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Smart Grid System Testbed Facility


The Smart Grid Testbed Facility is a unique set of interconnected modules on the NIST Gaithersburg site.  Designed as a platform to measure and characterize smart grid operations and communications, the testbed will advance science as the foundation for many grid modernization priorities including:

  • advanced distribution system management
  • power conditioning
  • synchrophasor metrology
  • cybersecurity
  • precision time synchronization
  • electric power metering
  • modeling/evaluation of SG communications
  • sensor interfaces


Objective: To develop an advanced multi-mode interacting measurement testbed to facilitate implementation, validation, and full characterization of smart grid interoperability standards and smart grid performance.


What is the technical idea? An interacting multi-mode measurement and characterization testbed facility 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-related issues of smart grids (and smart microgrids) in an environment specifically dedicated to the advancement of measurement science. Accordingly, this is an area where NIST plays a unique role, benefiting 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 addresses the need for accurate measurement and secure communications in the U.S. smart grid, including smart microgrids. Specifically, the SG Testbed:

  1. Enables 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
  1. Enhances NIST's capability to maintain a leading smart grid experimental research role. The SG Testbed Facility addresses 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 enables and supports 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 NIST Smart Grid (SG) Testbed Facility, through its use of a common data and power backbone approach for the various labs (modules), constitutes 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 testbed is fully consistent with NIST's core mission and its charge under 2007EISA, serving as an on-going permanent resource to the electric power industrial sector for smart grid standards validation and development of advanced smart grid measurements suggested by the evolution of the grid. The testbed will implement network communication by way of a home microgrid protocol and the Building Automation and Controls Network (BACnet) data protocol. BACnet was developed by a NIST-industry collaboration and is widely deployed in the commercial sector and on the NIST campus for building automation and control networks.

Created December 4, 2012, Updated December 14, 2023