Network based systems

Building a smarter network: Researchers leverage data from Chattanooga’s pioneering fiber-optic network

KNOXVILLE – At a satellite research facility at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, researchers analyze billions of data collected in Chattanooga to help shape America’s energy future.

Using the fiber optic network and the EPB smart grid in Chattanooga, ORNL scientists are able to remotely and virtually test ways to better deploy the power grid in order to maintain a reliable power supply of a cleaner and more efficient way.

“President Biden aims to achieve 100% clean power generation by 2035 and zero net carbon emissions by 2050,” US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said during a recent visit here. “The solutions we are working on here in this lab are the solutions we need to deploy to achieve those goals. The advantage of being near a facility like this is that the lab thinks about the future while helping industries in the present. “

EPB signed a memorandum of understanding to work with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2014, allowing Department of Energy researchers to connect to EPB’s fiber network which manages both its smart grid and the first city-wide high-speed broadband Internet network.

ORNL is developing grid technologies, cybersecurity equipment and battery storage capacities to help utilities like EPB adapt to the emerging distributed energy market where more electricity is generated at dispersed sites from solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable sources.

“We are trying to improve the efficiency, reliability and sustainability of energy systems, from small appliances to complete electrical systems,” said Dr. Richard “Rick” Raines, director of the Electrification and Division. energy infrastructure (EEID). at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

In the past seven years since ORNL began working with EPB, the Chattanooga utility has contributed more than $ 98 million in Department of Energy research projects.

“The Oak Ridge lab is a real gem to our region and our industry and it’s a great partnership to work with them,” said former EPB president Joe Ferguson, who worked with the rep. American Chuck Fleischmann to help expand ORNL’s presence in Chattanooga.

Photo by Dave Flessner / Rick Raines, left, director of the electrification and energy infrastructure division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, leads US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Grahholm on a visit to Grid Research Integration and Deployment Center which tests many of its innovations with EPB in Chattanooga.

A test bench for micro-grid controls

Within the Grid Research Integration and Deployment Center at ORNL’s Hardin Valley campus, researchers have developed the Commander test bench research secure controls and equipment for local networked electrical grids called microgrids.

With their power generation and storage capacities, distributed energy assets such as microgrids can provide electricity to homes, businesses and factories. Commander receives real-time data from three research micro-networks in EPB’s service territory in Chattanooga and surrounding areas using a secure communication architecture.

The 2 megawatt solar panel and a 500 kilowatt battery storage facility at the Chattanooga Airport is one of the microgrids studied and evaluated for how they can help not only power the airport terminal, but also to provide emergency electricity in case of need elsewhere. The DOE is also helping provide battery storage for another solar micro-grid under development at Chattanooga Police and Fire Headquarters on the Amnicola Highway.

ORNL researchers are using artificial intelligence to analyze data and create precise simulations of the grid. Commander uses simulations to assess the performance of grid technology under various scenarios, including disruptive weather events.

“We are establishing a living emulation of various types of microgrids to see how they can be coordinated to take advantage of the reliability and resilience of a region’s electricity and even be used as support resources for the grid. “said Madhu Sudhan Chinthavali, a group leader for Power. Integration of electronic systems at ORNL. “EPB is helping us test these controls in some of the established and planned microgrids in their service area. “

The test bench evaluates new hardware and controls before they are deployed to the live grid system. The controls and hardware solutions featured on Commander give EPB and other utilities the ability to harness the load balancing potential of regional grid micro-grids for a more resilient power grid.

“The power grid is the largest and most complicated machine on the planet today and it is highly centralized,” said Jim Ingraham, vice president of strategic research at EPB. “But these micro-grids give us the ability to distribute electricity during peaks to allow us to reduce the cost of serving our customers and to generate electricity with more renewable sources like the sun or the wind. “

As research projects, not all new technologies work as well as initially hoped. Four years ago, the DOE helped finance and install a 100-kilowatt vanadium redox battery at EPB’s community solar installation near EPB’s distribution center off Holtzclaw Avenue. The battery did not live up to expectations and has since been removed.

The DOE is now funding and will soon install new lithium-ion batteries for EPB to help the local utility company better store and deploy energy from its own community solar project on Holtzclaw Avenue and help build a stronger grid. robust micro-grid for the solar panel at Chattanooga Airport.

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Photo provided by EPB / Jim Ingraham is vice president of strategic research at EPB.

Building a smarter network

When EPB initially issued $ 170 million in municipal bonds to fund a fiber optic network for a smarter electricity grid in 2009, the municipal utility estimated it would take 10 years to install the estimated 9,000 miles of fiber optic lines needed to cover the territory EPB service.

Under the U.S. Salvage and Reinvestment Act passed over a decade ago, EPB secured the largest federal grant of any utility in Tennessee with the Stimulus Bill to Speed ​​Up Fiber Construction. optical. EPB has received more than $ 111 million to bring its smart grid into service within approximately four years, six years ahead of schedule, to serve all households and businesses in EPB’s delivery area.

EPB helped establish Chattanooga as “Gig City,” where everyone has access to Internet speeds in gigabytes per second, and high-speed Internet links open the door to an array of new power grid improvements. EPB has a smart grid with over 1,200 IntelliRupter switches installed on its 12 kilovolt distribution network and over 200 smart switches on its 46 kilovolt transmission system. Using the fiber optic network to communicate, the switches work together to isolate faults and reroute power in the event of a failure.

Almost 175,000 smart meters provide customers with the ability to monitor and manage their electricity consumption, while providing EPB with key information about outages, voltage fluctuations and anomalies.

Ingraham said ORNL has also used EPB’s smart grid to test optical sensors in its electrical substations to help act as cybersecurity barriers for automated utility switching systems to protect the network against an outside hacking attempt and provide more information in real time for better maintenance and better power. reliability. By detecting temperature changes and vibrations in power transformers and other EPB equipment, the sensors can provide early detection of faulty equipment and enable preventive maintenance actions to avoid power outages.

EPB estimates that since installing its fiber-based smart grid, it has reduced the average duration and number of power outages by almost 55%, according to EPB spokesperson J.Ed. Marston.

AutoBEM sees the energy consumption at each site

In its 600 square mile service territory, EPB’s fiber optic network enables the utility to detect and model the energy use for every building in the Chattanooga area.

Buildings use 40 percent of America’s primary energy and 75 percent of its electricity. The DOE Building Technologies Office has set a goal of reducing energy use per square foot of U.S. buildings by 30% from 2010 to 2030 in the 124 million building structures in the United States.

A team led by Joshua New, a senior member of ORNL’s research and development staff, developed a model for each building in Chattanooga based on its age, type and size and he used data from the network. smart to evaluate the model predictions. The ORNL approach uses publicly available data and satellite imagery and transfers them to ORNL’s supercomputers to model energy use and suggest improvements for any building in Chattanooga through its AutoBEM process.

Through more than 2 million simulations, ORNL researchers estimate that EPB could potentially save up to $ 35 million per year by adjusting electricity use during critical peak periods.

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.


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