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Smart Grid Testbeds: A More Resilient Power Grid

Oct 16, 2023

Global commitments to combat climate change differ, but there’s one point where nations are in agreement: we need a smarter energy grid. As new energy generation paradigms take hold in many countries, the energy grid must move towards a smart grid. Smart grids can be controlled by software and provide much more data to enable that control. In order to take advantage of this growing market, you need the best smart grid testbed system.

Smart Grid Testbed

Smart Grid Testbeds: A More Resilient Power Grid

How Does Smart Grid Technology Differ?

The Smart grid is a completely new approach to energy distribution. Most grids use analog components that perform simple operations. If current exceeds a line’s capacity, a switch can be tripped to reroute power. If supply is too low, power plants ramp up to meet demand. These basic analog operations have worked well since electricity has always been a centralized process. Power is made at large power plants and sent out towards consumers. However, today’s grids are changing.

Now, there are many more sources of electricity. Even end users can also become producers by putting solar panels on their roofs. Wind farms may be placed far away from where power needs to be used. Furthermore, energy storage is now a valuable commodity. For the grid to be able to take all of these changes into account, we need smart grid technology that can communicate real-time data to utility companies and allocate energy resources efficiently and dynamically.

Better Communication Capabilities

Communication is at the core of smart grid systems. Rather than simply react to changing circumstances based on pre-established parameters, these devices can actively monitor the flow of energy and report that data back to the utility company. Previously, a company would install a single monitoring device on a transformer. Today, most modern components can include the smart technology needed to monitor power distribution more frequently.

By having more smart devices keeping track of power conditions, the utility company essentially increases its resolution. It can see the flow of energy in greater detail. This allows the company to identify problems faster, localize damaged equipment more accurately, and improve maintenance procedures. Smart grid technology is crucial for reducing energy waste on the grid, which is why the MENA region is investing heavily in the technology.

Digital Control vs. Analog Control

Smart grid devices don’t just report data: they can also receive instructions based on that data. This means that the utility company can control each device with a greater level of precision. Rather than having to preconfigure equipment, data can be processed in the cloud and turned into a control mechanism. Devices can dynamically respond to changing conditions.

Digital control reduces deployment time and expense. Allowing software to dictate hardware behavior also reduces the chances of human error being introduced into the system. Overall, this improves reliability and adaptability on the grid.

Increased Versatility

Analog components are limited in their method and range of operation. Most are designed to be used in specific voltage and current scenarios, and are often only meant to operate in a single direction. Smart grid components, in contrast, account for the possibility of electricity flowing in different directions in a decentralized grid. This is vital for deploying more renewable energy.

Smart meters on buildings can measure electricity in both directions. Smart switches on power lines can route power to storage locations. Smart grid components open up many more possibilities for energy use, storage, and distribution.

Smart Grid Testbeds Overcome The Challenges of Testing Smart Grid Components

The same characteristics that make smart grid devices useful are also what make them difficult to test. Smart devices need to be tested within a wider range of operating conditions and use scenarios. Their data transmission mechanisms also need to be tested to ensure accuracy. The added complexity of unpredictable power generation with renewables further increases the difficulty of testing these components.

A smart grid testbed system takes these challenges into consideration and provides solutions so that you can test this equipment properly and secure bigger purchase orders. The physical testing equipment includes intelligent power switches, reliable power supplies, an energy demander, and power meters to track and record data throughout the loop.

Simulated Testing Using HiL Testbeds

Given the sheer number of possible scenarios that smart grid devices need to account for, it is much more efficient to use simulated testing environments. Hardware-in-the-Loop (HiL) testbeds simulate hardware in a virtual environment. You have full control over the simulation, allowing you to queue up a variety of scenarios to evaluate how the hardware should perform.

You will still need a physical testbed to try out some of these scenarios to properly validate your devices. However, using software first can help you spot issues before proceeding to physical testing. This cyber-physical approach can accelerate product design and testing, and improves the reliability of your devices.

Improved Data Collection for Analysis

Both virtual environments and physical testbeds alike provide a greater amount of data for you to analyze. The insights derived from this data can help you spot flaws in your designs before proceeding to prototyping or mass production. You can use cloud computing to analyze this data affordably without investing in your own computing power.

Our Microgrid and Smart Grid Open source research platform can be used to improve grid integration of renewable energy sources by implementing automated analytics, advance situation awareness, and improve overall energy efficiency. Built using open platforms and technologies from leading companies, this solution is ideal for clean energy research.

Contact SAAB RDS to learn more.