The world of intelligent microgrids and smart grids is rapidly evolving, with new technologies frequently emerging. Integrating “smart” controls into tactical or mobile grids is critical for remote locations that may not have access to utility power. This paper describes research on a process by which a power network topology can be automatically mapped, allowing the control system to identify which equipment is powered by a specific generator. Called the power beacon, this technology is designed to be used in cases where electric subgrids can be joined or split to accommodate power sharing for tactical or emergency power grids.

The power beacon operates by issuing a brief current that can be measured at the generation source. Each load in the power grid is retrofitted with the simple and inexpensive circuitry to create this signal. If the grid configuration changes, an iterative process is used so that the location of each load with respect to its power source can be automatically and rapidly determined.

Research and development of the power beacon evaluated various methods for generating the current pulses. Initial testing of the concept included shaping of the pulse to reduce noise, as well as testing open and closed loop pulse generation with and without feedback. The development also addressed pulse frequency to help mitigate the negative effect the load inductance will have on power beacon operations.

The design process and results from initial testing acted as a proof of concept. Based on the initial results of system testing, modifications were made to handle electrical “noise” coming from the sample power distribution system. The new design integrated a digital filter for noise rejection and increased the current pulse amplitude. These adjustments were tested and indicated significant improvement. The updated power beacon has been installed in a demonstration power distribution system to continue evaluation of viability.

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