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Smart Grid Interoperability Testbed Facility


NIST is charged by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) with facilitation of interoperability standards to enable successful implementation of the evolving cyberphysical national electric grid system known as the smart grid (SG). The Smart Grid Testbed Facility will create a unique set of interconnected and interacting labs in several key measurement areas—contiguously located on the NIST Gaithersburg site—that will accelerate the development of SG interoperability standards by providing a combined testbed platform for system measurements, characterization of smart grid protocols, and validation of SG standards, with particular emphasis on microgrids. (A microgrid is defined as a subset of the grid which has the capability of being quickly disconnected from, and functioning independently of, the larger grid.) Measurements will include eight areas: power conditioning, synchrophasor metrology, cybersecurity, precision time synchronization, electric power metering, modeling/evaluation of SG communications, sensor interfaces, and energy storage. The testbed will serve as a core Smart Grid Program research facility to address measurement needs of the evolving SG industrial community including the measurement and validation issues, with a long range goal of being part of a fully functional campus scale microgrid on the NIST Gaithersburg campus.



 Objective - To develop and progress an advanced multi-mode interacting measurement testbed that leverage cross-OU expertise to facilitate implementation, validation, and full characterization of smart grid interoperability standards and smart grid performance, with a particular emphasis on DER, microgrids and grid edge devices.

What is the Technical Idea?   
NIST has lacked laboratory facilities for measurement and research related to the smart grid beyond discrete elements such as phasor measurement unit calibration and time synchronization. The new idea is that an interacting multi-mode measurement and characterization testbed facility that leverages the diverse technical expertise across NIST will allow measurements necessary for end-to-end and system-level characterization of smart grid performance and interoperability. The long-term plan also envisions providing the capability to interconnect to other test beds inside and outside of NIST to enhance research capabilities. Eventually the testbed will allow for the full characterization of a future NIST campus scale microgrid.

While there are a number of smart grid laboratories in the United States, none exist as fully integrated facilities that can address all measurement and interoperability related issues of smart grids in an environment specifically dedicated to the advancement of measurement science. Accordingly, this is an area where NIST is able a unique role, and be of great service to both consumers and the electric power industrial sector, as it brings together capabilities of several NIST laboratories that are presently investigating some of the measurement problems of the grid.

The NIST SG Testbed Facility will address the need for accurate measurement and secure communications in the U.S. smart grid, including smart microgrids. Specifically, the SG Testbed will:

  1. Enable NIST to empirically address measurement science challenges relating to smart grid performance and interoperability not being adequately addressed by industry and universities, including (but not limited to)
    • Microgrid- and residential-size power conditioning measurements
    • Synchrophasor measurements • Cybersecurity for the grid
    • Precision timing for the grid • Electric power metering accuracy
    • Communication system characterization/modeling/reliability.
    • Sensor interface reliability
    • Storage metrology and characterization
  2. Enhance NIST’s capability to maintain a leading smart grid experimental research role.

The SG Testbed Facility will address the present status of inadequate measurement science as the electric grid evolves from a primarily (and historically) physical regime to an advanced cyber-physical regime. The testbed’s development is necessary to enable and support research into new cyber-physical functionality to analyze and optimize system-level operations and control technologies, increase wide area situational awareness in transmission and distribution systems, characterize performance of distributed energy resources (including widespread renewables) and microgrids, and integrate automated demand-side energy management.

What is the Research Plan?  
The backbone approach for the various labs (modules), will constitute an integrated response to the challenge of developing a broad spectrum of interoperability measurements and full characterization of SG performance. This approach is advantageous because of the subsequent improvement in measurement sophistication that could not otherwise be achieved in the present disjoint non-integrated lab environment. As an example, consider the problem of the characterization of a very large grid-tied photovoltaic array supporting battery storage to augment peak load demand. Such a problem might require direct inputs from sensors including phasor measurement units and meters as well as simulated loads—a measurement environment that could be provided by the NIST SG Testbed with its various labs communicating with each other in real-time.

The first phase was to design and install lab capabilities that will implement the measurement requirements discussed above. The design and construction has been completed: ten contiguous spaces in an EL assigned area in the basement of Building 220. Full capability awaits the ongoing high-power equipment commissioning. The modules are integrated into an interactive unit through shared data and power trays and communication interconnection. There is also a dedicated conference room in the same corridor as the modules, thereby allowing convenient discussion with visitors and guest researchers.

Now that the SG Testbed Facility expansion construction is complete and the commissioning of the high-power equipment is progressing, continued integration of cross-OU expertise and projects within the facility, and engaging with stakeholders for opportunities for collaboration and coordination compose the next phase. This phase, fully consistent with NIST’s core mission and its charge under 2007 EISA, will enable the integrated testbed to serve as an on-going resource to the electric power sector for smart grid standards validation and development of advanced smart grid measurements suggested by the evolution of the electric grid.

Created October 8, 2010, Updated April 8, 2021