Blog Editor’s Note: The workshop report discussed and linked to in the article below provides an interesting overview of timing issues and ways forward for the smart electric grid. Of note on page 18 (Table 6-1) of the report is an R&D priority to “Break Dependency on Space-based Systems.” GPS timing signals are being used across industries for a wide variety of purposes for which they were never intended. Users with critical applications should ask themselves if this is still a good idea.  Especially if GPS is the primary or only timing source.

Here is a MITRE graphic that provides some background on how and where today’s electric grid uses GPS time signals. The graphic is from 2013 but we understand it is still relevant.

GPS World

NIST explores timing alternatives for smart grids

December 5, 2017  – By 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published a 33-page special publication reporting on the results of a workshop convened to recommend research and development priorities for alternatives to GPS time distribution in electrical power systems.

“If timing is to become mission critical, redundant means of distributing timing information is essential,” according to NIST.

NIST hosted the “Time Distribution Alternatives for the Smart Grid Workshop” at its Gaithersburg, Maryland, campus on March 21. The information gained will inform future NIST, U.S. Department of Energy, national laboratories and private sector technical programs and strategic planning.

The workshop consisted of experts on both electrical power and wide-area time distribution. The experts came from industry, utilities, academia and government.

The findings cover desired future characteristics, targets, challenges and barriers to adoption of time distribution alternatives; and priority R&D areas for time distribution alternatives.

Potential alternatives to wide area distributed time synchronization include Enhanced WWVB (radio signal broadcasting), eLoran (hyperbolic radio navigation) and the IEEE Wide Area Precision Time Protocol (PTP – master slave clock synchronization).

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