NRECA’s Work With Cobb EMC Earns Global Award for Microgrid Reliability Software

NRECA, Cobb EMC and three national laboratories have won global recognition for their work on microgrid control modeling software that can boost grid reliability by using distributed assets to mitigate power outages.

R&D World recently selected the PowerModelsONM tool for a 2023 R&D 100 award, a worldwide science competition judged by 45 industry professionals.

PowerModelsONM development was led by Los Alamos National Laboratory with contributions from NRECA, Cobb EMC in Marietta, Georgia, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

The software helps distribution operators evaluate a grid’s resilience against extreme events and plan for recovery and restoration using every asset available—distribution automation, microgrids, and other distributed generators and controls.

“We appreciate the honor from R&D World and enjoyed collaborating with the national laboratories and Cobb EMC,” said David Pinney, NRECA principal for analytical tools and software products.

“We look forward to being a resource for co-ops that apply this tool to microgrids as they plan for challenges to a reliable grid.”

Cobb EMC provided a network model for a microgrid system where lab researchers could test the software. NRECA calculated the costs and benefits of the outage reduction, visualized the control action results, and integrated the tool with widely used cooperative grid-planning software.

“PowerModelsONM has the potential to be a very useful tool for any electric utility planning to develop single or networked microgrids integrating diverse distributed energy resources,” said Manish Murudkar, Cobb EMC’s director of DER strategy.

In a worst-case scenario such as the loss of a feeder, the PowerModelsONM system can help distribution operators call on all available DERs to restore power.

“This approach can significantly enhance the reliability of the system in various fault scenarios or line disturbances, ensuring that members receive a more dependable supply of electricity,” Murudkar said.

The project team conducted “hardware-in-the-loop” testing, which validated the software results against detailed grid models and real microgrid hardware.

“This allows engineers to thoroughly understand the performance of the inverters and the overall system prior to its deployment in the actual field environment,” Murudkar said.

“That will save utilities a significant amount of time and money because testing a microgrid is a challenging task. Simulation testing will simplify that challenging task.”

Cobb EMC began operating a microgrid in September 2022 at its headquarters. The system can function in both grid-connected and island modes. It comprises a 1.5-megawatt solar array, a 1-MW/4-megawatt-hour battery energy storage system, and a 1-MW natural gas generator.

“The award is really exciting news,” said Tim Jarrell, the co-op’s vice president of power supply rates and DER strategy. “We are thrilled about this award and the opportunity to work on such an innovative project.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA.