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Operations center is the real deal



Grid operators who spend their days managing a piece of the nation's electric grid could walk into the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center (EIOC) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and feel right at home.

Complete with $3 million in energy management system software provided by industry leader Areva T&D, secure computer networks, 30 work stations, more than 100 servers, 25 special-purpose computers and a 115-square-foot video wall, the EIOC is a fully capable control center with access to real data from North America's eastern and western power grids. "We have created a platform for research and development that serves as a point of departure for grid operations," said Ross Guttromson, EIOC manager.

"That means this facility picks up where industry currently leaves off."

By adding utility-specific grid models and SCADA data, the EIOC actually could control part of the grid just like the 130 existing control centers in North America. Its primary purpose, however, is to provide a real operations environment for researchers to develop, assess, test and deploy tools for managing the grid.

The functionality and data available in the EIOC make it possible to try out new technologies without the cost and risk of potentially negatively effecting an actual system. As a safe test bed, researchers can work more quickly through the iterative process of developing and refining technology, which includes manufacturers, researchers and users. "I like to say you can get about 80 percent of the benefit of a full-blown demonstration for about 20 percent of the cost," Guttromson said. Some research in the EIOC is focused on helping operators understand what's happening on neighboring systems, how it might affect their own system and what to do once they know there is a problem. "It's about understanding what you need to know at the right time and knowing what to do with it," Guttromson said.

In addition to visualization technologies and improved predictions of grid behavior, the EIOC is home to human factors research. By understanding the psychology of operators, the way they approach their jobs and their workplace culture, researchers can address those aspects in new technologies so they actually get used instead of sitting on the shelf.

The EIOC also supports operator training, exploring uniquely realistic simulations and scenarios that include failing indicators and computer hackers. DOE and government agencies can use the EIOC to test solutions and understand the potential benefits of technologies. This facility also could be used by utilities trying to solve a particular problem or by manufacturing companies interested in safely testing new technologies, vetting them with users and integrating them with actual dataŚ all within the same environment where the technology eventually will be put to use.

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