Alex McEachern, founder of Power Standards Lab (PSL) and holder of some 30 patents, knows the exact instant a large bird dragged a dead rat across a distribution line insulator in Los Angeles a few years ago. The event caused a huge arc through the rat’s body and was visible in data generated by micro-phasor measurement units (micro-PMUs) McEachern and his team designed as part of a project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
Luck was with the ARPA-E research team that day, as a lineman verified the cause of the disturbance detected via the micro-PMUs miles away. PMUs have been widely deployed in U.S. transmission grids. Now, they’re starting to appear on the distribution system as well. Ultimately, researchers think these instruments will facilitate higher densities of distributed energy resources (DERs) on distribution grids.
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