Photos by NREL
Images of laboratory experimental test bed for evaluating private LTE communications.

NREL Successfully Completes Phases I And II Of Grid Comms Project

Nov. 12, 2021
Results validate performance of 900 MHz private LTE for utility use cases.
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has successfully completed Phases I and II of its "high impact" project validating the performance of an Anterix 900 MHz private LTE network for critical grid communications. 

"In this work, using 900 MHz spectrum, NREL has successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of private wireless LTE communications for grid applications," said Barry Mather, group manager for Integrated Devices and Systems in NREL'S Power Systems Engineering Center. "We have also provided a means for utilities to further evaluate the performance of wireless communications in grid applications as utilities look to modernize their grids to meet decarbonization goals."

Both phases of the project tested the performance of private LTE over 900 MHz spectrum. In Phase I, NREL tested a single use case (direct transfer trip of a solar invertor) in seven different wireless scenarios; the Phase II work was an extension of the NREL Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) Test Bed program and focused on a peak load management use case involving a dynamic voltage regulation (DVR) application and, in three of the six scenarios, a distributed energy resource management system (DERMS). 

"As utilities are increasingly attracted to the cost, scalability, and flexibility benefits of wireless broadband communications to support grid modernization efforts, NREL has performed a valuable service by demonstrating that 900 MHz private networks built on LTE — a state-of-the-art worldwide standard — can meet real-world utility use cases for distribution grid protection," said Carlos L'Abbate, Anterix's chief technology officer. "It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with the great team at NREL since this project started three years ago, and we look forward to continuing that relationship and helping NREL pave the way to a cleaner, more resilient grid."

The project has benefited from advice and insight provided by its Industry Advisory Board (IAB) comprised of six leading utilities that provide service across 18 states, as well as former DOE's chief technology officer, Pete Tseronis. The six utility members of the IAB include: Consumers Energy, Duke Energy, Evergy, Eversource Energy, Holy Cross Energy and Xcel Energy. IAB members have shared guidance on use case selection, helped define test scenarios that reflect the respective member's operational environment, and participated in planned laboratory demonstrations of the combined LTE network and ADMS Testbed system. 

The report providing results for both phases of the study is available here.

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