Analyzing Rolling Blackouts in Real Time

Sunday, February 13, 2011 - 6:00pm

On Wednesday, February 2, 2011, ERCOT found it necessary to initiate rolling blackouts to cope with increased demand due to extremely cold temperatures and numerous unexpected power plant trips. Here on the UT campus the blackouts went unnoticed, as the UT Austin campus is powered by its own power station, but UT ECE Professor Mack Grady was hard at work analyzing real time grid data. On February 7th, Prof. Grady presented his report to the Electric Power Research (EPRI) at their national advisory meeting in New Orleans.

Texas is unique in that most of our state is powered by our own grid. This allows UT researchers the unparalleled opportunity to study large-scale wind integration in a grid with up to 20% wind energy. Here at UT Austin have the only independent synchrophasor monitoring network at any university, thanks to EPRI and Schweitzer Engineering Labs. Nobody else is showing actual data, because it is difficult to obtain and considered proprietary by grid operators.

Here you will find Prof. Grady’s presentation. The last seven pages of the presentation show grid response during the blackout. The electrical data are obtained from three 120V wall outlets – one on ENS 2nd floor, one at McDonald Observatory, and one at U.T. Pan American in the Rio Grande Valley. There are additional monitoring points, including two in Mexico, one in Brazil, two in the Western Grid, one in the Eastern Grid. Schweitzer is gradually placing these monitors at their company offices around the world, reading wall outlets and streaming the measurements, 30 readings per second, to UT ECE researchers over the public Internet.

“Unlike actual grid data, 120V wall outlets do not require non-disclosure agreements! Thus, we are known as the synchrophasor detectives and grid watchdogs,” said Prof. Grady.