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Smart Grid Interoperability Testbed Facility


NIST is charged by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) with facilitation of interoperability standards to enable successful implementation of the evolving cyber­physical national electric grid system known as the smart grid (SG).  The Smart Grid Testbed Facility will create a unique set of interconnected and interacting labs in several key measurement areas—contiguously located on the NIST Gaithersburg site—that will accelerate the development of SG interoperability standards by providing a combined testbed platform for system measurements, characterization of smart grid protocols, and validation of SG standards, with particular emphasis on microgrids.  (A microgrid is defined as a subset of the grid which has the capability of being quickly disconnected from, and functioning independently of, the larger grid.)  Measurements will include eight areas: power conditioning, synchrophasor metrology, cybersecurity, precision time synchronization, electric power metering, modeling/evaluation of SG communications, sensor interfaces, and energy storage.  The testbed will serve as a core Smart Grid Program research facility to address measurement needs of the evolving SG  industrial community including the measurement and validation issues, with a long range goal of being part of a fully ­functional campus scale microgrid on the NIST Gaithersburg campus.


Objective - To develop an advanced multi-mode interacting measurement testbed to facilitate implementation, validation, and full characterization of smart grid interoperability standards and smart grid performance, with a particular emphasis on microgrids.

What is the new technical idea? NIST presently lacks laboratory facilities for measurement and research related to the smart grid beyond discrete elements such as phasor measurement unit calibration and time synchronization. The new idea is that an interacting multi-mode measurement and characterization testbed facility will allow measurements necessary for end-to-end and system-level characterization of smart grid performance and interoperability. The long term plan also envisions providing the capability to interconnect to other test beds inside and outside of NIST to enhance research capabilities. Eventually the testbed will allow for the full characterization of a future NIST campus scale microgrid.     

While there are a number of smart grid laboratories in the United States, none exist as fully integrated facilities that can address all measurement-related issues of smart grids (and smart microgrids) in an environment specifically dedicated to the advancement of measurement science. Accordingly, this is an area where NIST can play a unique role, and be of great service to both consumers and the electric power industrial sector, as it brings together capabilities of several NIST laboratories that are presently investigating some of the measurement problems of the grid.   

The NIST SG Testbed Facility will address the need for accurate measurement and secure communications in the U.S. smart grid, including smart microgrids. Specifically, the SG Testbed will:  

1) Enable NIST to empirically address measurement science challenges relating to smart grid performance and interoperability not being adequately addressed by industry and universities, including (but not limited to)″

  • Microgrid- and residential-size power conditioning measurements
  • Synchrophasor measurements
  • Cybersecurity for the grid
  • Precision timing for the grid
  • Electric power metering accuracy
  • Communication system characterization/modeling/reliability
  • Sensor interface reliability
  • Storage metrology and characterization

2) Enhance NIST's capability to maintain a leading smart grid experimental research role. The SG Testbed Facility will address the present status of inadequate measurement science as the electric grid evolves from a primarily (and historically) physical regime to an advanced cyber-physical regime. The testbed's development is necessary to enable and support research into new cyber-physical functionality to analyze and optimize system-level operations and control technologies, increase wide area situational awareness in transmission and distribution systems, characterize performance of distributed energy resources (including widespread renewables) and microgrids, and integrate automated demand-side energy management.

What is the research plan? Backbone approach for the various labs (modules), will constitute an integrated response to the challenge of developing a broad spectrum of interoperability measurements and full characterization of SG performance. This approach is advantageous because of the subsequent improvement in measurement sophistication that could not otherwise be achieved in the present disjoint non-integrated lab environment. As an example, consider the problem of the characterization of a very large grid-tied photovoltaic array supporting battery storage to augment peak load demand. Such a problem might require direct inputs from sensors including phasor measurement units and meters as well as simulated loads—a measurement environment that could be provided by the NIST SG Testbed with its various labs communicating with each other in real-time.

The plan is to sequentially design and install lab capabilities that will implement the measurement requirements discussed above. The testbed labs will be created in ten contiguous spaces in an EL assigned area in the basement of Building 220. The labs will be integrated into an interactive unit through shared data and power trays and fiber optic interconnection. There will also be a dedicated conference room in the same corridor as the labs, thereby allowing convenient discussion with visitors and guest researchers. (Note: in some associated documents, the term "module" is used in place of "lab".)

The testbed will have a total of eight labs supporting dedicated NIST measurement science projects. Note that the Power Conditioning and Cyber Security labs each take up two-room spaces. However, if space is available, a ninth lab might be reserved to meet unanticipated and changing needs, and could serve as work space for a senior guest academic researcher. The integrated Testbed will be equipped with data and power cable trays that run through all ten contiguous spaces 220/A013 through 220/A031.

In a future phase (by end of CY15), fully consistent with NIST's core mission and its charge under 2007 EISA, the integrated testbed will also serve as an on-going permanent resource to the electric power industrial sector for smart grid standards validation and development of advanced smart grid measurements suggested by the evolution of the grid. The testbed will implement network communication by way of a home microgrid protocol and the Building Automation and Controls Network (BACnet) data protocol. BACnet was developed by a NIST-industry collaboration, and is widely deployed in the commercial sector and on the NIST campus for building automation and control networks. The testbed will involve approximately 15 NIST personnel already working on related topics with the Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office, and involved in Smart Grid Interoperability Panel 2.0, Inc. activities.