GridPower grid test bed helps national grid resilience

Published 6 December 2017

Essential services like hospitals and water treatment depend on energy distribution to ensure reliable and continuous operations. As the power grid evolves, becoming more connected and responsive, those new, smart devices can introduce greater cyber vulnerabilities. To address this challenge, the power grid test bed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory has been transitioned to a more adaptive architecture.

Essential services like hospitals and water treatment depend on energy distribution to ensure reliable and continuous operations. As the power grid evolves, becoming more connected and responsive, those new, smart devices can introduce greater cyber vulnerabilities.

To address this challenge, the power grid test bed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory has been transitioned to a more adaptive architecture. This enables greater flexibility in testing new ideas and technologies to better advance innovation to protect the nation’s energy distribution systems.

INL says that the expansion allows full-scale testing of new smart grid technologies and components. INL’s test bed was optimized to represent a majority of the nation’s grid voltage distribution systems. This affords utilities, vendors and others more opportunities to partner with INL on research and innovation to protect the grid and enable more resilient power distribution during adverse weather conditions or a cybersecurity event. The enhanced testbed supports tests on distributed energy resources and grid scale energy storage technologies. The expansion of capabilities includes robust wireless and fiber optic communications to support real-time sharing results from grid testing between INL’s remote site locations and its Idaho Falls labs.

DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability has worked with INL on this effort to better support the need of utilities interested in the secure adoption of new smart grid technologies. INL staffs its remote test range with the nation’s foremost experts in control systems cybersecurity and wireless communications to enable real-world resilience testing of phenomena most other labs can only model.

INL’s full-scale grid is unique in the nation and provides opportunities for full-scale research, with its 61 miles of transmission line and seven distribution substations. The enhancements at INL provide a more realistic testing opportunity for new ideas, devices and systems related to the adoption of a smart grid that uses advanced digital technologies. This supports more reliable, resilient, flexible and efficient energy delivery, while increasing security and economy of a modern distribution system.

The lab works directly with industry, universities and government stakeholders to provide a testing environment that reduces the risks and enables real-world validation and verification of new and innovative concepts, technologies and systems including: new smart grid devices, distribution automation, communication tools, renewable energy components, and grid scale energy storage. This supports more reliable, resilient, flexible and efficient energy delivery while increasing security and efficiency of the system.

INL says that its location and size makes it unique among national labs. When combined with expert power and wireless communications scientists, engineers and field personnel, this provides the latitude and flexibility to examine the real-world impacts of various cyber and physical threats to critical infrastructures at grid-scale in a safe and isolated configuration.

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