Micro-Synchrophasors in Distribution Systems

PROJ_msphasorsElectric power “twists” as it moves through the grid. Micro-Synchrophasors for Distribution Systems let us directly observe this twist, a new parameter for monitoring the flow of power and grid stability. Ultra-precise Phasor Measurement Units  (micro-PMUs) measure the change in voltage phase angle – the amount of “twist” – as power flows down distribution lines. Data from a network of these devices unlock new capabilities to observe and control power flow.

Until now, our ability to diagnose power distribution systems has been limited, opening the door to power failures and impeding our response to changing situations like extreme weather. Micro-PMUs enable real-time monitoring at an unprecedented level of granularity – key to preventing system failures and outages, sharpening demand response, and effectively integrating distributed renewable energy. Alongside the physical sensors, the Berkeley Tree Database (BTrDB) made it possible to consume rich streams of time-series measurement data at scale, quickly and easily zooming in and out from cycles to years. 

The five-year micro-PMU project was funded by a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which supports high-risk, high-reward innovations that can yield game-changing breakthroughs in energy technology. Since completion of the plus-up phase in 2018,  project partner Power Standards Lab (PSL) became Powerside, Inc., which sells the micro-PMU to utilities worldwide, and project partner PingThings, Inc. is offering the PredictiveGridTM platform services built on BTrDB.

CIEE’s Electric Grid Research Group has conducted several follow-up projects, including international collaborations to install micro-PMUs in Mexico (funded by Sener-CONACYT) and the Philippines (funded by PCARI), and to develop new diagnostic techniques to improve distribution system planning and operations. 

Leveraging the micro-PMU technology and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), CIEE researchers developed a novel strategy called Phasor-Based Control to optimize the management of distributed energy resources in electric grids. Further, CIEE is collaborating with PingThings on a National Infrastructure for Artificial Intelligence on the Grid (NI4AI) that brings researchers and industry practitioners together to explore the full potential of electric measurement data.