The Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is Austria’s largest research and technology organisation. The main research areas of AIT are energy, mobility systems, low-emission transport, health and bio resources, digital safety and security, vision, automation and control, and technology experience, all paired with competence in the area of innovation systems and policy.

Location: Vienna, Austria

AIT SmartEST Laboratory – unique large-scale test and research infrastructure for smart grids and intelligent energy networks

The AIT SmartEST, located in Vienna, Austria, provides a multifunctional research, validation, and testing infrastructure.  With 400 m2 of usable space, the SmartEST (Smart Electricity Systems and Technologies) laboratory has indoor and outdoor test facilities with many different functions and is an outstanding development platform. The infrastructure comprises three configurable laboratory networks that can be operated with a constant output of up to 1000 kW. The equipment includes network simulators, PV simulators, a facility for building island systems, facilities for “power hardware in the loop” simulation (P-HIL) and an environmental test chamber for tests under defined temperature and humidity conditions. The laboratory offers tailored test options for developments and products in the power range up to 1 MVA for the operation of low-voltage components and systems.  With the current expansion of the laboratory, which is scheduled to be completed in mid-2021, extensive tests on direct current (DC) components can also be carried out in the AIT SmartEST laboratory.

The laboratory also serves as a development platform for AIT innovations that will later be transferred to the market. Electrical energy storage systems and their current and future tasks in the transformation of the energy system are currently in demand as technologies. With the application of hardware-in-the-loop (HIL)-methods the AIT Center for Energy supports system operators and manufacturers in performing a wide variety of significant demonstration projects for large storage systems. The AIT Smart Grid Converter is the focal point in the field of power electronics systems. Besides the HIL-based integration of power system components, Information and communication Technology (ICT)/automation approaches, concepts, and developments can be integrated into the whole setup, allowing a comprehensive analysis of smart grid-related topics. The combination of a state-of the-art testing infrastructure with HIL-based simulations (i.e., of the power system and ICT/automation infrastructure) provides cutting-edge testing capabilities for component manufacturers and network operators.

The laboratory includes three configurable three-phase low-voltage grids; a high-bandwidth, programmable power grid simulator; several Photovoltaic (PV) array simulators; and an environmental test chamber for emulating various environmental conditions. This permits the validation and testing of DER-based inverter systems at full power under extreme temperature and humidity conditions and the investigation of their interactions under various power grid conditions. The facility is capable of testing inverters, storage units, grid controllers, and Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units as well as charging stations/supply equipment for electric vehicles in the power range from a few kVA up to 1 MVA.

Designed as a pure low-voltage research and testing environment, all AC buses are rated for operation at voltages of up to 480 V (line to line). The laboratory itself is supplied from the local 20 kV medium-voltage power grid via two independent medium and low-voltage (MV/LV) transformers. The test facility has been used for comprehensive performance testing of DER equipment as well as qualification testing to national and international grid codes and standards based on the extensive range of accreditations held by AIT. Research on procedures for advanced interoperability testing of single as well as multiple DER units under different grid control schemes supports the integration of DERs into a future smart grid through standardized communication and coordination among generators, consumers, and storage units.

Grid interoperability and compliance testing

Since 1995 AIT offers independent grid interoperability and compliance testing of grid connected power conversion equipment, inverters and interface protection devices.  The test-portfolio comprises testing and evaluation according to different international and local standards and codes for residential, commercial and utility scale equipment up to the MW range. Through our accreditations (AIT is accredited according to ISO 17025:2017 by Accreditation Austria and certified to ISO 9001) we ensure consistent compliance with all relevant codes and standards.

