Making America’s Power Grid Much, Much Smarter

by  Heidi Hall,  Vanderbilt University

Remember back in 2003 when overgrown trees hit a power line in Cleveland and cut electricity to 50 million people in two countries? Or how about the storm that disrupted service to 1.7 million customers in Australia in September after backup generators failed?

Researchers at Vanderbilt University, Washington State University, and North Carolina State University are working to reinvent and protect the U.S.’s power grid. They will present their first solutions, including the Resilient Information Architecture Platform for Decentralized Smart Systems platform, this month at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Cyber-Physical Systems (ICCPS 2017) in Pittsburgh.

The idea is to build an underlying, open-source software platform to support decentralized applications that increase the power grid’s resilience and protect it from dangers ranging from terrorists to tree branches. The platform is also designed to quarantine problems while the rest of the system runs normally and to allow for seamless transition among wind and solar power, batteries, generators and traditional coal-fired and nuclear power plants as needed.

“Resilience is of national importance, and what we’re building is information systems technology that can tie together the different elements of a smart grid and make it more reliable by adding computing to the components,” said Gabor Karsai, associate director of Vanderbilt’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems and lead researcher on the project. “What this means is, if there’s a fault in one part of the system, we can react faster, inform other parts of the system and take action to protect the grid.”

The goal is to build an underlying, open source software platform to support decentralized applications that boost the power grid’s resilience and protect it from dangers. In addition, the platform is designed to quarantine problems while the rest of the system runs normally and to permit seamless transitions among power sources as needed. The new microgrid controller uses fog computing to calculate and monitor voltages and phase angles and employs inverters to change those when necessary.  Read the report.

DCL:  What they don’t say in this paper is that all of the apps they envision will be event processing applications doing a lot of CEP. The smart grid is a classic CEP platform.

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