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Energy and Environment

Electricity Infrastructure About

Through research, development, and thought leadership, PNNL's Energy Infrastructure sector is helping prepare our national electric infrastructure for tomorrow's energy needs, pioneering the way to an affordable, clean, reliable, and secure energy future.

Our research and development priorities are:

Bigger picture, better data: Today's operators view system status as data is being updated every 4 to 6 seconds, and they rely on simulations of system stability that require 2 to 4 minutes to run. The industry is evolving to have more responsive elements and larger datasets, which poses challenges in analytical methods. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 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 and respond to 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, the Electricity Infrastructure & Buildings Division, Future Power Grid Initiative, and the EIOC HPC websites.

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. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 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.

To learn more about our work in these areas, see the Energy Processes and Materials and Electricity Infrastructure & Buildings division websites.

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.

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.

To learn more about our work in these areas, see the Energy Processes and Materials and Electricity Infrastructure & Buildings division websites.

From Data to Decisions: The nation's economy and quality of life are closely connected to reliable power grid operation. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working to improve power system performance and transmission reliability by extracting greater value from grid measurements and data. As part of this effort, PNNL provides leadership to the North American SynchroPhasor Initiative (NASPI), a joint effort with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and industry. NASPI's focus on achieving quick, precise measurement of grid operation is helping to provide a view of the grid that identifies stresses and informs corrective actions. PNNL also is developing operational, planning, analysis and validation tools that support the overall aim of enhanced wide-area grid visualization, monitoring and control.

To learn more about our work in these areas, see the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center.

System Architecture

A system architecture is the conceptual model that defines the structure, behavior, and essential limits of a system. An architectural description is a representation of a system whose purpose is to help think about the overall shape of the system, its attributes, and how the parts interact. System architectures are written, composed or specified. The discipline of System Architecture provides the formal principles and methods for writing system architectures.

Grid Architecture

Grid Architecture is the application of system architecture, network theory, and control theory to the electric power grid. A grid architecture is the highest level description of the complete grid, and is a key tool to help understand and define the many complex interactions that exist in present and future grids.

To learn more about our work in this area see the Grid Architecture website.

Energy and Environment

Core Research Areas