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Get Ahead of What’s Happening on Your Distribution System by Mastering PMUs

The North American SynchroPhaser Initiative (NASPI) Distribution Task Team (DisTT) just released a very informative whitepaper entitled Synchrophasor Monitoring for Distribution Systems: Technical Foundations and Applications. The goal of the authors is provide a broadly useful reference regarding the use of synchrophasors and other time-coordinated measurements for supporting power distribution system planning, operation, and research. Note the term synchrophasor is actually the measurement and not the piece of equipment.

The paper describes the value of a high calibur grid monitoring system such as that which can be achieved with a network of phasor measurement units (PMUs) sharing data through a phasor data concentrator (PDC) or other aggregating platform.  Such a system enables the calculation of time-synchronized voltage and/or current magnitudes and phase angles which can detect and react to any significant change in the grid, such as oscillations or other power events at generators or customer facilities and to archive those events for later reference.  Utilities can use this information to maintain control of an increasingly complex and changing grid and even harness new opportunities.

DisTT points out that a large percentage of customers’ electric outages occur due to problems on the distribution system and yet most utilities have limited monitoring on these systems. They suggest distribution system managers could much more effectively do the following with a distribution-tailored synchrophasor network:

  • Monitor the state or condition of the distribution system.
  • Monitor and analyze distributed generation and energy storage devices.
  • Measure and verify energy efficiency, demand response and load management activities.
  • Monitor and analyze significant end-user loads.
  • Identify asset and equipment problems.
  • Detect fault location and event forensics.
  • Detect potential cyber-intrusions.
  • Detect dynamic events not recognizable with traditional monitoring.

The DisTT whitepaper explores the theory and practical considerations regarding PMU location for various distribution system assessments, communications and data collection, cybersecurity issues and available research sources.  At a time when our distribution networks are expected to do more and more, it is well worth the time spent to learn how we can use a distribution-tailored synchrophasor network or comparable technology to accurately monitor the performance we are achieving.


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