As electrical outages plague the East Coast after Hurricane Irene, it’s interesting to think about how technology could transform our energy future. In one example, Cisco is collaborating with Harris Corporation, an international communications and IT company, on a five year contract to provide a Wide Area Network (WAN) for the Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC), the North American Regional Entity. WECC is responsible for coordinating the bulk electric system reliability for the Western U.S., Canada and part of Mexico, as well as the largest and most diverse North American Electric Reliability Corporation Regional Entity.
Once built, WECC’s WAN will form a communications foundation that will help detect and avert regional electrical system disturbances in an area that extends from Canada through 14 western U.S. states, including California, Arizona, New Mexico and Idaho; the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia; and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.
Last year, the WECC issued a call for a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based WAN to interconnect 19 participating utilities in the Western U.S. with two large WECC data centers in Vancouver, Wash. and Loveland, Colo. as part of the North American SynchroPhasor Initiative, or NASPI. The NASPI was established in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Energy, North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), participating electric utility companies and other organizations to promote increased visibility and reliability in the power system using smart grid synchronized phasor (synchrophasor) technology.
Synchrophasors were chosen for their ability to provide real-time, synchronized measurements typically at up to 30 or 60 samples per second in the U.S. and 25 or 50 samples per second in Europe, delivering valuable information at the system level that can lead to better planning and operation as well as improved reliability. Instruments called phasor measurement units (PMUs) measure synchrophasors by calculating them from samples of power line voltage and current waveforms. The measurements are taken at high speed and time-stamped according to a common time frame, so that data from different utilities can be combined to provide precise and comprehensive views of events over the entire interconnection. Synchophasors enable a more precise view of stress on the grid and therefore can be used to trigger corrective actions, maintaining reliability of the system.
For this to work, the grid needs a more secure, robust and available data measurement and communications infrastructure – which Cisco and Harris will provide together. The eventual goal is to install more than 250 new or upgraded PMUs across the region to identify system vulnerabilities and to help manage intermittent renewable sources of energy. Initially, the WECC is concentrating on visualization of, and stabilization of, the grid state as a means of providing decision support for grid operators. In addition, the data will be used for characterizing the grid and validating grid models as well as providing information for event analysis.
- The WECC tapped Harris for a low latency, MPLS network and Cisco for ASR and ISR routers and testing and design services. Cisco created and demonstrated the network capability of its Cisco Connected Grid Architecture (CGA) Reference Model at a NASPInet meeting in February of 2011, and shortly thereafter the WECC tapped Cisco to help build the network. The benefits of the CGA model include:
• Predictable fail-over and network convergence
• End-to-End QoS supporting low latency traffic
• Use of multicast for efficient and flexible data flow management
• Security provided by the network, with no extra burden on the PMU
• Support for both C37.118 and IEC 61850-90-5 protocols
• Support for hardened product set meeting IEC-61850 and IEEE standards where necessary
• Network Management
The system is scheduled for completion in 2013, and will eventually integrate various national, federal and academic organizations. While these advancements would not have prevented this week’s disturbances, we at Cisco are excited by the concrete moves the WECC is taking into making the NASPI and greater grid reliability in its region a reality.