T&D World Magazine
Real-Time Simulators Support Microgrids and Large, Interconnected Grids

Real-Time Simulators Support Microgrids and Large, Interconnected Grids

OPAL-RT's ePOWERgrid real-time simulator family offers scalability to design, simulate and test new control and protection equipment used for distributed energy systems and micro grids, as well as very large interconnected power grids.

Today, environmental and cost constraints are placing significant pressure on the industry to optimize current power grid assets by installing complex control and protection systems to increase power transmission capacity, while ensuring the same safety margins. The amount of distributed energy sources that are integrated with conventional power grids is growing constantly. Furthermore, these grids are being interconnected by complex HVDC1 and FACTS2 systems at a fast pace, all of which could have a major impact on system stability and security. To prevent such problems, sophisticated protection systems rely on real-time software and communication systems that constantly monitor steady-state and dynamic power systems to minimize losses and prevent cascading failures that could lead to major system blackouts.

As power systems soar to ever higher levels of complexity, OPAL-RT's mission is to provide engineers and scientists with the real-time simulation tools to design, test and develop the power system of tomorrow.

The capability of ePOWERgrid products to simulate everything from fast electromagnetic phenomenon to the transient stability of large power systems, allows the power system engineers and scientists to:

  • Design, test and demonstrate new concepts of local and wide area control or protection systems to improve the efficiency, performance and security of interconnected power grids and minimize the risk of cascaded faults that could lead to major load shedding and system blackouts;
  • Develop and demonstrate new power electronic converter solutions for the future transmission and distribution of AC/DC grids required for renewable energy sources, such as in-land and off-shore wind and photo-voltaic farms.
  • Improve system reliability by testing new control and protection system equipment connected directly to the simulators (HIL3 tests) before their installation in the field.
  • Improve system security and performance by enabling high-fidelity simulation of proposed FACTS and interstate HVDC transmission systems interconnecting very large power grids. Such complex interconnected systems can be tested under any type of operating conditions and system contingencies using ePOWERgrid simulators.
  • Implement advanced and realistic transmission and distribution system operator training simulators, capable of reproducing the dynamic behavior of large and complex power grids

The ePOWERgrid product family comprises four main simulator modules that can be interconnected to cover all utility, equipment manufacturer and research organization needs:

  • ePHASORsim is a real-time transient stability simulator capable of simulating the slow dynamics of extremely large-scale power systems. It can simulate machine power swing and inter-area power oscillations that could lead to system-wide instability if control systems are not properly adjusted. Complex SCADA4 and wide area control and protection systems can be interfaced with the simulator to test and adjust their performance as if they were installed on the real system. Grids with more than 20,000 nodes can now be simulated on standard INTEL multi-core processors. This capability is expected to extend to more than 100,000 nodes by the end of 2012.
  • HYPERsim is a powerful and highly scalable, real-time simulator optimized to predict fast electromagnetic transient phenomena expected on very large power grids of 6000 nodes or more. It was developed and has been used by Hydro-Quebec for the past 25 years, and takes advantage of the global memory system offered by the SGI super computer to achieve the very high level scalability required to simulate very large interconnected power grids. Up to 1000 processors can be added without diminishing the accuracy of the simulation. Such performance and scalability is not available in any other real-time simulator using commercial computer technology.
  • eMEGAsim is a flexible, highly open and affordable PC-based real-time simulator optimized for medium-size grids with multiple VSC converters and FACTS components. It is used worldwide by universities, equipment manufacturers and R&D centers that develop new power conversion and energy transmission concepts and control systems. It is based on standard INTEL multi-core PCs and is fully integrated with the MATLAB, SIMULINK and SimPowerSystems of The Mathworks Inc. The popular OPAL-RT RT-LAB –distributed real-time software framework as well as specialized electrical solvers and models, are at the heart of eMEGAsim
  • eFPGAsim, a fast simulator with a time step of less than 200 nanoseconds, can accurately simulate fast power electronic and voltage source converters used in wind farm, micro grids, photovoltaic cells and other distributed renewable energy sources. It implements an advanced electrical system solver and is used to simulate very large HVDC MMC converters with several hundred power switches. eFPGAsim is also used to simulate power grids onboard aircrafts, trains and electrical ships. eFPGAsim uses an OPAL-RT OP7000 scalable multi-FPGA chip platform that can accommodate up to 9 powerful VIRTEX-6 FPGA boards interconnected by fast point-to-point links. This very high-end and scalable computing system is linked with eMEGAsim multi-core PC-based simulators that simulate slower subsystems with time steps of 10 microseconds or larger.

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