The North American interconnections, or electric transmission grids, operate as a hugely complex machine. Recent history shows that minor instability in one part of the grid can lead to catastrophic failure of large parts of the system.
For that and many other reasons, efforts are underway to create a new, Smart Grid. The new grid will be modernized and intelligent, utilizing a number of advanced computing, networking and measurement technologies. It will enable efficient energy usage, increased reliability, and integration of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar.
The Smart Grid. A real-time, dynamic network of electrical demand, supply, and controls.
One of those new technologies is a measurement device known as a Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU). Sometimes stand-alone but often built in to a relay, PMUs will play a critical role in monitoring stability throughout the Smart Grid. They will provide the precision knowledge necessary to minimize and control power outages and avoid problems such as cascading blackouts.
But to fulfill this promise, PMUs need to be extremely accurate, reliable and fully interchangeable from model to model. That means PMU calibration requirements are extremely important. Presently, PMUs can only be calibrated in a very small number of government and university laboratories. As PMUs are deployed in larger and larger numbers, the power transmission and distribution industry will need a more practical calibration tool.
The United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently awarded a grant to the Fluke Corporation to develop a commercial PMU calibration system. The goal of this project is to develop a calibration system that can test PMUs under steady state and dynamic conditions that mimic real world applications, with lower uncertainties than any other tool.
Fluke also hopes to see this calibration system adopted as the de facto standard for testing and calibrating PMUs, so they can be deployed reliably in Smart Grids world-wide. The availability of an economical, off-the-shelf, easy-to-use PMU calibrator will help advance the widespread implementation of PMUs, and thereby, the implementation of a modernized energy network.