Pioneering the way to a sustainable energy future
With demand for electricity expected to grow a third by 2050, our nation's electric infrastructure needs substantial upgrades. Technological advancements that use information technology for greater sensing, communications, and control throughout the power system promise to make the current power infrastructure more effective and offer opportunities to improve overall performance through new, smart transmission, distribution, and generation assets.
PNNL is delivering the science, technology, and leadership to transform our nation's aging power grid into one that is clean, efficient, reliable, and resilient. Focused on the vital needs of the energy infrastructure, we are taking a system-wide approach to grid modernization to help realize the "smart grid" of tomorrow—where energy technology meets information technology through a network architecture as big as the Internet but faster, with unprecedented updates at all levels: generation, transmission, distribution, and end use.
We work in the following areas:
System monitoring and analytic innovations [+ expand/ - collapse]
Bigger picture, better data: Today's operators view system status at SCADA data that is updated every 4 to 6 seconds and rely on simulations of system stability that require 2 to 4 minutes to run. Distribution utilities often rely on customer phone calls to alert them to local outages. PNNL is working on a better way. Through our efforts in the areas of real-time system monitoring and analytic innovations, we are developing tools that use new high speed sensors and simulation devices to revolutionize operating equipment and help the utility industry acquire the control room of the future—where operators see the entire grid at the regional and/or interconnection level, in real time, and where high performance computing and new algorithms enable operators to detect signs of grid failure or compromise before they happen.
To learn more about our work in these areas, see the Energy Processes and Materials Division website, the Electricity Infrastructure & Buildings Division website and the Future Power Grid Initiative websites.
End-use efficiency and demand response [+ expand/ - collapse]
Smart moves on the demand side: Today's electricity suppliers have little ability to manage demand in ways that are more efficient, reliable, or clean. PNNL is making demand an active tool in grid management through our research and development in end-use efficiency and demand response. Advances in sensors, networks, and communications are helping us realize the full potential of a "smart grid" network—a network that enables two-way communication between the supply and demand sides using devices like smart meters and grid-friendly appliances. This will reduce pressure on the supply side and enable reliable grid management, improved demand efficiency, and reduced emissions.
Renewable integration and energy storage [+ expand/ - collapse]
Solving the renewable equation: Wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources hold great promise for reducing our national dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels while meeting increasing energy demands. But first we must find ways to reliably, efficiently, and cost-effectively capture, store, and distribute energy from sources that are, by nature, variable and intermittent. Focusing on renewable integration and energy storage, PNNL is finding ways to integrate large-scale renewable energy sources onto the power grid--solving challenges related to materials for large-scale storage batteries and analyzing technological and economic issues to assess the electric grid's ability to store renewable energy.
Learn more about our work in large-scale energy storage.
Cyber security and interoperability [+ expand/ - collapse]
Protecting our national security: The cyber security of the grid is and will continue to be a critical national security objective as power systems around the globe make increased use of digital sensors and controls. PNNL is protecting the grid through our research in cyber security and interoperability—defining the standards for secure, two-way communication and data exchange that will be critical to protecting the next generation of control systems.