Virginia Tech 5G Testbed Simulates Smart Power Grid

5G on blue background

Virginia Tech Commonwealth Cyber Initiative researchers are simulating a smart grid at the university’s Blacksburg campus via a 5G testbed — of the Virginia Tech Electric Services (VTES) grid.

The researchers are working with campus facilities to simulate how a 5G-enabled Virginia Tech microgrid can integrate new solar panels, store energy for use in a power outage and ward off cyberattacks.

5G Power Grid

The university’s future smart grid will be designed to integrate distributed energy resources, including solar arrays and battery storage systems needing fast, reliable communication for security, monitoring and remote-controlled capabilities.

Supported by the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative in Southwest Virginia, the 5G Power Grid (5GPG) project contributes to the Virginia Tech Climate Action Working Group’s effort to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030 — a goal approved by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in March 2021.

One challenge of such a system, according to the researchers, is that it is vulnerable to cyberattack. Malicious attackers can hack control commands, overload circuits and potentially bring a grid offline. So 5GPG researchers are using the test bed to develop cybersecurity techniques to detect, counter, and track falsified commands.

The 5G testbed includes a cyber system and a physical system. VTES data is fed into three large Real Time Digital Simulator units — the industry standard for high-level, high-performance power grid computing.

“We are modeling Virginia Tech Electric Service as a microgrid with the bandwidth, low latency, and computing power of 5G,” said Chen-Ching Liu, the American Electric Power Professor and director of the Power and Energy Center (PEC) in Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, in a prepared statement. “This is the right playground to develop advanced technology and solve more complex power grid problems.”


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