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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

Visualizing Real-Time Security Threats

Using Hybrid SCADA / PMU Measurement Displays

Ray Klump, Ph.D. Robert E. Wilson, Ph.D. Kenneth E. Martin

Lewis University & Western Area Power Bonneville Power
PowerWorld Corporation Administration Administration

Abstract report data at much shorter intervals. Together, SCADA

measurements and PMUs can help identify trends in and
This paper explores ways to highlight threats to power threats to the steady-state and transient health of the grid.
system security by displaying data from phasor Table 1. System data source examples
measurement units (PMUs) and SCADA data sources
simultaneously. SCADA measurements provide a picture System Control - Node voltage magnitudes
of the steady-state health of the system, whereas PMUs and Data - Branch flow magnitudes
capture the faster variations that may indicate small- Acquisition (MW, MVAr, MVA, current)
signal stability problems. The software system described (SCADA)
in this system gathers SCADA and PMU data and displays
them on a geographic map of the system. The system uses Phasor - Standardized frequency
contour plots to show the variation of a measurement with Measurement - Node voltage magnitudes
location, even when adjacent measurement points are Unit (PMU) - Node voltage phase angles
widely spread. The system superimposes trend plots on - Branch flow magnitudes and
this display to show the past variation of a quantity over a angles (MW, MVR, MVA,
user-specified time window. The goal of the system is to current)
help operators gauge the present security of the grid.
Planning and - Planned and existing
Operations generation and transmission
1. Introduction outages (for example, from
Describing the operation of an electric power system - Maintenance log
requires access to a variety of data sources. Table 1 lists - Equipment operating limits
just some examples of data that help capture the security - Equipment ratings
and economics of the system. Many of these data are of - Load forecasts
interest not only for the present point in time but also over
an extended interval so that trends may be detected. To Transactions - Historical LMPs
make sense of all these data, system operators need - Future pricing
software that will help them infer the meaning of the data - Price forecasts
and to discern their interrelationships. Much work has - Transmission reservations
been done on the visualization of power system data; (for example, from NERC
references [1] through [13] offer a few examples. The Interchange Transaction Tags)
purpose of this paper is to explore the use of one of the - Energy sales and purchases
newest of these data sources, the data furnished by phasor - Transmission Loading Relief
measurement units, with other data available from sources incidents
such as SCADA, in an integrated platform for monitoring
the state of the system in real time. Weather - Temperatures (actual
SCADA data sources provide a comprehensive record predicted)
of system conditions but at a relatively slow refresh rate. - Jet stream patterns
Phasor measurement units are positioned at relatively few - Humidities
locations spread throughout the system but gather and - Weather fronts
- Forecasts

