Inter-lab collaboration between the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is paving the way for a greener and more resilient power grid – and attracting interest from businesses and government in the process.
The Analysis Laboratory for Synchrophasor and Electrical Energy Technology (ALSETLab) at Rensselaer in collaboration with the Advanced Grid Innovation Lab for Energy (AGILe) at NYPA were recently awarded two large projects from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA).
The projects support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Green New Deal initiative, the nation’s leading clean energy and jobs agenda, which will provide for New York State’s transition to clean energy, spurring the growth of the green economy and mandating New York’s power be 100 percent clean and carbon-free by 2040, one of the most aggressive goals in the U.S.
“New York State has very ambitious green energy goals and integrating renewable energy sources and testing advanced technologies is key to modernizing our electric grid,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA CEO and president. “NYPA is pleased to team up with RPI and NYSERDA to seek new power solutions that will further increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Alicia Barton, president and CEO, NYSERDA, “Developing the technology needed for the statewide economy-wide clean energy transition outlined in Governor Cuomo’s clean energy and climate plan requires the development of disruptive and innovative technologies. These projects will encompass the forward thinking needed to create a reliable, resilient grid of the future that incorporates renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and storage.”
ALSETLab is directed by Luigi Vanfretti, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Rensselaer, and its name (if you read the acronym backwards) pays tribute to his hero, legendary inventor Nikola Tesla. AGILe was established in 2017 by NYPA, in partnership with a number of New York stakeholders, to promote collaborative research that can help modernize and strengthen the state’s electric grid and facilitate development and potential commercialization of new technologies.
“To be able to have a cleaner grid, the prerequisite is to have better monitoring, control and protection,” Vanfretti said. “We are building an infrastructure that could potentially be deployed easily without many years of development and without interoperability problems.”
Vanfretti’s team will support a $550,000 project led by NYPA’s Research, Technology Development and Innovation team and co-funded by NYSERDA, which will harness the power of deep-learning algorithms to develop software capable of identifying and predicting system issues, alerting operators, and recommending possible solutions.
“We will use a lot of simulated data to train machine-learning algorithms,” Vanfretti said. “The recommender system we create will be able to tell you, based on real-time indicators, and thousands of simulations, if we found a similar situation that says that if you apply a certain change you will get an improvement. Just as Netflix recommends shows you would like, this software will recommend actions that will improve the resiliency of the power system.”
A second $480,000 project, led by NYPA in partnership with Vanfretti, aims to develop an interpreter tool that will allow power system modeling and simulation to be shared and understood between multiple simulation software tools and organizations. This will become increasingly necessary as operators look to study and incorporate new technologies, like solar and wind energy, into the existing grid.
More broadly, ALSETLab is creating advanced modeling and simulation technologies for the power grid and collecting data to learn more about how the grid performs. This will allow researchers to develop and test sensors, software, and code that they hope, one day, will interact within a nationwide power grid network.