Quanta Technology Develops Synchrophasor Roadmaps and Benefits for Utilities
By Dino Lelic, Ralph Masiello, Yi Hu, and Bryan Gwyn of Quanta Technology
There are many identified potential benefits of synchrophasor technology. However, implementation of the infrastructure and tools to realize these benefits is a work in process. Building a business case for the needed investments has been a challenge up to now. Quanta Technology has developed a methodology for quantifying the benefits of synchrophasor applications in a given environment and using that to develop a short, medium, and long-term roadmap for synchrophasor and applications deployment. Articulating those benefits is important in order to both assess the impact of past investments in the technology, and more importantly, to weigh investments in new projects. The Smart Grid Investment Grants (SGIG) and Smart Grid Demonstration Projects (SGDP) for synchrophasor and communications systems funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 helped many transmission utilities to procure and install modern, production-grade PMUs on an operational scale. Between 2009 and 2014, the federal grants and matching private investments (with 50% or more cost share provided by recipients) helped bring the technology into the mainstream of the electric utility industry across the North American grid, and motivated introduction of the technology worldwide. This increased the demand for production-grade PMUs and synchrophasor data applications. In this period most independent system operators and regional transmission operators for the first time considered the use of synchrophasor data applications.
Initially, most of the benefits were based on qualitative, anecdotal evidence without developing specific numerical metrics for those benefits.
As the SGIG programs approached their completion, many utilities started to look at options for the further advancement of the synchrophasor technology, and how to bring it into the control room. Without the discounts provided through DOE grants in the SGIG projects, a more critical business case approach was necessary, which resulted in a more quantifiable justification of the investment in the technology.
In many regions, the generation mix is changing rapidly, where retirement of coal and nuclear plants gives way to renewables such as wind and solar power. These changes fundamentally affect how the future grid will be planed and operated, particularly since the issues need to be addressed, such as reduced system inertia, variability of wind and solar output, and the introduction of HVDC interconnections, to name a few.
Many of the benefits are difficult to quantify economically, as they serve to mitigate high-impact/low-probability events such as major power system outages, or because the particular benefit is a “foundational” benefit or improvement in operations and planning processes, which contribute to more tangible benefits in market operations or asset management.
The tangible benefits of synchrophasor technology applications can be grouped as follows:
Reliability and Resiliency - Reduced number of outages and customers affected, primarily associated with the “low-probability/high-impact” event avoidance, reductions in unscheduled outages and faster restoration.
Planning and Operations - Improvements due to more accurate models, better situational awareness and the use of grid resources (e.g., renewable and distributed), particularly during dynamic system conditions.
Data Analysis - Faster and more accurate post-event analysis, more efficient use of resources to analyze data, faster restoration, and improved processes to avoid repeat events.
Asset Utilization - Improved monitoring, maintenance, and availability of assets, such as transmission, distributed generation (e.g., inverters at wind farms and interconnectors), faster identification of asset failures.
Markets - Improvement in congestion management and market costs for ancillary services (frequency response services and balancing energy services) and curtailment costs.
Environmental and Policy Benefits - this includes increased delivery and use of renewable generation and a decrease in net carbon emissions.
A less quantifiable benefit would be from the curtailment of costs, if synchrophasor technologies and fast energy storage could result in a new approach to provide relief from curtailment due to N-1 transmission contingencies.
In developing the detailed roadmap, synchrophasor applications are selected based on the business drivers and needs. Applications in turn require a support of the appropriate infrastructure and the development of appropriate processes to enable their operational use. Once all three areas are addressed, the applications will be able to address the drivers and needs, that will result in improved reliability and operational efficiency.
A typical process in preparation of the business case, specifically for addressing benefits, is shown in the following diagram.
Once the benefits are quantified, they need to be prioritized, taking into account the level of importance to a
specific utility (perhaps categorized as a "must-have", good-to-have and nice-to-have), the timeline of
deployment (near-term, mid-term, long-term), and the level of cost/effort (low, medium, high). One
example for prioritization would be a system with transient stability concerns to
focus on applications relating to developing limits, determining operational regimes, and supporting
special reliability functions in protection (special protection schemes). Another example, a system with
long transmission lines, transmission boundaries, integration of HVDC lines, and with high level of wind
integration may be vulnerable to oscillations, such as (inter-area oscillations), and subsynchronous
resonance would need a different set of applications that could detect oscillations from very low
frequency (0.005 – 0.1 Hz) to sub-synchronous oscillations (4-50 Hz), as well as to detect the locations of
It is necessary to take into account the costs of deployment of the technology before further
justifying the investment in the synchrophasor technology acquisition and installation.
There are several cost components, and the major cost drivers as reported in  are, in order of
impact to the total cost: communication infrastructure, security related costs, labor, and
Once the benefits and costs are identified, economic parameters such as benefits-to-costs ratio, net-present
value, and payback can be calculated. A simple example is illustrated below.
- NASPI Technical Report, The Value Proposition for Synchrophasor Technology – Itemizing and Calculating the Benefits from Synchrophasor Technology, October 2015
- “Factors Affecting PMU Installation Costs”, Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, US Department of Energy Report, October 2014
- KEMA, Inc. 2010, Assessment of the Benefits and Costs of Seven PIER-Supported Projects. California Energy Commission. CEC-500-2009-014