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

2. Phasor Data Systems

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has made sub-
microsecond timekeeping in industrial environments
practical and affordable. With such precise timekeeping,
the difference between voltage phase angles at widely
separated substations can be measured. In addition, GPS
offers the means to reference power system frequency
measurements to the same very precise frequency
standard. The system used to measure these complex
values is called a phasor data system.
Phasor measurement is a process that derives positive-
sequence, fundamental frequency phasors from voltage or
current waveforms [14]. Phasors are used in discrete
control systems like the Wide-Area stability and voltage
Control System (WACS) [15], [16]. Reference [17]
demonstrates the relationship between a voltage signal and
its corresponding phasor representation. Phasor Figure 2. PMUs in the Western United States
Measurement Units (PMUs) currently in use sample three-
phase power line waveforms at 720 Hz or higher. They
compute phasors from these digital samples using a Where possible, PMUs are equipped with enough
Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT), and combine the three channels to measure all significant bus voltages and line
phases into a single positive sequence value. The DFT currents at the station. Typically, the units are distributed
computation is referenced to Coordinated Universal Time throughout the power system to provide coverage of
(UTC), as derived from GPS. system dynamic behavior. The PDC is located at the
The PMU sends these phasor data along with a time control (dispatch) center and correlates the data by time
stamp to a Phasor Data Concentrator (PDC) in real time at tag to create a system-wide measurement. The PDC
a data rate of 30 measurements per second. Figure 1 monitors the overall system operation, records files of data
provides a block diagram of a particular phasor during disturbances, and exports these combined
measurement system [17]. PMUs are located at a number measurements in real-time to other applications. The PDC
of substations throughout the system to provide adequate may also perform calculations on the data, applying
coverage of the monitored area. For example, Figure 2 scaling factors to convert PMU measurements to power
shows the locations of PMUs in the Western half of the system quantities such as volts and amperes.
United States. The industry is currently quite active in installing and
implementing phasor measurement systems throughout the
• PMUs at substations make measurements
North American grid. The Bonneville Power
• Data sent in real time to phasor data concentrator (PDC) Administration-Western Electricity Coordinating Council
• PDC sends data to applications, stores disturbance data, manages (BPA-WECC) Phasor Measurement Network covers the
measurement system
region shown in Figure 2, and it has worked with
• Applications include monitors, recorders, alarms, and controls
colleagues from the Eastern Interconnect Phasor Project
Analysis - (EIPP), which has been installing phasor measurement
Matlab or other
PMU disc Data stream- equipment in the Eastern Interconnect. The goal of this
to other
applications work is to measure and display frequency and phase angle
Data throughout the North American grid.
Concentrator SCADA Monitor/
PMU disc
Master record
3. Integration of PMU Data with Software
PMU Phasor Measurements
Data from other Utility - A challenge that currently faces the industry regarding
PMU Concentrator PDC data exchange
the integration of phasor measurement units is how to
interface data concentrators made by different
Figure 1. Phasor measurement system organizations and vendors. Efforts are under way to
ensure that the PDCs used to consolidate PMU data at
different installations can communicate data with each
other and with applications designed to display their
measurements. From an application software perspective,
the ideal situation may be that all PMU data is

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

consolidated by a single PDC so that inconsistencies

between different models’ scaling practices and reporting
formats become irrelevant, and so that the applications can
spend less time trying to establish and maintain separate
connections. It is conceivable that the PDC of one system
could transmit its content to the central PDC, passing it
through a converter if necessary. With all data passing
into the central PDC, software applications could display
angle, voltage, and frequency information throughout the
grid. Work continues on this front.
PMUs gather measurements so quickly that they appear
OPC Server
to publish a continuous stream of data to the PDC. PDCs
provide a time-stamped log of this stream. Visualization
applications, which communicate with the PDC, capture
snapshots of these data at a slower pace and present them
to the user at regular intervals. At any given instant, the OPC Client 1 OPC Client 2 ... OPC Client m

user sees the state of the system frozen at that point. For
the application to be able to accomplish this, there must be
Clients may include visualization tools, spreadsheets, databases,
some means of taking the rapidly updated content of the and any other application that complies to OPC standards.

