Idaho researchers unveil improved electric po

image: A helicopter flown by Utah-based Sturgeon Electric String Transmission Line passes through the Idaho National Laboratory site as part of the lab’s electrical grid testbed expansion. February 2021.
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Credit: Idaho National Laboratory

It took nearly 10 years to design and build, but researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory have now powered and commissioned one of the most comprehensive power grid testbeds yet. from the country.

With investments totaling nearly $40 million, the test network was equipped with modern equipment, flexible infrastructure, and advanced transmission and distribution capabilities representative of much of the country’s power infrastructure. . The large-scale test grid allows experts from across the federal government and private industry to develop and demonstrate technologies that improve security and resiliency.

Located at the INL site, the test network is rated up to 138 kilovolts. It includes up to 32 miles of reconfigurable distribution line, 16 miles of transmission line, all-fiber optic communications, and transformers capable of supporting 15, 25, and 35 kilovolt demonstrations. Dotting the grid are four 2,500 square foot research blocks designed to house large equipment for performing power load tests, smart grid evaluations and energy storage experiments. The entire system is operated from a new on-site command center with up-to-date control systems and real-time power management equipment that allows sections of the test grid to be isolated for specific high-risk demonstrations. An additional 40,000 square foot test area and equipment storage building will be completed in 2022.

“Real-world testing and validation is a critical component of grid modernization efforts,” said Patricia A. Hoffman, Acting Assistant Secretary, DOE’s Office of Electricity. “Optimized to represent the wide range of distribution system configurations found across the country, the newly powered network test bed at INL allows for greater flexibility in evaluating new ideas and technologies in order to do better advancing innovation to protect the nation’s critical electrical infrastructure. The enhanced testbed provides a collaborative environment for laboratories, industry, universities and government to leverage shared resources and will be used to demonstrate cutting-edge technologies for vital advancements such as distributed energy resources and grid-scale energy storage.

Recognizing the importance of a reliable power supply to the nation, as well as the threats posed by advanced cyberattacks, the effects of climate change, and atmospheric disturbances such as solar flares and geomagnetic phenomena, INL officials have presented plans to build the test grid in 2013. With support from Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho and the DOE’s Office of Electricity, initial funding to upgrade the grid arrived the following year. Further funding followed for the next five years, culminating in the construction and energizing of the Capstone transmission line. The final piece provides reliable power to the INL site, while freeing up existing lines for safety testing.

“Protecting critical infrastructure, including the power grid, is one of our country’s highest priorities,” said Representative Mike Simpson. “INL’s grid and cybersecurity experts are some of the best in the world, and I was thrilled to support their vision to build this test grid and create a research environment that will benefit all Americans.”

The decade-long effort involved numerous INL employees and local contractors, including the lab’s Facilities and Site Services and National and Homeland Security branches, Walsh Engineering and Wheeler Electric, based in Idaho Falls, and the office of Sturgeon Electric in Utah.

For more information, read this fact sheet or watch this video.

About the Idaho National Laboratory
Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the national center for nuclear energy research and development and also conducts research in each of the DOE’s strategic areas: energy, national security, science, and the environment. For more information, Follow us on social networks:Twitter,Facebook,InstagramandLinkedIn

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About Catherine Sturm

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