Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Improving Operator Situational Awareness by Phasor Measurement Unit (PMU) Data Visualization

funded by the Rochester Institute of Technology

researchers: Thomas J. Overbye and Komal S. Shetye

Operators in electric power system control centers serve a critical role in ensuring the integrity of the nation’s electric grid and in preventing disruptions (e.g., blackouts) to the supply of electric power at any time, for any reason. The enormity and complexity of the grid itself is mind-boggling. However, recent advances in both display technology and measurement of various aspects of the grid have made display of truly dynamic system data both possible and affordable.

The application of phasor measurement unit (PMU) data in the power industry is currently an area of intense interest. The key driver for PMU technology is use of the precise time sources provided by Global Positioning System satellites to accurately measure the relative voltage and current phase angles at buses across an interconnect. Presenting PMU data to power system operators in a format that is truly useful for them and that affords improved situation awareness and fast and accurate decision-making is a different problem, however.

The main objectives of this research are (1) to perform a thorough Cognitive Work Analysis on power system operators to identify their information needs and uses, (2) to develop visual displays of PMU data that directly support operators’ situation awareness and decision-making, (3) to empirically test and validate the displays to demonstrate improvement in operator performance with the aid of the new PMU data displays, and (4) to provide the Bonneville Power Administration with human factors guidelines for evaluation of all future visualization solutions. Cognitive Work Analysis is seamlessly integrated into a display development technique known as Ecological Interface Design. It therefore allows for analysis, display development, and evaluation of the new displays to be performed within the same, holistic, and user-centered framework.