PDC and extracting from it either the latest snapshot of

each data point or a picture of the system at some previous Figure 3. Architecture of OPC-based interface
point in time. In other words, the system needs to employ
an archive utility between the Analysis block and the PDC 4. SCADA + PMU Display Details
in Figure 1 that extracts snapshots from the PDC data as
requested by client analysis applications. Depending on The rapid frequency with which PMU data is collected
the technology employed by the PDC, the archiver may contrasts with the relatively slow frequency at which
take several different forms. The authors have worked on remote terminal units report data collected by SCADA
a project that extracted data from the PDC and wrote it to devices. One of the reasons to measure and display phase
flat files that the display application could read and angles is to capture transient instability incidents, which
illustrate. typically occur within ten seconds after an event, but may
An interesting approach to interfacing PDC data with occur on sub-second intervals. Thus, it is important that
external applications and with other PDCs utilizes a the software be able receive and display PMU data at a
technology called OLE for Process Control, or OPC. refresh rate that allows it to capture the phenomena that
Reference [18] provides a good deal of information about PMUs are designed to monitor. This means that the
OPC, including links to other OPC resources. The purpose software must be able to query multiple data sources, each
of OPC is to standardize how data collection and at a different refresh rate. Rapid refresh of the displays
automation devices can be connected to each other and to requires somewhat clever software design. The data must
human-machine interfaces. Thus, it is a set of standards, be indexed efficiently so that the datum corresponding to a
similar in spirit to the ODBC standard that enables particular display field may be populated quickly.
applications to communicate with databases from different Of course, phase angles change at a frequency of 60Hz.
vendors. Some PDCs are able to output an OPC- Displaying phase angle measurements directly will result
compliant data stream. These devices thus serve as OPC in a picture which changes at the frequency of the system.
Servers. OPC clients, which may be another PDC, a Such a mercurial display will hold little value for the user.
display application, or a bridge to an ODBC database, can To address this problem, a node must be identified to serve
then collect and use these data. Figure 3 illustrates the as the angular reference. The phase angle of any node,
architecture of the OPC system. The appeal of the OPC then, will be displayed as the phase angle measured by the
approach is that it might provide the uniformity the PMU minus the phase of the reference node. The angle of
industry seeks as it attempts to expand the use of PMUs the reference node will be fixed at 0, and the angles of the
throughout the system. other nodes will normally show only very small changes
about some center value, provided the system remains
synchronized. If the system separates, the node angles
will start to vary wildly, as parts of the system begin to
swing against other parts. An implementation detail that is
easy to overlook is that, in the subtraction that yields a
node’s angle with respect to the reference, the node’s
angle and its associated reference angle must correspond

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

to the same point in time. Otherwise, the node’s angle will voltage stability issues. The software should be able to
be shown incorrectly. Thus, an angle measurement reveal both types of maladies.
shouldn’t be updated unless the raw measurement and the
associated reference have the same timestamp. 5. Types of Displays
Because measurements may fail occasionally, the
software must permit the reference node to be reassigned Table 1 provided just a few examples of the types of
to a different location. If the PMU reports a quality flag, data a display platform might be able to access. With so
the software may detect a problem at the current reference much data available to be shown, choosing the proper
automatically and simply select a different node that has a types of displays and their content becomes a very
valid quality flag as reference. If the PMU does not report important task. Now that the retrieval of phasor
quality information, the software must allow the user to measurements has been discussed, it is important to
select the reference node manually. appreciate the diversity of displays that exist and to
When PMU data and SCADA data are available for the understand the benefits a geographical display can
same system, it is possible to check the validity of the two provide.
data sets by comparing their values with each other. For Historically, power system maps haven’t attempted to
example, branch flow magnitudes are usually monitored capture the relative locations of the measurements they try
by SCADA. If both of the branch’s terminals are to show. There are a number of reasons for this. In terms
monitored by PMUs, the voltage magnitude and phase will of technology, if one considers the physical wall boards
be available at both ends. If the impedance of the branch that have been used for several decades, it would be
between nodes k and m is known, then the power flow impractical and wasteful to have the board reflect the
equations can be used to compute the real and reactive distances between metering sites to scale, especially if
power flow on the branch. some points are very close to each other while others are
Pk = VkVm [Gkm cos(δ k − δ m ) + Bkm sin (δ k − δ m )] rather remote. Furthermore, the view port of such
Qk = VkVm [Gkm sin (δ k − δ m ) − Bkm cos(δ k − δ m )] displays, and even of many existing electronic displays, is
These calculated values may be compared with the values fixed, which means that the amount of detail shown cannot
measured by SCADA. If the two values are significantly be changed. The user may not zoom in and out to reveal
different, the software should highlight the component as the level of detail they seek. Some electronic displays
having potentially incorrect metering. compensate for this shortcoming by allowing the user to
In depicting the current state of the system, the click on a point of interest to open an associated display
software must stress flexibility. Although much work has that shows additional detail in the vicinity of that point.
been done on estimating the reliability of electric power However, it is still not possible to inspect the more
systems that take into account thermal, voltage, and detailed view in the context of its broader neighborhood.
transient limitations (references [19] through [21] provide Modern displays, however, relax the restriction of
a few examples), such estimates must be tailored to the having a fixed view port. The user may increase and
particular system, both in terms of system structure and decrease the zoom level of the display to reveal or conceal
operating guidelines. The software must permit users to the details. The visibility of a display object can be
define functions that implement the security measures they defined to depend on the zoom level so that some objects
wish to use, The software must also be able to illustrate don’t appear until the zoom level reaches a certain value.
the variation of these functions on the displays in the same Furthermore, multiple objects may be placed on a display
way that it shows the variation of stock values such as layer. By controlling which display layers are shown and
voltages and angles. The software must provide a which are hidden, one can obtain several different views
convenient interface for system personnel to modify these of a system from a single diagram. This reduces the
functions as well as to select which of several it is to show. amount of effort that must be devoted to creating displays,
Placing these functions on different display layers and since a single display may be used for multiple purposes.
allowing the user to select which layers are active provides It also makes it easier for the user to achieve the view of
a particularly convenient interface for supporting multiple the system he needs, since the visualization tool becomes
views of the system’s reliability. much more flexible.
The reliability of a system is usually demonstrated not Of course, these concepts are not new. Geographic
only by its current operating point but also by its change information systems (GISs) have used the ideas of
over time. The software must either have access to a zooming and layering for many years. However, their
database of historical data or be able to log data values as introduction to the power system control room has been
it displays them. The data history will enable the software slow. The primary reason for this latency is not a
to display trends in one or more measured quantities and reluctance to embrace new technology, although that may
to highlight large rates of change in them. Large rates of occasionally play a part. There is a more practical reason.
change may reveal transient stability concerns, while The system operator plays a very critical role as the
slowly evolving trends may identify mid- and long-term guardian of the system’s reliability. Some operators have

