Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

INL upgrades test bed to meet smart grid security needs

Steve Rogerson
December 6, 2017

The power grid test bed at the US Department of Energy’s 2300-square-kilometre Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been transitioned to a more adaptive architecture to increase flexibility for testing ideas and technologies that can protect the nation’s energy distribution systems.
The expansion allows full-scale testing of smart grid technologies and components. INL’s test bed was optimised to represent a majority of the nation’s grid voltage distribution systems. This affords utilities, vendors and others more opportunities to partner with INL on research and innovation to protect the grid and enable more resilient power distribution during adverse weather conditions or a cyber-security event.
Essential services such as hospitals and water treatment depend on energy distribution to ensure reliable and continuous operations. As the power grid evolves, becoming more connected and responsive, those smart devices can introduce greater cyber vulnerabilities.
The enhanced test bed supports tests on distributed energy resources and grid scale energy storage technologies. The expansion of capabilities includes robust wireless and fibre optic communications to support real-time sharing results from grid testing between INL’s remote site locations and its Idaho Falls labs.
The DoE’s Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability has worked with INL on this effort to support the need of utilities interested in the secure adoption of smart grid technologies. INL staffs its remote test range with experts in control systems cyber security and wireless communications to enable real-world resilience testing of phenomena that it says most other labs can only model.
INL’s full-scale grid provides opportunities for full-scale research, with its 100km of transmission lines and seven distribution substations. The enhancements at INL provide a more realistic testing opportunity for ideas, devices and systems related to the adoption of a smart grid that uses digital technologies. This supports more reliable, resilient, flexible and efficient energy delivery, while increasing security and economy of a modern distribution system.
The lab works directly with industry, universities and government stakeholders to provide a testing environment that reduces the risks and enables real-world validation and verification of concepts, technologies and systems including new smart grid devices, distribution automation, communications tools, renewable energy components and grid scale energy storage. This supports more reliable, resilient, flexible and efficient energy delivery while increasing security and efficiency of the system.
INL’s location and size make it unique among national labs. When combined with expert power and wireless communications scientists, engineers and field personnel, this provides the latitude and flexibility to examine the real-world impacts of various cyber and physical threats to critical infrastructures at grid-scale in a safe and isolated configuration.
INL is one of the DoE’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of the strategic goal areas of the DoE: nuclear energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the USA’s leading centre for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.