Electrical setup and components

  • Grid simulation (3 independent laboratory grids; 2 independent high bandwidth grid simulators – 0-480 V, 800 kVA; 3-phase balance or unbalanced operation; LVRT/FRT testing possibilities)
  • Line impedance emulation (adjustable line impedances for various LV network topologies: meshed, radial or ring network configuration)
  • Adjustable loads for active and reactive power (freely adjustable RLC loads up to 1 MW, 1 MVAr – capacitive and inductive behaviour; individual control possibilities)
  • Environmental simulation (test chamber for performance and accelerated lifetime testing)
  • DC sources (6 independent dynamic PV array simulators: 1500 V, 1500 A, 1100 kVA)
  • DAQ and measurement (multiple high precision power analysers with high acquisition rate; simultaneous sampling of asynchronous multi-domain data input)

Power converter/electronics and applications

  • AIT Smart Grid Converter (power converter building block suitable for AC and DC micro-grid laboratory setups readily available as: PV inverter, battery energy storage converter, battery simulator, EV charging station, AC and DC grid forming converter, active load/sink, grid currents balancer)
  • AIT HIL Controller (power conversion application, digital twin of power converter)
  • AIT Vindobona GPIC Kit (DSP-based general purpose inverter control platform, rapid prototyping and development in power conversion applications, usage with real-time simulator and real power converter possible)

Simulation tools and components

  • Multicore Opal-RT real-time simulator (i.e., eMegaSim)
  • Typhoon HIL real-time simulator
  • MATLAB TPC Target HIL simulation environment
  • PLECS RT-Box real-time simulator
  • Power-HIL and Controller-HIL experiments at full power in a closed control loop
  • General simulation tools: Matlab/Simulink, SimPowerSystems, PSpice/Cadence
  • Network simulation tools: DigSILENT PowerFactory, PSAT
  • Communication network simulator: OMNeT++
  • Powerful simulation cluster for complex and large-scale system simulations
  • Coupling middleware AIT LabLink

ICT/automation tools and components

  • SCADA and automations system (highly customizable laboratory automation system, remote control possibilities of laboratory components, visualization and monitoring)
  • Distributed control approaches: IEC 61499/Eclipse 4diac
  • Communication methods: IEC 61850, Modbus/SunSpec, OPC/OPC-UA, Industrial Ethernet (Ethernet POWERLINK, Modbus/TCP, etc.)
  • Planning methods, interoperability and compatibility, integration: IEC 61970/61968 (CIM)
  • Network information system
  • Cyber-security assessment methods and tools for Smart Grid systems and components
  • Smart metering testing facility

Data Analytics

The AIT SmartEST lab also includes a Data Analytics Lab with a 24 node / 48 CPU / 288 core parallel cluster infrastructure, including 3TB RAM and 100TB distributed storage systems. The scalable network filesystem is based on GlusterFS, a large distributed storage solution for data analytics and other bandwidth intensive tasks. Interconnection is provided via fast high bandwidth networks, based on Infiniband technology. The cluster’s host systems support open virtualization to enable highly flexible processing of parallel applications, making it highly suited to data analytics activities. Various open source stacks for MapReduce (e.g. Hadoop Ecosystem) based data exploration provide high configurability. A Teradata/ASTER commercial database is currently used in conjunction with MapReduce functions that can be realised via open source means (e.g., Python/R/Java), is used for performing MapReduce analytics in research projects with grid data. The high-performance Data Analytic workstations flexibly offer tool support for various applications (e.g. anaconda/R/eclipse/Python) also with ease of access to and working on the various data bases.

The following services are offered (selection):

Smart grid system and DER-oriented expertise and validation/testing activities

  • Integration of DER, standards, national requirements in EU and USA
  • Power Quality (PQ) lab test and field monitoring: impact of DER components including storage on PQ (e.g., harmonics, flicker), impact of PQ disturbances on Distributed Generation (DG) components (e.g., voltage sags, over-voltages)
  • Safety of DER components (research and testing): PV inverters (e.g., DC current, Loss of Main protection) and PV modules
  • Quality and performance of DER components including storage and systems: inverters performance (e.g. efficiency, MPPT efficiency, de-rating), quality and performance control of PV modules, performance assessment of PV systems, online monitoring, mutual interference of multiple DERs in distributed power system
  • Qualification testing and conformity assessment of PV and battery inverters and protection devices according to diverse national standards and recommendations
  • Power converter/electronics application validation
  • Energy storage system validation
  • Electric vehicle supply equipment/charging system validation
  • Smart secondary substation and DER interaction testing

