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Researching Low Cost Sensors

The integration of distributed energy resources such as solar photovoltaics, combustion engines, and energy storage systems offers important benefits, including energy and economic savings, reduced system losses, improved resilience and power quality, and greater customer participation. The existing grid, however, was not designed to coordinate and safely manage large numbers of DERs. Traditional utility data acquisition and monitoring systems are ill-equipped to gain real-time visibility of DERs because these systems typically do not extend beyond substations, are unable to acquire measurements on DER performance, and were not designed to handle real-time processing of large volumes of data.

As part of the Energy Department's commitment to a reliable and resilient power grid, the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is investing nearly $10 million in early stage research intended to help utilities make more informed decisions about - and expand the deployment of - distributed energy resources (DERs) onto the grid.

These four projects were selected for funding in 2017:

Transformer Real-time Assessment iNtelligent System with Embedded Network of Sensors and Optical Readout

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and its research partners will develop, prototype, and demonstrate TRANSENSOR, an innovative, low-cost optically-based monitoring system that will increase the capacity of grid infrastructure to accommodate accelerating the integration of DER.

Sensing Electrical Networks Securely and Economically (SENSE)

Georgia Tech Research Corp. and its partners will develop and demonstrate a low-cost sensor network for monitoring the health of distribution transformers. The sensors will be capable of measuring voltage, current and temperature. This technology will be able to be used with capacitor banks, reclosers and fuses.

Sensors with Intelligent Measurement Platform and Low-cost Equipment (SIMPLE™)

COMED and its research partners will develop voltage/current sensors with enhanced accuracy, bandwidth and harmonic range and high measurement granularity for medium voltage distribution system monitoring, protection and controls. This technology will be well suited for applications such as voltage sensing and regulation, frequency support, fault detection and location, distribution system state estimation, and electrical distribution network topology processing.

Advanced Intelligent Sensor Development and Demonstration for Future Distribution Systems with High Penetration DERs

The University of Texas at Austin and its research partners will leverage existing and emerging sensor measurements to enhance data-driven observability and develop robust estimation and identification techniques to enable real-time grid-wise monitoring and modeling of loads and distributed energy resources.