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Oak Ridge National Laboratory Researches Effects of Electrical Faults on US Power Grid

by Anna

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are focusing on understanding the impacts of electrical faults in the modern US power grid, a critical aspect for maintaining reliable electricity service and preventing widespread blackouts.

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Electrical faults are abnormal conditions in an electrical circuit that disrupt the flow of power, potentially leading to significant blackouts that affect numerous customers. These faults can be triggered by various factors such as equipment failure, human error, weather events, and natural disasters. Given the evolving nature of the power grid due to the integration of new technologies like solar panels and electric vehicle chargers, traditional modeling methods have become less effective in predicting the behavior of modern, digitally-enabled power systems.

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The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has urged utilities and operators to adopt electromagnetic transient (EMT) domain analysis as a new approach to investigate the causes and effects of electrical faults. EMT analysis offers a more accurate representation of rapidly unfolding events, making it particularly suitable for systems with modern power electronics, which react differently to faults in remote parts of the grid compared to traditional mechanical systems.

According to Suman Debnath, a researcher at ORNL, the increasing adoption of inverter-based resources and electric vehicle chargers necessitates the use of EMT analysis to ensure the reliability of the power system during the ongoing grid transformation. This method helps utilities comprehend the intricate dynamics of power electronics, which in turn enhances grid performance and aligns with the vision of grid modernization.

ORNL researchers, in collaboration with Southern California Edison, have successfully conducted fault replication using EMT domain analysis. Their models and algorithms were integrated into the analysis tool, and the simulation accurately reproduced the effects of a 2018 electrical fault on a large solar plant. This accomplishment underscores the significance of EMT analysis in maintaining grid stability and security as the power system continues to evolve with emerging technologies.

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