Tag Archives: Energy/The_Smarter_Grid

Unplugging From Digital Controls to Safeguard Power Grids

Post Syndicated from Peter Fairley original https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/unplugging-digital-networks-to-safeguard-power-grids

Legislation passed by the U.S. House and Senate supports isolating power equipment to block cyber attacks

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to mandate federal research on a radically ‘retro’ approach to protect power grids from cyber attack: unplugging or otherwise isolating the most critical equipment from grid operators’ digital control systems. Angus King, an independent senator from Maine whose identical bill passed the Senate last month, says such a managed retreat from networked controls may be required to thwart the grid’s most sophisticated online adversaries. 

Grid cyber experts say the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act moving through Congress is a particular testament to Michael Assante, a gifted and passionate cybersecurity expert who died earlier this month from leukaemia at the age of 48. “If you were to point to just one person as the primary driver, it would have to be Michael,” says colleague Andrew Bochman, senior cyber and energy security strategist at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Senator King recently told The Washington Post that research at INL kicked-off by Assante had inspired the bill.

Startup Aims to Tackle Grid Storage Problem With New Porous Silicon Battery

Post Syndicated from Mark Anderson original https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/startup-aims-to-tackle-grid-storage-problem-with-serverracksized-battery

A Canadian company emerges from stealth mode to provide grid-scale energy storage with its high-density battery tech

A new Canadian company with roots in Vermont has emerged from stealth mode and has ambitious plans to roll out a new grid-scale battery in the year ahead. The longshot storage technology, targeted at utilities, offers four times the energy density and four times the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries, the company says, and will be available for half the price.

The new company’s CEO, a former Democratic nominee for governor of Vermont, founded Cross Border Power in the wake of her electoral loss last November. Within days after the election, she was at her computer and writing a thesis (since posted on her campaign website) that she boldly calls “[The] North American Solution to Climate Change.”

One of Christine Hallquist’s planks as gubernatorial candidate was to set the Green Mountain state on a path to obtaining 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. In the final weeks of the election, the Republican Governors Association attacked Hallquist’s campaign by claiming her vision would raise taxes on Vermonters and hike gasoline prices at the pump.

Today, she might agree that economics may indeed shape the future of renewable energy—but through low prices, not high ones. “I think we’re at the point, especially with our batteries, that renewables are going to be cheaper than any of the fossil fuels,” she says.

Best Algorithms to Make Solar Power Storage Profitable

Post Syndicated from Charles Q. Choi original https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/best-algorithms-to-make-solar-power-profitable

Which algorithms are best at integrating solar arrays with electrical grid storage?

By analyzing the kinds of algorithms that control the flow of electricity between solar cells and lithium-ion batteries, scientists have identified the best types of algorithms to govern electrical grid storage of solar power.

A dizzying number of algorithms exist to help manage the flow of electricity between photovoltaic cells and lithium-ion batteries in the most profitable manner. These come in a variety of complexities and have diverse computational power requirements.

“Lithium-ion batteries are expensive components, and photovoltaic plant owners have to pay large amounts of money in order to install lithium-ion batteries on plant,” says study lead author Alberto Berrueta, an engineering researcher at the Public University of Navarre’s Institute of Smart Cities in Pamplona, Spain. “Management algorithms are of capital importance in order to preserve a long lifetime for the batteries to make the most out of the batteries.”

To see which types of these algorithms work best at getting the most out of lithium-ion batteries, researchers developed models based off the amount of power generated over the course of a year from a medium-sized roughly 100-kilowatt solar cell array located in Navarre. They focused on concerns such as the computational requirements needed, the price of electricity, battery life, battery costs, and battery charging and discharging rates.

The researchers looked at three families of algorithms currently used in managing electricity from commercial solar cell arrays: dynamic, quadratic and linear. Dynamic algorithms tackle complex, sequential optimization problems by breaking them down into several simpler sub-problems. Quadratic algorithms each involve at least one squared variable and often find use in calculating areas, computing the profit of a product, and pinpointing the speed and position of an object. Linear algorithms each involve variables that are not squared and have the simplest computational requirements.

