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A Western Partnership Succeeds In Enhancing Grid Reliability

AUGUST 2014 — Written for IEE Smart Grid Newsletter by Vickie A. VanZandt and Deston Nokes

The Western Interconnection Synchrophasor Program (WISP), the largest of the Smart Grid Investment Grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy in the Electric Transmission category, deployed massive synchrophasor system infrastructure to improve bulk electric system reliability.


While more work is needed to realize the full potential of WISP, the West now has a time-synchronized, wide- area view of the Interconnection, a comprehensive data- sharing agreement among reliability entities, better generator models and other advanced applications.

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 Peak Reliability (Peak), uses synchrophasor technology to better manage the Western Interconnection. The infrastructure deployed will detect disturbances that can lead to system blackouts — alerting system operators and reliability coordinators to take timely, corrective action.

WISP started in 2010, when Peak (previously the Reliability Coordinator function at WECC ), received $53.9 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The program concluded in March 2014. The funding, the largest electric transmission grant ever 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. The project total was $107.8 million.

The grant allowed WISP participants to build an infrastructure within four years, which may have otherwise taken decades.

Under WISP, 600 new or upgraded Phasor Measurement Units (PMU) were installed throughout the Western Interconnection. The PMUs are tied together with a secure communications network, and WISP has deployed the software tools needed to manage this complex power grid.

Peak provides situational awareness and real-time supervision of the Reliability Coordinator (RC) Area in the Western Interconnection.

WISP included eight cost-share partners in addition to Peak: Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), California ISO, 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 the Western Area Power Administration.

The project team, led by Peak, completed the implementation of the integrated synchrophasor network in 2014, including developing the technical framework for the wide-area network, PMU/Phasor Data Concentrator (PDC) integration, system infrastructure, and software applications.

One of WISP’s early successes was to use synchrophasor data to improve and verify the accuracy of generator models. BPA completed the calibration and validation of the model, which predicts the dynamic behavior of the 1100 MW Columbia Generating Station (CGS) nuclear generator in Hanford, Washington. Models are used to simulate the behavior of power system components under both normal and abnormal conditions, in order to set safe operating limits and to comply with North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reliability standards.

NERC standards require that generator models be validated every five years. Until now, models were verified by taking the generator offline and performing manual tests. PMU data now can be used for this purpose without taking the generator offline. Disturbances that occur on the Interconnection – both small and large – can be recorded by PMUs to measure the generators’ responses to these events. PMUs can help improve the generator model if needed, and can verify that the model used in simulation closely tracks how the generator actually behaves.

BPA captured and recorded the PMU data to measure the CGS generator’s actual response. It used four disturbance events to improve or calibrate the CGS model. BPA then used 10 subsequent disturbances to verify or validate the new model with excellent results. The generator was online for the entire procedure, resulting in a savings of between $100K and $700K, depending on the timing of the avoided outage. The reliability benefits of the more-accurate model have not been quantified, but they are additive.

Additional generators models in the West have been subsequently calibrated and validated, making simulations more accurate.

A beneficial offshoot of the program has been an agreement by WISP participants and other energy entities to share synchrophasor data and other operating reliability data. All of the transmission owners, transmission operators, balancing authorities and reliability coordinators in the West have executed either a Universal Data Sharing Agreement (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 prohibits sharing the data with 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.

To realize the full potential of the synchrophasor system in the West, more work on data accuracy and availability is needed, as well as further application development. Peak has been selected for additional DOE funding to make additional reliability and efficiency improvements. Specifically, it will further develop a suite of software tools that will better avoid incidents of cascading electrical failure, make full use of available transmission, and reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of data- delivery systems.


vanzandtVickie A. VanZandt, IEEE Senior Member, is the Program Manager of the Western Interconnection Synchrophasor Program (WISP) for the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC).undefined She is also a Board Director for the ISO New England and participated in the Bi-Partisan Policy Center’s Initiative on Delivering Electric System Reliability and Clean Technology. Before her current positions, she was the Senior Vice President of Transmission Services for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). She served as the Vice-Chair of the WECC Board of Directors, on the Secretary of Energy’s Electricity Advisory Committee, and co-chaired the Operations Team of the Electric System Investigation of the August 14, 2003 power outage – working with North American Reliability Council, Department Of Energy, and Canadian governmental representatives. She is a registered professional engineer in the State of Oregon.

nokesDeston Nokes, APR, is president of Nokes Communications, Inc., a writing, consulting, and public relations firm specializing in energy and environmental communications.

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