Performance Monitoring System Keeps an Eye on the Grid

Achievement date: 

An innovative system developed by University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK) researchers to monitor and study events affecting performance of large power grids is moving to the commercial marketplace. Named FNET/GridEye, the system is expected to play an important role in the development of future smart grid technologies because it provides utilities and regulatory authorities with situational awareness of changes that can affect the grid within seconds of occurrence. Interest in the system as it has advanced over the years has been confirmed by involvement of an Industry Consortium and is substantiated by revenue from a subscription alert service reaching more than $260,000 per year. This important technology is 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.


FNET/GridEye was developed to monitor the entire North American power grid and major grids worldwide. It is a low-cost, quickly deployable Global Positioning System (GPS)-synchronized wide-area frequency measurement network. Regulatory bodies, including the international North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), use event reports from the system on a daily basis to determine the overall health of the power grid and for post-disturbance analysis. As the CURENT team added functions to FNET/GridEye, more users have consistently been added. In 2017, CURENT hired two Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) to help research the market and develop technology transfer strategies for the FNET system and other technologies. In addition, one of CURENT’s EIR start-up companies, Integrated Power Engineering, Inc., signed an Option-to-License Agreement for the “Mobile Platform Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) Based on Electric Field Sensor,” which expands this technology and allows easy implementation in the field.


A variety of applications have been developed using the FNET/GridEye platform—some operating in near-real-time while others are used for offline analysis—including:  event detection and location, visualization, oscillation detection and analysis, animations of frequency and angle perturbations, integration of renewables into the power grid, detection of system breakup or islanding, grid control input signals, prediction of grid instability, and reduction of blackouts. Measurement data from the system are continuously transmitted via the Internet to the FNET/GridEye servers hosted at the UT and Virginia Tech. These measurements can then be used to study various power system phenomena, and can play an important role in developing future smart grid technologies.

PMUs are important tools for monitoring and studying electric power systems. A PMU is typically installed at an electrical substation, but high labor and dollar costs have limited their use. FNET/GridEye provides a low-cost phasor measurement network that can be installed at ordinary 120 V outlets. The system uses a Frequency Disturbance Recorder (FDR) to accurately measure the frequency, phase angle, and voltage of the power system. Using GPS, a PMU can provide a timestamp for each measurement, allowing measurements taken from different PMUs to be accurately compared. The FNET system first went online in 2004. Since 2010, in partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE), FNET/GridEye has been developed into a wide-area grid monitoring network that covers the three major North American power grids and 16 of the largest grids around the world.