Transforming the grid with real-time simulation and hardware-in-the-loop

May 1, 2024

Real-time power system simulation and hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) testing have been transforming the power industry for over 30 years. These tools have revolutionized the way that engineers study power systems and test the control, automation, and protection devices that ensure a secure, reliable, and efficient grid.

RTDS Technologies pioneered the RTDS® Simulator – the world’s first real-time digital power system simulation solution – 30 years ago. Today, it remains the world standard in the technology category, and is used by leading electrical utilities, power system equipment manufacturers, educational institutions, research groups, and consultants worldwide.

Hardware-in-the-loop testing allows power system professionals to de-risk the integration of novel systems, anticipate and mitigate negative interactions, and optimize device performance by connecting real devices to a simulated network. Inverter-based resources and other technologies on the modern grid can create vulnerabilities that conventional modelling and testing processes are blind to. Hardware-in-the-loop testing allows engineers to anticipate these issues, preventing misoperation and negative interactions which may result in outages or damaged equipment. This proven technology is used for testing transmission and distribution protection and automation, renewable energy and distributed generation, HVDC and FACTS, smart grid infrastructure, cybersecurity measures, and more. Testing equipment with a simulated network in the safety (and flexibility) of a laboratory environment means that devices can be subject to a wide range of conditions that are impractical or dangerous to impose on the real grid. Stakeholders can develop confidence in new solutions by seeing real physical devices react to power system conditions in real time.

HIL testing has been used to successfully test a variety of innovations prior to deployment, including but not limited to:

  • De-risking the integration of renewable energy, from both a system-level and low-level perspective. From primary inverter controls to power plant control (PPC) systems, controllers can be tested in detail, including their interoperation with other devices on the grid.
  • Microgrid control testing, at both primary and secondary level.
  • Protection testing from transmission to distribution level – including the first-ever deployment of travelling wave protection with live tripping on a high voltage line.
  • Digital substation testing via IEC 61850 Sampled Values and GOOSE messaging.
  • Wide-area protection and control systems (WAMPAC) and special protection, including centralized remedial action schemes (C-RAS) and system integrity protection systems (SIPS).
  • Cybersecurity testing, including man-in-the-middle and denial-of-service attack simulation.
  • The RTDS Simulator is involved in the vast majority of new high-voltage direct current (HVDC) and flexible AC transmission system (FACTS) projects, enabling functional and dynamic performance testing of HVDC control and protection systems. Utilities use the RTDS Simulator for replica testing of HVDC controls, supporting the commissioning process and providing a platform for ongoing system testing and de-risking of control modifications.

RTDS Technologies recently launched NovaCor® Light – a lightweight alternative to the popular NovaCor series of real-time simulation hardware. Aimed at entry-level projects with options for easy expansion, NovaCor Light improves access to world-class real-time simulation and hardware-in-the-loop testing while maintaining the quality of design, service, and support that the RTDS Simulator is known for worldwide. NovaCor Light provides value without compromising on quality, providing a gateway to innovation in the power industry for institutions who may have faced barriers before.

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