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Synchrophasor measurements are a type of smart grid technology that can help keep the grid stable and enhance reliability. This technology establishes a virtual firewall between generation and transmission to protect equipment. The units monitor specific properties of electricity in the three-phase alternating current high-voltage power grid (the phases). It uses an extensive communication network to help prevent the kind of grid instabilities that can occur when the system gets out of phase. BPA is one of the first transmission operators to use this technology.

In August of 2010, BPA joined public and private partners throughout the U.S. portion of the Western Interconnection in a Western Electricity Coordinating Council application for Department of Energy (DOE) funding of this smart grid technology. BPA is investing $20 million in the $53.9 million project as its share of participant matching funds. Recovery Act funding will provide an additional $53.9 million.

The Western Interconnection Synchrophasor Project (WISP) is deploying a large scale synchronized phasor measurement system with selected smart grid functions. It will include infrastructure and software applications to improve situational awareness, system-wide modeling, performance analysis and wide-area monitoring and controls for the Western Interconnection. Although the technology is complex, the outcome is simple: equipment gets protected. That helps keep the grid stable and prevents blackouts.