February 27, 2017
Web Feature

Grid Architecture: Building Consensus for Grid Modernization

Multi-national lab team, industry collaborating on tools to address increasingly complex grid


A research team led by power grid experts from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed tools that the electricity industry needs to manage the mounting complexity of the nation’s power grid.

The team includes research partners from several national laboratories as well as a host of industry experts. Recently, the team developed several key products that will help industry decision makers—such as regulators, utilities, and technology developers—develop a consensus for grid modernization and provide a common basis for new investments, technology development, and products and services:

  • A distribution grid communication model that greatly improves flexibility while simultaneously "future-proofing" investments in communication.
  • An architecture glossary to ensure a common language and understanding among stakeholders.
  • A list of architectural views—such as structure drawings, specifications, and component models that describe the forward-looking design of the grid—as well as priorities from industry partners. It also outlines potential impacts to several areas important to the grid, such as physical and cyber security and integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar and wind power or fuel cells.
  • Reference models outlining guidance for high DER grids; structure diagrams for market control mechanisms in high DER grids; and industry structure models for coordination of the independent system operator and high DER distribution operators.

When implemented across the industry, these tools will be instrumental in revealing hidden interactions and technical gaps that could otherwise result in potentially millions of dollars of stranded electricity investments. Future activities include developing advanced architectural tools based on the initial tools developed as well as rolling out the tools to industry.

The three-year, $3-million Grid Architecture project is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, a strategic partnership among the national laboratories to bring together leading experts and resources to collaborate on grid modernization goals under the Grid Modernization Initiative(Offsite link) (GMI). GMI is a comprehensive effort to help shape the future of our nation’s grid and solve the challenges of integrating conventional and renewable sources with energy storage and smart buildings, while ensuring that the grid is resilient and secure to withstand growing cybersecurity and climate challenges. Besides PNNL, members of the Grid Architecture team hail from Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Sandia national laboratories and National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The collaboration also includes an expanding list of industry experts, including electricity giants SGIP, the Electric Power Research Institute, and General Electric. The research is funded by DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Key Capabilities

Published: February 27, 2017