From the Field

Fluke Awarded Federal Grant to Establish Smart Grid Technology

Fluke Corp., a manufacturer of handheld electronic test and measurement technology and electrical calibration equipment, will receive $1.4 million in federal stimulus funding, made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to ensure that the Smart Grid is reliable, stable, and ready to accept power from renewable resources, including wind and solar.

Fluke, a division of Danaher Corp., was chosen to create a new calibration technology that will be a catalyst for creating a standard by which electricity flowing into the Smart Grid will be evaluated. The standard will enable the consistent measurement of electricity from all sources, including renewable resources, such as wind and solar. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the area of Measurement Science and Engineering Research to support research in areas deemed of critical national importance.

Why the Smart Grid Needs an Electrical-Measurement Standard

Fluke's new calibration technology will be used to calibrate Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs), a gating technology that measures the health of the electrical power grid. PMUs play a vital role in the deployment of the Smart Grid, measuring and evaluating power flowing into the grid from increasingly diverse sources. Grid distribution centers use this information to determine where and when to send power across transmission lines, leading to more efficient use of energy and lessening the risk of power interruptions and outages. PMUs identify the preconditions that lead to power interruptions.

The U.S.-Canada investigation into the Northeast blackout of 2003, which disrupted power to an estimated 45 million people in eight U.S. states and 10 million people in Ontario, hypothesized that, had a system of PMUs been in place, the grid collapse could have been avoided. According to a recent study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, power interruptions cost the U.S. economy about $79 billion annually, or about one third of what the nation spends on electricity.

Add to this the need for the Smart Grid to carry energy from renewable sources, and there is an even higher potential for future conflicts to occur, putting the U.S. Smart Grid at risk for power interruptions.

“Modernizing the electric grid and improving power-system reliability requires very precise electrical measurements. PMUs provide those. They also allow the grid to utilize energy from renewable resources and increase transmission throughput. At present, the testing and verification method for PMUs is unclear. That's why the Smart Grid needs one measurement standard,” Warren Wong, director of engineering for Fluke Calibration, said. “With a PMU calibrator, we'll have a standard that can be used to uniformly evaluate the proper operation of these devices. That could really minimize the risk of power conditions that lead to blackouts.”

NIST received over 1,300 proposals for the grants; Fluke was one of 27 companies awarded grants in the area of Measurement Science and Engineering Research. Fluke will develop the calibrator over the next 26 months and, as part of the grant, will invest $390,000 of its own money in the development effort.

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