rigorous, transparent, and replicable testing of scientific theories, computational tools, and new technologies. The overall objective of CURENT’s LTB is to represent large power grids of the future at several resolution levels for both evaluation of new technologies and to help direct further research efforts. In the testbed, computer models simulate different scenarios of generation fuel mix and operation, wide-area measurements, new actuation technologies, and new control strategies. CURENT’s LTB uses integrated data from three major U.S. power transmission grid models: The Eastern Interconnected (EI) System—from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountain states; the Western Interconnected System—managed by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) for states west of the Rocky Mountains; and, the Texas Interconnected System—managed by the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

LTB, along with the Hardware Testbed (HTB), constitute the Engineered Systems component of CURENT’s research, complementing companion efforts in Enabling Technologies and Fundamental Knowledge. CURENT’s LTB and HTB testbeds provide research platforms for: testing thrust technologies as well as different power electronics technologies and system architectures for improving power flow and reliability; studying ways to increase transmission capability, presently constrained due to network security considerations; demonstrating CURENT-developed controls; developing scenarios to evaluate the effects of high penetration of renewable energy sources, responsive loads, and energy storage on the future grid; and, advancing real-time communication networks, controls, protection, cybersecurity, and actuation.