ABB expands Smart Lab to Support Smart Grids and Cities

May 20, 2015 by Jeff Shepard

A facility for simulating the behavior of grids and electrical systems now integrates and interconnects more components from all ABB divisions, promoting cross-business collaboration and an "Internet of Things, People and Services". The power demands of a hospital, an airport or even a whole city can be simulated inside a single room – that's one of the capabilities offered by ABB's Smart Lab, based at its Medium Voltage power products site in Dalmine, northern Italy. This state-of-the-art facility allows engineers to reproduce the demands of large-scale electricity networks under controlled conditions, helping them identify innovative approaches to managing such networks and aiding smart grid development.

Originally inaugurated in 2012, the lab has now been enhanced after incorporating inputs from customers, research centers, universities and specialists. The “next-generation” Smart Lab was inaugurated on May 19, 2015. The original facility included distribution network components, such as medium and low voltage switchgear, protection relays, current and voltage sensors and related communication devices, as well as the monitoring system to control the network. It now includes components across ABB divisions, offers new simulations and represents more megatrends.

For example, water and gas sensors, SCADA and robotics technology have been added, while new simulations include those for radial and meshed networks, as well as for microgrids. In fact, the lab itself can be considered an example of a microgrid in its own right, which runs on electricity from the rest of the Dalmine site. Here, energy produced by solar panels installed on site is stored in batteries and converted by inverters into the facility's power supply.

Work inside the laboratory can offer solutions for some key trends and issues. These include smart grids, energy efficiency and storage, greater use of renewables, rural electrification, and integration of components and systems, which ABB views as part of the evolving ‘Internet of Things, Services and People’.

A significant cause of change to today’s grid, for example, is the increase in generation from renewable sources. This can be accommodated by the evolution to smarter grids, which are capable of coping with more distributed and intermittent generation, such as that from renewables. Smart grids are highly automated and innovative and offer a significant level of system reliability, flexibility and accessibility.

In addition to supporting the integration of more renewable energy, it is hoped that these intelligent power solutions will help mega-cities address the growing need for reliable power as ABB demonstrates its commitment towards a better world.