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Fluke developing smart grid technology

You may have read about the new Smart Grid currently in development by various manufacturers, utilities and government agencies worldwide. But - did you know that there are many different definitions for the Grid, depending on whose perspective you look from?

At the highest level, the idea behind the Smart Grid is to add far more "intelligent" devices to the transmission of high voltage across a large power grid such as the continental U.S. Those devices would monitor and control the electricity flow, for a variety of reasons; principally, to prevent outages like the one covering the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada in 2003. But also, to reliably accept intermittent power from renewable energy resources, and to make much more efficient usage of the power that we transmit, distribute and consume.

Getting from here to there involves many different aspects, from communications and networking to end consumer electronics to new meters on houses to monitoring the grid itself. When it comes to that last part, Fluke is getting in the game.

The primary device to monitor the new Smart Grid is something called a PMU, a phasor measurement unit. This unit can either just take measurements (about 30 per second), or can be combined with a relay, depending on the manufacturer, and is ideally networked into to a larger grid control system.

There are currently about 200 PMUs active in the U.S. right now. New federal initiatives plan to get 850 more units in the field within a couple years.

It turns out that there isn't currently a way to verify that all of those 850 different units, supplied by many different manufacturers, are truly interoperable…because there is currently no way to dynamically calibrate a PMU. In other words, to test its accuracy under dynamic (real-world) power conditions.

So, Fluke proposed to re-engineer its dynamic power standard, the 6105, to support the project, and won a $1.4 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to do so. The federal stimulus funding was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act a NIST initiative to support research in areas deemed of national importance and to bolster US scientific and technological infrastructure.

The first step at Fluke will be to gather a national team of experts to decide what the measurement and accuracy requirements are for Fluke to build to, and possibly, to inform the next evolution of IEEE standards.

Fluke will be developing this new technology over the next 26 months.