The scientists found the dynamic algorithms required far more computational power than the other two families of algorithms; as the number of variables grew, they experienced an exponential increase in problem complexity. A commercial PC that would take about 10 seconds to compute the energy flow between the solar cells and lithium-ion batteries using the linear and quadratic algorithms would take 42 minutes with the dynamic algorithms.

Linear algorithms had the lowest computational requirements but suffered in terms of accuracy. For instance, their simplified models did not account for how electrical current can reduce battery lifetime. All in all, the linear algorithms provided an average of 20 percent lower profits than the maximum achievable.

The researchers concluded that quadratic algorithms provided the best trade-off between accuracy and computational simplicity for solar power applications. Quadratic algorithms had about the same low computational requirements as linear algorithms while achieving revenues similar to dynamic algorithms for all battery sizes.

In the future, scientists can investigate which management algorithms might work best with hybrid energy storage systems, Berrueta says. Future research can also investigate which computer models work best at calculating all the factors affecting the lifetime of lithium-ion batteries, including batteries discarded from electric vehicles that might find a second life working in renewable energy plants, he adds.

The researchers detailed their findings at the IEEE International Conference on Environmental and Electrical Engineering in Genoa, Italy, on June 11.

Transmission Failure Causes Nationwide Blackout in Argentina

Post Syndicated from Amy Nordrum original https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/transmission-failure-causes-nationwide-blackout-in-argentina

Preliminary reports suggest problems with several 500-kilovolt transmission lines disrupted the flow of electricity from two dams to Argentina’s grid

A preliminary company memo suggests that problems with at least two 500-kilovolt transmission lines were the proximate cause of nationwide blackouts in Argentina on Sunday 16 June. The lines connect a pair of hydroelectric dams to Argentina’s grid. Parts of Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay also experienced power outages, though the total number of people affected is not yet clear. 

Government authorities have not yet determined what caused the disconnect and investigations are ongoing. Officials are expected to issue a more comprehensive report within 10 days.

In a statement on Sunday morning, the Secretariat of Energy attributed the blackouts, which began at 7:07 AM local time, to the “collapse of the Argentine Interconnection System (SADI).” The SADI is a high-voltage transmission network operated by Transener that transports electricity from generators, including power plants and dams, to distribution networks that serve tens of millions of customers.

According to a public statement by Edesur, one of Argentina’s largest electricity distributors, the failure occurred along a critical route of Argentina’s interconnection system that supplies the nation’s grid with power generated by the Yacyreta Dam in Paraguay and the Salto Grande Dam on the Uruguay River.

Atom Power Is Launching the Era of Digital Circuit Breakers

Post Syndicated from Prachi Patel original https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/the-smarter-grid/atom-power-is-launching-the-era-of-digital-circuit-breakers

New digital circuit breakers that combine computing power with wireless connectivity may finally replace an 140-year-old electromechanical technology

In the dark, dank depths of your home basement hangs a drab gray box that guards the building’s electrical circuits. The circuit breakers inside switch off current flow when there is risk of an overload or short circuit, keeping you safe from fires or electrocution. It’s a critical job, and one that breakers have been doing with a fairly simple, 140-year-old electromechanical technology.

But circuit breakers are about to get a digital overhaul. New semiconductor breakers that combine computing power and wireless connectivity could become the hub of smart, energy-efficient buildings of the future.

“It’s like going from a telephone that just makes calls to a smartphone with capabilities we’d never imagined before,” says Ryan Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Atom Power in Charlotte, North Carolina. “This is a platform that changes everything in power systems.”

Digital circuit breakers have been a holy grail in power engineering circles. Atom Power has now become the first to earn certification from the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) for its product, which combines breakers based on silicon carbide transistors with software. While UL approval isn’t legally required, it’s the industry safety standard for commercial use.