Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Improved synchronicity: Preventive care for the power grid

04.03.2013
New guidelines could help improve power grid reliability and reduce electricity cost

President Obama in this year's State of the Union address talked about the future of energy and mentioned "self-healing power grids" -- a grid that is able to keep itself stable during normal conditions and also to self-recover in the event of a disturbance caused, for example, by severe weather.

But as the national power-grid network becomes larger and more complex achieving reliability across the network is increasingly difficult. Now Northwestern University scientists have identified conditions and properties that power companies can consider using to keep power generators in the desired synchronized state and help make a self-healing power grid a reality.

The Northwestern team's design for a better power grid could help reduce both the frequency of blackouts and the cost of electricity as well as offer an improved plan for handling the intermittent power sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, which can destabilize the network.

"We will be looking at a completely different power grid in the future," said Adilson E. Motter, who led the research. "The use of renewable energy is growing. More people will be driving electric cars, and the power grid will be delivering this energy, not gas stations. We need a power grid that is more capable and more reliable. This requires a better understanding of the current power grid as well as new ways to stabilize it."

Motter is the Harold H. and Virginia Anderson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The crux of the challenge is that for the U.S. power grid to function the power generators in each of its three interconnections (Eastern, Western and Texas) must be synchronized, all operating at the frequency of 60 hertz. Out-of-synch power generators can lead to blackouts that affect millions of people and cost billions of dollars -- losses similar to those of the Northeast blackout of 2003.

Having a network that can synchronize spontaneously and recover from failures in real time -- in other words, a self-healing power grid -- could prevent such blackouts. To help achieve this, power companies could apply the Northwestern guidelines as they add power generators to the network or tweak existing generators.

A paper describing the researchers' mathematical model, titled "Spontaneous synchrony in power-grid networks," is published in the March 2013 issue of the journal Nature Physics.

When a problem develops in the power-grid network, control devices are used to return power generators to a synchronized state. Motter likens this to using medicine to treat someone who is ill. He and his colleagues are suggesting conditions to keep synchronicity in good shape so interventions are kept to a minimum.

"Our approach is preventive care -- preventing failures instead of mitigating them," said Motter, an author of the paper and an executive committee member of the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO). "The guidelines we offer could be very useful as the power grid expands."

The researchers derived a condition under which the desired synchronous state of a power grid is stable. They then used this condition to identify tunable parameters of the power generators that result in spontaneous synchronization. This synchronization can be autonomous, not guided by control devices.

"The blackout at this year's Super Bowl was caused by a device that was installed specifically to prevent blackouts," said Takashi Nishikawa, an author of the paper and a research associate professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern. "A large fraction of blackouts have human and equipment errors among the causes.

"Reduced dependence on conventional control devices can improve the reliability of the grid," he said. "Our analysis also suggests ways to design control strategies that potentially can improve the existing ones."

Power generators are very different from each other; some are large and others small. Motter and his colleagues identified a "body mass index" for power generators, which they suggest should be kept approximately the same (making, in essence, all generators look the same to the network) in order to strengthen spontaneous synchronicity in the system. If the body mass indices change, they should be changed in a coordinated way.

The researchers demonstrated their model using real power grids of hundreds of power generators, similar to the size of the Texas portion of the U.S. power grid.

In addition to Motter and Nishikawa, other authors of the paper are Seth A. Myers of Stanford University and Marian Anghel of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Nature Physics article is available at http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys2535.html

Megan Fellman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>