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A Second Retrospective

By R. Austria, R. Tapia, K. Dartawan, M. Gutierrez, M. Infantado

For a company to have made it through its 14th year is not much to crow about. After all, businesses do this all the time. For a boutique consulting company such as Pterra, we would not crow about this either, not about the fact that the company celebrated its 14th year of incorporation on June 29th, 2018.  But we would be remiss if we said we had nothing to be thankful about, for the weight of these past 14 years is carried in terms of good memories, tough challenges and the enlightening fellowship of colleagues, friends and families all of which were intrinsic to the Pterra mosaic.

We did write a review of our first 7 years (see An Anniversary) and promised to do another in 7 more years. And we are already here, almost in the blink of an eye.

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The PTI Song

Click here to play: PTI


PTI, we sing to thee, scene of peace and harmony; Watch the mind of each PE, spouting forth technology; We will toil from dawn til night that our brethren may delight; In a life of wealth and luxury, in a life of wealth and luxury

As you all can plainly see we have grave responsibility; In our role supervisory making corporate policy; Yet despite this awesome charge we must yet our jobs enlarge; Doing work upon computer keys, doing work upon computer keys

See the rich TAG retirees, engineers we also please; Money goes to employees like it grew on Christmas trees; Precious left for we PEs, there is not to us appease; In our life of pain and misery, in our life of pain and misery!

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The Future of Transient Analysis is Bright

Yes, or at least, it’s brightening.
We make this bold observation after attending the 2012 users’ group meeting for the PSCAD/EMTDC software, held March 27-20 at a little gem of a coastal town named Castelldefels in Spain. About 60 participants (eyeball count) from universities, manufacturers, utilities, sysops, sales reps and consultants gathered together for techno-talk on the decidedly geeky subject of power system transients and PSCAD applications.

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On Engineering Software

As an analytical consulting firm, Pterra regularly uses about half a dozen engineering software, and about the same number on an occasional basis, to be able to conduct its services. The software are necessary to be able to simulate complex physics and market conditions and/or large scale databases. In addition, we try to use the same software that our clients use so that part of our deliverable is an updated system model or database.

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An Anniversary

Yesterday was the 7th anniversary of the founding of Pterra, LLC.   The original team of 5 who started this journey remain, with some worthy additions.   All have grown somewhat older, hopefully wiser, and after all the contingencies encountered through the years, more resilient and united as ever.

Our core competencies remain the same: power engineering analysis, new technologies, modeling and simulation.   But service applications have grown, from the initial focus on transmission planning and interconnection of new generation, Pterra now offers distributed generation studies, solar photovoltaic and wind power modeling, applications training, assessment for high voltage direct current transmission, expert witness, among others.

No seven-year itch here.   Just some wistful reminiscing and cautionary tales for the next 70 years.   Overall, one can say that it is possible to follow the dream, to have a workplace adopted to family, health, faith, other life situations.   Or, to use an electric power analogy: to be like a lightning arrester, withstanding the normal and continuous challenges and allow all other extraordinary surges to flow.

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Report from the 2011 PSLF Users’ Group Meeting

by Ric Austria

If only for this one new feature, the trip to attend the meeting (held April 28-29 in sunny Orlando, Florida) was worth it. The new feature is …
PSLF now allows “continuous” tap solutions for phase angle regulators, or PARs. Why does this matter? It matters a lot to those who work in the U.S. Eastern Interconnection (EIC) where most utilities use the competing software package, PSS/E.

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Lights Out at Copacabana

Itaipu Hydro-electric Damby R. Austria

On Nov 10, 2009, a massive power failure blacked out Brazil’s two largest cities and other parts of Latin America’s biggest nation leaving millions of people in the dark. Transmission connecting the large Itaipu dam to Brazil and Paraguay apparently tripped disconnecting some 17,000 megawatts of power. I was on Copacabana Beach years ago for a training course and can only imagine the disruption that the outage may have caused. A blackout in a major city is not a fun time.

But blackouts are interesting to study. More often than not, the initiating cause is something innocuous, such as the infamous overgrown trees in the 2003 Northeastern US-Canada blackout. (An announcement just came out that the 2007 Brazil blackout that was blamed on hackers was due to sooty insulators!) So when the news report says, “A storm near the hydro dam apparently uprooted some trees that caused the blackout,” I am inclined to consider that the trees hit some transmission lines which could have led to the isolation of Itaipu. That’s not so far-fetched. You never know what a failure-bunching event such as the major storm that hit Itaipu could do to redundancy and good planning practice. Reliability is only as good as the next blackout!

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Two Views of Power System Reliability

A science fiction writer once tried to sell the idea of a trip inside the sun as an “opportunity to view sunspots from behind.”  It may not be comfortable, but the observations would be unique and would undoubtedly contribute to a better understanding of the phenomena.  In a more practical sense, being able to examine complex structures from different vantage points — inside and outside, or close-up and from a distance — makes new insight possible, and hopefully, better understanding.

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Open Source or Proprietary Data: the Model Dilemma

Data creep is an ugly name for a common practice, that of adding special models to community databases.  This is no less prevalent in databases of interconnected grids.  In the Eastern Interconnection, a planning database will contain on the order of 70,000 buses and 30,000 dynamic models, representing everything from Florida to the Texas panhandle, from Idaho to New Brunswick, at voltage levels from 34.5 to 765 kV. Whether we need all the data for any specific analysis is moot, however, frequently studies will carry the full dataset regardless that the focus is on localized
phenomena. Equivalents or reduced models were necessary in the past when computers had memory restrictions and low speed performance. Nowadays, reduced models may be justified for the sake of simplicity and convenience as long as accuracy is not compromised.

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