Argonne National Laboratory helps ISO-NE system operators prepare for impacts of major winter storm

A “classic” Nor’easter can be anything but routine to the power grid

Nor’easters are a trademark of New England winters but the timing, intensity, and impact of such storms are far from predictable. ISO system operators must be prepared to operate the grid through a wide variety of wintertime scenarios.

This year, scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory studied previous Nor’easters and provided the ISO with a detailed analysis of the potential effects a major winter storm could have on the New England power system.

The ISO used the study to develop a six-hour simulator training scenario for its six teams of system operators. They based the postulated winter storm on the Nor’easter of February 1978, which crippled much of New England with blizzard conditions, extraordinarily heavy snow, high winds, and devastating coastal flooding. This storm remains the benchmark storm for comparison by all subsequent Nor’easters.

Eduardo Sanchez, Lead Business Analyst in the Operational Performance, Training, & Integration team, is pictured third from left with scientists from Argonne National Laboratory.The Argonne team visited ISO New England’s simulation training center for two days in December 2018 to observe first-hand how  system operators would respond to the impacts of events identified in the study, such as substation flooding caused by storm surge, generator outages, transmission line trips, requests for assistance from neighboring areas, communications outages, and other winter storm-related events. As part of its analysis, the Argonne team was also able to calculate expected customer outages, which the ISO then built into the scenario, giving the operators a good sense of how the load curve may actually trend in a storm of this scale.

“The Argonne study helped us truly understand the potential effects of a storm of this magnitude such that we could create a training event that presented our operators with a scenario that they could very likely experience at some point in their careers,” said Stephen George, manager of the ISO’s Operational Performance, Training, & Integration team.

The Argonne team has developed similar studies for other ISOs based on major hurricanes in those regions.

File photo: A system operator looks at the wall board inside ISO New England’s control room.

Inside ISO New England
system operations, winter