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Overcoming Communication, Distributed Systems, and Simulation Challenges: A Case Study Involving the Protection and Control of the Electric Power Grid Using a Utility Intranet Based on Internet Technology

March 2, 2004

Date: Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004
Time: 11am-12:15pm
Location: Woodward 149

Ken Hopkinson, <hopkik@cs.cornell.edu>
Department of Computer Science, Cornell University

Abstract: My thesis research has drawn upon the fields of simulation, networking, and distributed computing to examine the inherent problems and potential solutions in using Internet technology in real-time environments with a particular focus on the electric power grid. As recent events have dramatized, the electric power grid is under increasing strain as demand for energy increases while the existing transmission infrastructure has remained largely constant. This makes the power grid an attractive target for study for a number of reasons. It is a large real-time system with well-established operating requirements. The power grid is also appealing due to the interest that its constituents have shown in augmenting their infrastructure with communication to improve its operation. Recent standards such as the Utility Communication Architecture (UCA) and research efforts such as the use of Wide Area Measurement Systems (WAMS) in the Western United States are just two major examples of the active interest in the electric power industry for adopting a private Utility Intranet based on Internet technology to improve the efficiency and reliability of the power grid. Early effort has assumed that TCP would be the underpinnings of any solutions due to its widespread adoption without regard to the protocol’s performance in real-time situations. This is a problem representative of a larger issue. The affordability and ubiquitous nature of the Internet makes its protocols and equipment an obvious choice for any undertaking involving communication, but Internet technology has not been created with real-time requirements in mind. In my thesis work, I have focused on four main areas to gain a better understanding of the issues involved in the use of Internet technology in real-time applications and their potential solutions:

  • Creating the simulation tools needed to understand the interaction between communication protocols and protection and control methods.
  • Generating realistic electric power scenarios that benefit from communication.
  • Exploring the performance of both standard protocols and more advanced quality of service (QoS) methods when operating in the presence of realistic background communication traffic in an electric power grid with a Utility Intranet.
  • Constructing and otherwise applying innovative communication technology where it can be used to improve upon that of traditional protocols.
My talk will discuss an overview of the major results the have resulted from these research initiatives and will present potential directions for future work.