In the last century, the electric power grid has grown from Thomas Edison's system that served one square mile in New York into three highly complex, interconnected systems that serve all of North America. The system was built service territory by service territory, each operated independently and isolated from its neighbors. As the systems grew, operators began cooperating with one another to share resources and tie together pieces of the grid.
In many regards, the system is still operated at the local or regional level without the benefit of information from neighboring systems or tools for overall, integrated planning and operation of the entire system. These weaknesses in the nation's ability to manage and protect the power grid became apparent during the Aug. 14, 2003, East Coast blackout that cost billions of dollars and affected an estimated 50 million people.
Drawing upon its expertise in electricity transmission and distribution, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory completed the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center (EIOC) in June 2006 to provide a real-operations environment for researchers to develop, assess, test and deploy tools for managing the grid.
Located on Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's campus in Richland, Wash., the EIOC was created from feedback received from private utilities, technology vendors and research institutions who shared their views on the challenges and opportunities for the region's power grid. While some projects are regionally focused, such as those related to the Northwest's hydropower system, the results and new technologies developed in the EIOC will be transferable across the industry and address the national need to better manage and control the grid.