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

been doing their jobs for several years and are very
familiar with the displays they have used during that time.
Modifying the displays, including changing the locations
of substations or even the colors with which objects are
rendered, may impair the operator’s ability to do his job, at
least in the short term. Hence, adopting a new display
technology can be risky, and that is the primary reason
some have been reluctant to do so.
Nevertheless, geographic displays offer a number of
distinct advantages. A map that displays the relative
locations of system nodes can be used as the background
for a topographic or contour plot that shows the variation
of voltage magnitude, phase angle, load concentration,
generator capacity, or marginal price throughout the
system. A geographic map can highlight the impacts of
transfers from a set of source points to a set of sink points
on transmission paths between the two groups, thus
demonstrating the impact of loop flows on the system. Figure 4. Substation diagram
The same geographic display can be used to show voltage
variation in one instance, pricing information in another,
and temperature or storm front information in yet another,
simply by activating the appropriate display layers. In
summary, geographic views that support zooming and
panning offer operators an unprecedented degree of
flexibility in displaying system conditions and
relationships on a system map.
To ease the transition from non-geographic to
geographic displays, some utilities have crafted their first
“new techonology” displays to mimic existing displays in
layout and appearance. The project described in [11], for
example, took this approach. Once the initial set of
displays have been accepted, it may be easier to gain Figure 5. Associated geographic node view
acceptance for less conventional displays that provide a
geographic or even three-dimensional view of the system.
Some utilities that have adopted newer types of displays utilities that now enjoy access to phasor measurement
have chosen to link old-style displays and geographic data. The data alone hold promise, because real-time
displays so that the user can click on an object on either of phase angle and frequency measurements have not been
these displays to show the related portion of the other. For available before. However, these data must now be
example, in the display shown in Figure 4, if the user presented in a manner that allows users to infer
clicks on the substation object labeled “BOB138,” he will information such as
be shown the scene of Figure 5. Similarly, if he clicks on - the overall direction of power flow
any of the buses that belong to the BOB138 substation in - where a system is at risk of separating
Figure 5, he can view the associated substation display of - whether an open tie line can be reclosed
Figure 4. Establishing links between diagrams is a - the impact of a disturbance on frequency, and the
standard EMS practice. Links can be particularly powerful geographic extent of the impact.
in platforms that support geographic displays, since they A platform that can illustrate system conditions on a
allow such platforms to deliver the “best of both worlds”: geographic map enables users to display this information
standard look-and-feel combined with the flexibility of most effectively.
dynamic geographical views.
The choice of displays can mean the difference 6. Display Examples
between a successful data visualization effort and one that
fails to convey the full meaning of the data. Simply Ultimately, system display software should help users
having access to an additional data source is not present system conditions in the clearest, most dramatic
automatically a positive occurrence. If misused or way, one that makes the most sense to the operators who
misrepresented, additional data can simply result in clutter rely on it for information about the system. Thus, the
and obtuseness. This is a very important consideration for software must be extremely customizable and should
allow users to craft displays that are limited only by the

