Next Generation Research Solution Helps Prevent Future Electric Power Blackouts

Achievement date: 

Faculty with the Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT)—an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) that is headquartered at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK)—working in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), have improved the method for monitoring voltage stability in power generation, thus reducing the threat of blackouts via enhanced situational awareness. This approach, which was developed based on EPRI’s measurement-based monitoring method, can be used offline to analyze historical data as well as be integrated into the control room of a transmission system.


Huge demands for electricity are projected throughout the present century. Given the critical role of electricity in society, brownouts or blackouts are unacceptable. Power operators work with and rely on new technologies that help them monitor, predict, anticipate, and prevent potential problems that can lead to major power outages. However, the power industry is challenged by the realities of an aging workforce and aging transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure, as well as by the operational complexity of very large T&D networks. There is a need for new tools and easier ways to assist operators in performing critical tasks and enable them to make quick, accurate decisions. Synchronized phasors (synchrophasors) provide real-time measurement of electrical quantities across the power grid. The new CURENT-EPRI synchrophasor Measurement Based Voltage Stability Assessment (MBVSA) method offers essential tools to help operators and dispatchers keep the lights on. 


CURENT and EPRI have been working on the synchrophasor MBVSA tools since 2012. In 2014, a new MBVSA method for real-time voltage stability monitoring and control was developed and demonstrated on CURENT’s Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC) large-scale testbed using the commercial ALSTOM Grid (now GE Grid) visualization platform e-terravision™. The UTK team collaborated with EPRI, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Electric Power Group (EPG) synchrophasor experts, and Washington State University (WSU) to integrate the MBVSA method into a production grade Synchrophasor Based Stability Toolbox and conduct a field demonstration on the NYPA’s system in an operational environment. The team has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy to facilitate transfer of the technology to the commercial sector.

The MBVSA software package provides the calculation engine of the measurement-based voltage stability monitoring algorithm and input and output via csv files. The basic system building-blocks are GPS satellite-synchronized clocks, phasor measurement units (PMUs), a phasor data concentrator (PDC), communications equipment, and visualization software. Applications include wide-area control, system model validation, determining stability margins, maximizing stable system loading, islanding detection, system-wide disturbance recording, and visualization of dynamic system response.