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Smarter smart grids

power lines

Smart grids--power grids that adapt to changes in demand and reconfigure as needed to avoid overloads and other problems--can reduce energy costs, help avoid blackouts and deter cyber attacks. They also pose new challenges. A team led by researchers at North Carolina State University, with partners from the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, are using NSF-funded cloud computing resources to analyze smart grid data from thousands of sensors, called phasor measurement units, or PMUs. The PMUs are distributed across the transmission grid and connect a wide range of energy generating plants, including wind turbines and solar panels. This process - which is currently only available using the GENI infrastructure - could someday evolve into the standard method for monitoring and troubleshooting smart grids.

Credit: iStock


showing a buildings and lights

Through ExoGENI, the researchers linked real-time sensor data to on-demand virtual computing resources at ExoGENI nodes across the U.S. Sensors collected as many as 120 data points per second; high-speed networks with guaranteed bandwidth connected the data to computing resources at many sites; each site provisioned a slice of virtual machines, or VMs; and the VMs ran algorithms to analyze and visualize the data in real time.

Credit: iStock


Data flow diagram of smart grid monitoring system using ExoGENI

Data flow diagram of smart grid monitoring system using ExoGENI. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation's Cyber-Physical Systems program, and leverages resources developed through another NSF project called ExoGENI, part of the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI.

Credit: Aranya Chakrabortty, North Carolina State University

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