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

user’s good judgment. The purpose of this final section is

to provide a few examples of the types of displays of
SCADA and PMU data that might prove helpful in the
control room.
PMUs make the measurement of phase angles possible.
Typically, the flow of power between two nodes varies
approximately with the sine of the angle between the two
nodes and is directed from the larger phase angle to the
Pk = VkVm [Bkm sin (δ k − δ m )]
By capturing the geographic variation of the phase angle
over a region, one can identify the prevailing direction of
power flow through the system. For example, in Figure 6,
larger angles are shaded in yellow and orange, and smaller
angles are shaded in blue. The contour plot suggests that, Figure 7. Another view of phase angles
in general, power flows through this system from the
North and East to the Southwest. In other words, on
average, power flows from the Pacific Northwest to
California, particularly southern California. This is the
most useful information phase angle data can convey
under normal operating conditions. The contour plot does
not clarify the exact phase angle measurements. Figure 6
does this, but notice how difficult it is to distinguish the
small differences in phase angles among the nodes. The
phase angle gauges of Figure 7 reveal measurements, but
they don’t improve the user’s understanding of how the
system behaves. Figure 8. Depicting voltage magnitude
To reduce large angles across a branch or transmission
corridor, control areas will set up what are called
“inadvertent schedules” to bring the phase angles on the
two sides of the transmission path closer together. A plot
such as the one shown in Figure 9, which depicts two
regions disconnected by the open line between nodes 5
and 8 that have significantly different phase angles, could
help the operator determine when it is safe to reclose the

Figure 6. Phase angle contour and power flow

An additional feature of Figure 6 is that it also conveys
voltage magnitude measurements made by the PMUs. The
blue thermometer-like gauges that neighbor each of the
nodes represent node voltage magnitudes. Figure 8
provides a close-up view. By superimposing voltage
thermometers on a background that paints a contour plot
of phase angle, a single display can demonstrate both Figure 9. Angle contours and line reclosure
voltage magnitude and angle quite clearly.
Another use of phase angle measurements is to Identifying trends in the system’s behavior is just as
determine when a line may be closed between two regions. important as capturing its most recent state. One way to
Operators cannot safely reclose a line across a large phase illustrate the change in quantities over time is superimpose
angle because of the large power swings that would result. strip charts on a geographic display of the system. A strip
chart shows how one or more measured quantities vary

