Controller for the Emergency Power Grid Is Coming

Energy groups are designing the controller, which will keep power flowing during a severe weather outage.

by Alan Rizzo, Watertown Daily Times / December 11, 2014
Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to more than 2.5 million people in New Jersey. Sharon Karr/FEMA

(TNS) -- Clarkson University announced Wednesday that it and several energy groups are designing a controller for the emergency grid that someday will keep the power flowing during a severe weather outage.

The Enhanced Microgrid Control System (eMCS) is understood to be the brains of the planned grid, and will increase its efficiency and flexibility.

“New York state’s north country is a region where we have firsthand knowledge of the tremendous impact that weather can have on our utilities’ infrastructure,” Clarkson University President Anthony G. Collins said. “We are excited to be partnering in research that will have an impact not only on Clarkson’s neighbors, but also on communities like Potsdam around our state and nation, where severe weather can be disruptive to lives and commerce.”

The process will begin with 18 months of engineering and design done by General Electric Global Research. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will then follow with six months of testing a microgrid that simulates Potsdam’s infrastructure.

A GE Global Research representative reported engineering at its research center in Niskayuna will begin in January.

The eMCS is important to keeping the local power grid running for days if it gets disconnected from the main state grid, and the grid it controls will connect approximately 12 entities to include emergency service providers, utilities, power generation sources, and staging areas, along with providers of housing, fuel and food, according to a college release.

The college did not say specifically what those entities would be.

The control system will use controllers operating at different times to efficiently provide a steady flow of electricity, and make the grid stable and secure.

“It’s a vital component and critical to the system’s resiliency and overall performance,” said Sumit Bose, the project’s principal investigator and microgrid technology leader at GE Global Research. “Together, GE’s control system — and the underground microgrid envisioned for the Potsdam community — could serve as a model for towns and cities across the country that are susceptible to weather disasters and blackouts.”

Other energy groups involved in the research include GE Energy Consulting, National Grid and the Department of Energy.

©2014 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)