Smart grid simulation/HIL-based and automation application development/testing activities

  • Experimental real-time simulation platform for advanced Power-HIL and Controller-HIL analysis
  • Distributed/coordinated/central voltage control approaches with many distributed generators across a section of network
  • Validation of energy management systems and distribution SCADA
  • Standard-based controller implementation (e.g., IEC 61850/61499, SunSpec)
  • Interoperability and communication testing

Data Analytics Activities

  • Data extraction, loading and transformation into appropriate data structures
  • Data filtering and mining for events and anomalies
  • Descriptive and predictive data analytics, including clustering, prediction and machine learning based model training
  • High performance parallel data processing based on MapReduce
  • Time series analysis, event detection
  • Forecasting and model prediction
  • Visualization, Reporting and interactive exploration techniques
  • Network data and measurement data analysis for e.g. asymmetry, voltage band reserves, topology extraction
  • Communication data analysis, for pattern detection (e.g. topology)
  • Customer data analysis
  • Data fusion with other data sources (e.g. GIS, SAP)

AIT focuses on the key infrastructure issues of the future. The company, employing about 1.400 scientists and research engineers, takes a leading position in the Austrian research and innovation system and a corresponding key role in Europe.

In the field of electricity networks and distributed energy resources AIT’s main expertise is in low and high voltage technology, power quality, safety and reliability analysis. Furthermore, AIT provides an excellent national and international network. It is represented in several technology platforms, namely the National Technology Platform Smart Grids Austria (NTP), the European Technology Platform for Electricity Networks of the Future as well as in DERlab e.V. It is also involved in the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI), the EERA Joint Programmes on Smart Grids and PV and several Implementing Agreements of the International Energy Agency (ISGAN, IEA-PVPS).

All the offered experimental systems included in the AIT SmartEST are in the same building in Vienna, Austria.

For safety reasons, for critical applications, the users are not expected to operate the systems by themselves; even when safety instructions will be provided, tests will be carried out by staff of AIT. For the rest of applications and after ad-hoc training, the user group will have full access to the related facilities for the duration of the stay (with the support of AIT’s researchers and laboratory technicians when necessary). The scheduling of the experiments will be agreed and booked prior to the stay according to the availability of the involved staff and equipment. Administrative documentation for the access (contract, non-disclosure agreement, etc.) will comply with ERIGrid 2.0 common indications.

In addition to the general corporate services (Internet connection, canteen, etc.) and the support and advice on accommodation and transportation to AIT’s infrastructure, the access being offered includes supervision and help of AIT’s staff:

  • As a complement to the pre-access contacts between the user group and AIT, the stay will start with an introductory meeting with a senior researcher for confirming the stay conditions (confidentiality, safety indications), scheduling the activities, explaining the on-site procedures, clarifying the logistics and technical details.
  • Preparatory work: a laboratory technician will assist the users for the installation of the devices, electrical connections, use of the specific instrumentation, preparation of a test procedure (if necessary) on the basis of the users’ requests, and programming of the experimental conditions.
  • AIT’s researchers will support the realisation and follow-up of the experiments.
  • AIT’s researchers will support the results interpretation, data processing and analysis, and test report preparation

In principle, a typical stay of 2-4 weeks is foreseen for a single user group, but this period could be extended depending on the concrete user project. The user group (usually 2-3 persons) can use the infrastructure for the defined time.

Reimbursement of expenses

User expenses for the lab access are paid by ERIGrid (EU H2020 Programme). This includes travels to AIT SmartEST by plane, accommodation, daily subsistence, and daily transportation during the stay.

For the user projects taking place in AIT SmartEST will refund the stay expenses when the stay is finished (or on agreed periods): the user must declare the incurred expenses and present the invoices/receipts to AIT in order to get the refund.

Logical expenses must be made by the user: travels will be made in economy class and conventional hotels (not luxury) or equivalent accommodation will be used.

Remote lab access might be possible but needs to be discussed with the hosting organization.

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