Smart simulator creates secure control systems
In a room at Teknikringen 33 stands a large screen next to a model of a town district in miniature. But this is no play area for children or adults. The control systems for the electrical grid of the future are being tested here — in real time.
The real-time simulator at the Smart Transmission Systems Laboratory
(SmarTSlab), can simulate electrical grids of the size of Gotland’s, and larger. In the simulator, it is possible to add various factors, such as energy from wind power, intermittent load from residents charging their electric cars, etc. — in order to see how that affects the system. The advantage of the real-time simulator, compared with traditional simulation approaches, is that you can link actual control systems, measurement, control, and protection devices to the simulator in order to check that the entire system is reliable, that the measurement values are accurate and, for instance, study what happens if the system is subject to attacks or other disturbances — disturbances that may have massive social consequences. Natural disasters, the Gudrun storm being one example; future attacks in order to affect the electrical grid for individual gain or simply to cause disruption are others.
“Using the simulator, we can develop a control system. The system uses computers and smart devices to control, measure and regulate energy production and consumption,” explains Luigi Vanfretti, Assistant Professor in Smart Grids with emphasis on transmission systems.
He builds and develops automatic control methods that use GPS to measure the power flows of power networks in order to find out what risk factors need to be prevented. His colleague Arshad Saleem, post-doctoral researcher in Industrial Information and Control Systems, is developing IT infrastructure that enables efficient implementation of such algorithms that analyses and processes the measurement values so that the system can make the right decision.
“The electricity market of the future will require an intelligent control system so that
we can exploit alternative energy sources in a safe and smart way,” explains Arshad.
He has been researching and developing fast and secure control systems at DTU in Copenhagen for the past few years. There is already a lot of wind power in use in Denmark, so development there is a few steps ahead.
“If the sun stops shining, or the wind stops blowing, the system must be ready and able to deal with this in real time. However, it also requires consumers to be more aware of how they utilize the system. We must make the system
reliable, secure and effective,” says Arshad.
Some might say: ‘Do we really need to develop new systems? Everything functions so well today!’ And, of course, we don’t currently have any major problems with power cuts in Sweden, which might lull people into a false sense of security. But with increased use of alternative energy sources such as the sun and wind, the electrical grid will become more unpredictable. It will be more difficult to predict supply and demand, which may lead to new problems arising.
And these are the problems that need to be investigated and prevented right now.
“We need to be one step ahead, so that we can convince society that the control systems we are developing will be secure and will work in the event of severe operating conditions, such as blackouts,” says Luigi.
The electricity industry, in general, has been slow to adopt and use IT, particularly compared with other industries, such as telecommunications. This is slowly changing in the Nordic Region thanks to the cooperation between different transmission system operators in the region.
Statnett, Fyngrid Oy, Svensk Kraftnät, and Landsnet, who will construct and maintain the new grids, are also modernizing their control centers utilizing synchronized phasor data and advanced early warning and monitoring systems. The Nordic Synchrophasor Group, and industry-academia collaboration, allow researchers to have direct knowledge of the needs of transmission system operators, making research more applicable in practice.
“Thanks to strong interest from their side, we can see results and effects in reality. Using the computers and control systems we have today, we can test and get input from the problems that prove to be relevant,” says Arshad.
For more information, contact Luigi Vanfretti, 08-790 6625, firstname.lastname@example.org