NREL solves network stability problems with voltage tester, DIY software

NREL solves network stability problems with voltage tester, DIY software

It stands between the solar arrays and the power grid’s equipment National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), you might hear a faint, distorted melody buzzing from somewhere. You’re not hallucinating – this gray box really sings a Star Wars theme, the ice cream truck song, or a Chopin dance in a mini-movie. Power systems engineers are having some fun with NREL’s ability to prevent stability problems on the electrical grid.

Typically, engineers send another type of waveform through transformers and load banks: megawatts of power and voltage vibrations at many frequencies. The purpose of their research is to find out how power and network devices interact – to make them “in tune” and prevent dangerous electrical oscillations that manifest as loud feedback or booming sub-bass.

Engineers can perform this analysis with high accuracy with NREL devices using the lab’s advanced impedance measurement system, and they have also produced commercially available software called Grid Impedance Scan Tool or GIST that can do the same with simulated power on device models, allowing any manufacturer or network operator to To certify the stability of the grid with renewable energy resources.

“These unique capabilities can excite wind turbines and photovoltaic converters and all this new equipment at different frequencies to understand whether it’s going to be grid-friendly or if there’s going to be some disruption,” says Shahil Shah, project lead and developer of GIST.

Like music, electricity is made up of waves that interact to create harmonies and distortions. While music spans around 10 octaves, electric power systems use 20 octaves with equipment such as wind power and solar power plants. This leaves plenty of room for signals to overlap, reverberate and amplify, which is sometimes the case on electrical systems and seems to happen more as spinning generators are being replaced by power electronics such as wind and solar inverters. When treacherous oscillations occur, they can damage components or cause failures in the entire power system.

Solar energy and wind create as many oscillations as mechanical structures, but we don’t see them. This can create disruptive behavior, and has happened all over the world in energy systems with high levels of renewables, Shah explains.

Stability is difficult because grid designs vary from system to system, such as adding new wind power or a solar power plant such as putting new musicians in a live set without supplying them with sheet music – they may be out of note regardless. How skilled.

For industry partners, NREL provides exactly that capability: to put a device in its real network environment and see what it “looks like”. NREL’s high-power infrastructure can simulate any partner technologies’ electrical grid and can closely measure the technology’s response.

“We’re developing tools that allow us to quickly switch between frequencies that we inject into the network,” says Przymek Koraljevic, one of the developers of GIST. “And to generate the music, we use the exact same tools.”

Like lyric inverters, the partner’s solar panels, wind turbines or batteries will operate on grid frequencies. Within this megawatt symphony, engineers can identify and correct where the system is most seriously shaking.

With more network operators now insisting on initial stability assessments for new device connections, true strength displays are becoming more important. But not every network operator or equipment manufacturer can visit NREL’s advanced research environment for power systems to check their interdependence. An alternative might be systems modeling, but such high-resolution models are not generally available in an open, transparent format – neither to hardware nor to the network.

Instead, NREL engineers devised a stability verification solution using desktop software and commonly available black box models that do not reveal the intellectual property of wind and photovoltaic vendors.

NREL’s GIST shows that detailed instrument models are not actually necessary; The black box kit will work just fine. GIST only measures the joint stability of interacting devices, and for this, any model that captures device behavior at its periphery will do. This flexibility allows users to test a much wider range of devices, bypassing all barriers to stability assessments.

Since network stability is a collective outcome—the consistency of hardware and network—it must be evaluated at the intersections where the two meet. GIST does this by correlating device and network models: the devices on one side and the electrical grid on the other. The software then injects the merged model with frequencies to see how the system responds. This is called impedance checking.

A GIST scan can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the size of the system and the number of powered electronic devices, and it can evaluate multiple devices in parallel. In practice, the user may scan at a variety of points across the network to get a complete view of the dynamic stability. GIST is currently available under license and is implemented in many research partnerships.

The software is particularly useful for checking grid shaping controls, which allow renewables to provide stability in the same way that rotary generators have traditionally. Finding the right mix of network shapers and network trackers will soon occupy utilities and system operators everywhere, and GIST can help determine if a given mix is ​​truly stable. GIST will also complement NREL’s broadly collaborative effort to develop network shaping controls across the UNIFI consortium by providing a tool for researchers to quickly evaluate new technologies and system architectures.

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