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Western Energy Magazine — The West’s Bulk Electric System is more efficient and reliable, thanks to a partnership among western power entities to deploy an entire new infrastructure capable of observing 100 percent of the Western Interconnection.

The Western Interconnection Synchrophasor Program (WISP), led by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) and its spun-off reliability coordinator, Peak Reliability, uses synchrophasor technology to better manage the Western Interconnection. Most notable, it will detect disturbances that can lead to system blackouts — alerting system operators and reliability coordinators to take timely, corrective action.

mapWISP started in 2009, when WECC received $53.9 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The funding, which was awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Smart Grid Investment Grant initiative, matched dollars committed by nine WISP participants in the West to extend and deploy synchrophasor technologies within their own electrical systems, for a project total of $107.8 million.

“This is the largest electric transmission synchrophasor project in the country, and the DOE significantly accelerated the deployment of synchrophasor technology through its Smart Grid Investment Grant program,” said Gary Stephenson, Peak Reliability’s president and chief executive officer.

“The grant allowed WISP participants to build an infrastructure within three years, which otherwise may have taken 20 years to create.”

Under WISP, more than 600 new or upgraded Phasor Measurement Units (PMU) are being installed throughout the West. The PMUs are tied together with a secure communications network, and WISP has deployed the software tools needed to manage an increasingly complex power grid.

Synchrophasor technology also can provide the ability to see and manage the intermittent nature of renewable resources, and to deploy the ancillary services needed to solidify the changing nature of the West’s generation fleet. For example, Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) invested $36.8 million to deploy PMUs on its system—many at wind sites.


Synchrophasors are precise grid measurements now available from monitors called phasor measurement units (PMUs). PMU measurements are taken at high speed (typically 30-120 observations per second – compared to one every 2-4 seconds using conventional technology). Each measurement is time-stamped according to a common time reference. Time stamping allows synchrophasors from different utilities to be time aligned  (or synchronized). Combined together, they provide a precise and comprehensive view of the entire Interconnection. Synchrophasors enable a better indication of grid stress, and can be used to trigger corrective actions to maintain reliability. (source: www.NASPI.org)

“This technology will be very important for reliable and cost-effective integration of wind power in the Pacific Northwest,” said Dmitry Kosterev, principle planning engineer at the BPA.


Peak Reliability is one of eight Regional Entities in North America, and encompasses a geographic area equivalent to over half the United States. It is responsible for promoting electric system reliability, and provides a forum for coordinating the operating and planning activities of its member organizations. Peak Reliability’s members — representing all segments of the electric industry — provide electricity in 14 western states, two Canadian provinces, and portions of one Mexican state. WISP includes eight cost-share partners in addition to Peak Reliability: BPA, California ISO /California Energy Commission, Idaho Power Corporation, NV Energy, PacifiCorp, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and the Salt River Project.

An additional nine invited entities also agreed to participate: Alberta Electric System Operator, Arizona Public Service, BC Hydro, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Northwestern Energy, Public Service of New Mexico, San Diego Gas and Electric, Tri-State G&T, and Western Area Power Administration.

A project team led by WECC (now Peak Reliability) completed the implementation of the integrated synchrophasor network in 2013, including developing the technical framework for the wide-area network PMU/Phasor Data Concentrator (PDC) integration, system infrastructure and software applications.

This new functionality required the addition of two Peak Reliability data centers, one in Vancouver, Wash., and a second in Loveland, Colo.

In addition, as part of WISP, Peak Reliability’s control room in Loveland underwent remodeling to accommodate the installation of expanded visualization systems and user-friendly display control systems. This enhances the ability of reliability coordinators to view and act upon WISP data. Remodeling is underway in Vancouver’s control room.

Representatives of 97 Transmission Owners, Transmission Operators, Balancing Authorities, and Reliability Coordinators (including Peak Reliability), represented by 88 entities, have signed either the UDSA or a waiver.

The UDSA enables the exchange of information among those who need synchrophasor and operating reliability data to carry out their reliability responsibilities. At the same time, it keeps this data from merchants and marketing functions, and helps assure the protection of market-sensitive information.

This shared information includes:

  • Improved situational awareness for system operators in the Western Interconnection through a Wide Area View;
  • Network model information;
  • Next day, seasonal, and planning studies;
  • Disturbance evaluation;
  • Historical Archives of raw synchrophasor measurements; and
  • The Synchrophasor Registry – a menu of available synchrophasor measurements.


In order to realize the full management potential of synchrophasor placements in the West, Peak Reliability has applied for U.S. DOE funding to further its situational analysis capabilities.

Specifically, it seeks to develop a suite of software tools that will better: a) avoid incidents of cascading electrical failure; b) make full use of available transmission; and c) reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of data delivery systems.

“Synchrophasors allow our operations and reliability coordinators to view and have better situational awareness of the system,” Stephenson explained.

DESTON NOKES — WE’s copy editor is an independent consultant for the Western Energy Institute, the Western Electricity Coordination Council, and has worked as a communications consultant and energy writer for Sustainable Industries Journal, BPA, PacifiCorp, North American Windpower and others. He can be reached at deston@destonnokes.com.


• Large-scale outage avoidance
and faster system restoration;

• Increased transmission transfer
capability and improved
congestion management;

• Reduced costs due to a more-efficient
transmission system;

• Improved use of intermittent
renewable energy generation;

• Reduced capacity cost for
supporting intermittent
renewable generation;

• Improved Interconnection
reliability by detection and
response to both transient
and steady-state disturbance

• Greater resiliency to attacks
and natural disasters by
enabling wide-area control and
protection technology; and

• Support the next generation of
smart grid technologies.

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