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

over a specified time interval. By displaying strip charts system reliable if no thermal overloads or voltage
near their associated equipment, a map can, for example, violations occur for any single contingency. If overloads
demonstrate how a system is changing in response to a and violations do occur for a contingency, then the system
recent disturbance while preserving the notion that these has a weakness that must be addressed either through
individual responses are interconnected and possibly system reinforcement or a short-term operating guideline.
related to each other. Figure 10 provides an example of Contingency analysis is a standard part of any energy
how such a plot might look for a display of measured management system (EMS). The contingency analysis
frequency at two neighboring nodes after a system module takes a list of contingencies reliability personnel
disturbance. wish to monitor and applies them to a state-estimated
mathematical model of the system. The module then
reports the list of violations that occur for each
contingency. If the display tool interfaces with the output
of the contingency module, then it can produce a picture
similar to that shown in Figure 12. The red and orange
circles on some of the branches in Figure 12 identify the
worst case loadings on the branches found during the
contingency analysis. In other words, if a branch has a red
circle with a 110% value inside it, then it was forced to
carry 110% of its rated value for one of the contingencies
that were processed. The larger red circles suggest an
overload, while the smaller orange circles identify
branches that are nearly overloaded. The operator may
select any of the circles to find out the contingency that
caused the line to be loaded to that value.
Figure 10. Geographically placed strip charts
The ability to recognize a trend is perhaps most
important when it is just beginning. If the user can detect
anomalous behavior when it begins, he will have more
time to try to counteract it. That is why the display shown
in Figure 11 can be extremely helpful. The display
highlights system components that have measurements
that have changed significantly over a specified time
interval. The user is able to set the warning threshold for
the rate of change for each measurement. If the rate of
change for a measurement exceeds this threshold, the
associated system object will be highlighted to draw
attention to the fact that something bad may be happening Figure 12. Worst-case overloads
Note that it may be possible to produce a similar
picture even without a connection to the contingency
analysis tool. If the display tool can calculate and apply
line outage distribution factors to estimate the post-
contingency flow on each of the monitored lines for each
contingency, then it can produce a display of likely post-
contingency overloads similar to Figure 12.

7. Summary
The increasing use of phasor measurement units to
monitor the electric power system makes it possible to
display vital information that had never been available
before. PMUs enable monitors to track frequency and
phase angle values across the system. In an AC system,
Figure 11. Highlighting rapid change power flow roughly follows phase angle differences.
Longer-term reliability efforts focus on what is called Therefore, it is not necessary to measure and sum all
the n-1 criteria. This common industry practice labels a power flows in a path to obtain a sense of power flow;
simply consider the phase angle differences. This could

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

be very valuable in cases such as the last few major [10] T.J. Overbye, R.P. Klump, J.D. Weber, “A Virtual
blackouts, where critical intervening information was Environment for the Interactive Visualization of Power
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[7] J. Mahseredjian, F. Alvarado, G. Rogers, W. Long, Ray Klump (M’92) earned a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at
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Applications in Power, January 2001, pp. 13-19. worked for Mid-America Interconnected Network from 1995 –
[8] EPRI, Visualizing Power System Data, EPRI Project 1998. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Mathematics
RP8010-25, EPRI, Palo Alto, CA, April 1994. and Computer Science at Lewis University and as a consultant
for PowerWorld Corporation.
[9] J.D. Weber and T.J. Overbye, “Voltage Contours for
Power System Visualization.” IEEE Transactions on
Power Systems, vol. 15, no. 1, February 2000. Robert E. Wilson (M’77, SM’92) studied electric engineering at

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Proceedings of the 38th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences - 2005

the University of Nebraska (BSEE in 1969), and completed a

Ph.D. at the University of Idaho in 1992. From 1980 to 1990 and
again from 1994 to the present he worked for the Western Area
Power Administration, U.S. DOE. From 1992 to 1994 Bob
Wilson was the first Nicholson Visiting Assistant Professor of
Electrical Engineering at the University of Wyoming. Bob
Wilson is a registered Professional engineer in the state of

Kenneth E. Martin (M'91-SM'91) earned a BSEE at Colorado

State University and a MA in mathematics at the University of
Washington. He joined the Bonneville Power Administration in
1975 and is currently Principal Engineer in the Measurement
Systems group. Mr. Martin in a member of the IEEE Power
System Relay Committee and chairs the Synchrophasor Standard
working group. He is a registered Professional Engineer in
Washington State.

0-7695-2268-8/05/$20.00 (C) 2005 IEEE 9