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CURENT, Center for Ultra-Wide-Area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks, is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center that is jointly supported by NSF and the Department of Energy, A collaboration between academia, industry, and national laboratories, CURENT is led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Partner institutions include:

CURENT's Vision

  • A nation-wide or continent-wide transmission grid that is fully monitored and dynamically controlled in real-time for high efficiency, high reliability, low cost, better accommodation of renewable energy sources, full utilization of energy storage, and accommodation of responsive load.

  • A new generation of electric power and energy systems engineering leaders with global perspectives and diverse backgrounds.

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ORNL and CURENT have Successful Project Demo with ARPA-E

On Dec 8th, 2014, Researchers from CURENT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) traveled to Waukesha, WI to test and demonstrate a new type of power flow controller for transmission grid applications.   The demo took place at an SPX Transformer Solutions manufacturing plant.  The team successfully demonstrated continuous impedance control of a 1500 A, 115kV reactor using a special reactor designed by ORNL and SPX, which is controlled by a power electronics converter built locally at ORNL and CURENT.  This research project is sponsored through the ARPA-e GENI program, and recently earned an R&D 100 award.

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Jinjxin Wang, Sheng Zhang and Zhi Li (L to R) in front of the reactor

 

The control of power flow in power systems is a major concern for utilities and system operators. But full power flow control has been prohibitively expensive, requiring large numbers of complicated and costly devices. The magnetic amplifier project has produced the Continuously Variable Series Reactor (CVSR), a simple, magnetic-field-based device for power flow control that has substantial improvements in cost and complexity.

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Basic electromagnetic principle of CVSR

The CVSR operates by adding an additional winding supplied from a DC power source to a traditional iron-core reactor.  By supplying DC current from the power electronics-based DC source, the team was able to demonstrate continuous control, of the reactor impedance by gradually saturating the core.  The team at CURENT is responsible for the power electronics design and control.   This design is quite challenging due to high levels of both active and reactive power required, and minimal opportunity for cooling of the converter.  At the Dec 8th demonstration, the first prototype of the power converter operated successfully up to full AC power flow, and over a wide range of controlled reactor impedance.  Future CURENT work on this project focuses on improved robustness, control, and thermal management of the converter.

The project is led by ORNL Researcher Dr. Aleksandar Dimitrovski. He gave a CURENT seminar on this project in Sept. of 2013. The CURENT team that supported the demo included post docs Sheng Zheng and Jinjxin Wang, Ph.D. student Fei Yang, and faculty members Fred Wang and Daniel Costinett.

 

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