Plug-in Analyzer: Cost-effective Tool for a Smarter Grid

Achievement date: 

Game-changing technology that enhances awareness by operators and scientists of what is happening around an electric grid has been developed by researchers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). This device—the Universal Grid Analyzer (UGA)—is the result of work performed by the Engineering Research Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Network (CURENT), which is co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy and headquartered at UTK.


The UGA is a cost-effective, multi-functional, wide-area monitoring and analyzing device designed to enhance the situational awareness capabilities for power grid operators and researchers. Not only does it provide essential data for smooth performance of the electric grid, it is an affordable new option for the power industry because it can be installed at a regular 120-V electrical outlet at almost no extra cost. Of note, UGA was selected as a 2015 finalist for the prestigious R&D 100 Awards, which are widely recognized as the “Oscars of Invention” honoring the top technology products of the year. 


Until now, commercial Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs) were installed at high voltage substations—a costly process that has impeded widespread use of PMUs. Because UGAs are installed by plugging them into regular electrical outlets, the device is able to provide full coverage of distribution-level electric system characteristics, including both phasor and power quality information, at minimal cost.

The UGA has both ultra-high accuracy phasor measurement capability and power quality monitoring capabilities. It also has a unique noise measurement function.


All the data collected by the UGA are measured in real time and are GPS time synchronized. The data are sent via the Internet to a remote server, allowing users to monitor and analyze the electric system area-wide. In addition, the UGA has the capability to incorporate Chip-Scale Atomic Clock (CSAC) that can guarantee time-stamped measurements even if the GPS signal is lost.