WSU researchers join power grid simulation spanning two continents

By Siddharth Vodna, intern, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture

anurag Srivastava

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University recently took part in a live demonstration that connected eight laboratories across two continents to simulate the global electric power grid.

Anurag Srivastava, associate professor in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was part of a team of researchers in the United States and Europe exploring how to share a diverse set of computing and laboratory resources in a large-scale simulation.

The researchers used the eight connected laboratories to study how to prevent power outages and other disruptions by moving electricity across continents. This parallels a process that utilities currently use on a regional basis.

Grid stability, infrastructure savings 

The simulation, called the Real Time (RT) Super Lab, aims to boost future electric grid stability. If electricity can be moved across the globe rather than within only isolated networks, the researchers hope that the work will someday lead to savings on infrastructure and energy use.

Funded and led by the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, the simulation can be used for many applications which require large-scale, real-time simulation, such as studying how electricity can be routed across a vast global network similar to the Internet. While electricity cannot be moved across continents currently, electric grids in different continents could be connected in the near future to make that happen, said Srivastava.

Understanding disruptions

Anurag Srivastava with smart grid test equipment
Srivastava with smart grid test equipment

Simulations like the RT Super Lab help researchers understand how disruptions can occur and how to prevent them. The researchers also can analyze the impact of new algorithms on a power grid before the grid is actually connected.

“This work can help with better industry level analysis to prepare ourselves to prevent blackouts,” he said.

The project builds on research done by the Idaho National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2015 that connected two laboratories for the first time.

The RT Super Lab project uses more resources and expertise from across several national labs and academic institutions, including from Washington State University’s Smart Grid Demonstration and Research Investigation Lab.

Researchers at WSU’s smart grid lab develop complex algorithms for power system operation and control.

“We all individually have limited resources at our institutions, which is why we wanted to connect all of them to model a much bigger system,” Srivastava said.

Mathematically complex

Along with interconnecting the grid laboratories globally, the researchers also will try to exchange significant measurements between two connected real-time simulators.

The project is very complex mathematically, and the researchers carefully studied how to integrate a variety of data from various sources. The work was so complex, in fact, that the researchers rehearsed 20 to 30 times before the actual demonstration, said Srivastava.

“This is more than computers talking to each other,” said Rob Hovsapian, Idaho National Laboratory’s Power and Energy Systems department manager. “We are developing capabilities for geographically distributed real-time grid simulation with shared assets at INL, other national labs, universities and utilities.”

The researchers hope to simulate more dynamic and complex scenarios in the future with additional funding. In addition to WSU, other participating institutions included Sandia National Laboratory, Colorado State University, RWTH Aachen University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.



  • Tina Hilding, communications director, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, 509-335-5095,