Source: | Stephen Mraz | December 10, 2018

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab are providing high-tech analysis, sensing, and modeling tools to help make informed decisions about the power network.

A sample of the modeling tool developed at ORNL to help utilities update and upgrade the hardware protecting their power grids.

As Puerto Rico works to restore and modernize its power grid after last year’s devastating Hurricane Maria, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are helping the islanders evaluate the damage and identify opportunities to make the power grid better withstand future disruption. Researchers from ORNL and other DoE national laboratories were tasked by DoE’s Office of Electricity to evaluate and analyze options and to offer tools as the effort proceeds.

Some of the approaches will include simulations of the Puerto Rico transmission and distribution system for better planning, assessing the interdependencies such as fuel availability and power generation options, evaluating the use of distribution generation such as microgrids, and deploying sensor deployment for better situational awareness.

The first step for ORNL scientists and engineers was to construct a model of the Puerto Rico grid and a planning model that automatically populates protective relay schemes to safeguard the flow of electricity. ORNL also deployed state-of-the-art sensors on the island to monitor the grid state and validate the model’s accuracy.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) now has at its disposal an ORNL-developed Dynamic Protection-Planning Model that predicts the dynamic behavior of the electrical grid if there’s severe weather or other impacts. “The tool can take the projected path of a hurricane and immediately provide predictive analysis of how transmission equipment could be affected,” says Nils Stenvig of ORNL’s Power and Energy Systems Group. Such information can be crucial for planning and recovery efforts.