Wide area synchronous grid

A wide area synchronous grid (also called an "interconnection" in North America) is a three-phase electric power grid that has regional scale or greater that operates at a synchronized utility frequency and is electrically tied together during normal system conditions. Also known as synchronous zones, the most powerful is the synchronous grid of Continental Europe (ENTSO-E) with 667 gigawatts (GW) of generation, while the widest region served is that of the IPS/UPS system serving countries of the former Soviet Union. Synchronous grids with ample capacity facilitate electricity trading across wide areas. In the ENTSO-E in 2008, over 350,000 megawatt hours were sold per day on the European Energy Exchange (EEX).[1]

The synchronous grids of Europe and North Africa
The two major and three minor interconnections of North America
Major WASGs in Eurasia, Africa and Oceania, North and Central America

Each of the interconnects in North America are synchronized at a nominal 60 Hz, while those of Europe run at 50 Hz. Neighbouring interconnections with the same frequency and standards can be synchronized and directly connected to form a larger interconnection, or they may share power without synchronization via high-voltage direct current power transmission lines (DC ties), solid-state transformers or variable-frequency transformers (VFTs), which permit a controlled flow of energy while also functionally isolating the independent AC frequencies of each side.

The benefits of synchronous zones include pooling of generation, resulting in lower generation costs; pooling of load, resulting in significant equalizing effects; common provisioning of reserves, resulting in cheaper primary and secondary reserve power costs; opening of the market, resulting in possibility of long term contracts and short term power exchanges; and mutual assistance in the event of disturbances.[2]

One disadvantage of a wide-area synchronous grid is that problems in one part can have repercussions across the whole grid.


Wide area synchronous networks improve reliability and permit the pooling of resources. Also, they can level out the load, which reduces the required generating capacity, allow more environmentally-friendly power to be employed; and allow more diverse power generation schemes and permit economies of scale.[3]

Wide area synchronous networks cannot be formed if the two networks to be linked are running at different frequencies or have significantly different standards. For example, in Japan, for historical reasons, the northern part of the country operates on 50 Hz, but the southern part uses 60 Hz. That makes it impossible to form a single synchronous network, which was problematic when the Fukushima Daiichi plant melted down.

Also, even when the networks have compatible standards, failure modes can be problematic. Phase and current limitations can be reached, which can cause widespread outages. The issues are sometimes solved by adding HVDC links within the network to permit greater control during off-nominal events.

As was discovered in the California electricity crisis, there can be strong incentives among some market traders to create deliberate congestion and poor management of generation capacity on an interconnection network to inflate prices. Increasing transmission capacity and expanding the market by uniting with neighboring synchronous networks make such manipulations more difficult.


An entire synchronous grid runs at the same frequency. Where interconnection to a neighboring grid, operating at a different frequency, is required, a frequency converter is required. High voltage direct current, solid-state transformer or variable-frequency transformers links can connect two grids that operate at different frequencies or that are not maintaining synchronism.

In a synchronous grid all the generators must run at the same frequency, and must stay very nearly in phase with each other and the grid. For rotating generators, a local governor regulates the driving torque, maintaining constant speed as loading changes. Droop speed control ensures that multiple parallel generators share load changes in proportion to their rating. Generation and consumption must be balanced across the entire grid, because energy is consumed as it is produced. Energy is stored in the immediate short term by the rotational kinetic energy of the generators.

Small deviations from the nominal system frequency are very important in regulating individual generators and assessing the equilibrium of the grid as a whole. When the grid is heavily loaded, the frequency slows, and governors adjust their generators so that more power is output (droop speed control). When the grid is lightly loaded the grid frequency runs above the nominal frequency, and this is taken as an indication by Automatic Generation Control systems across the network that generators should reduce their output.

In addition, there's often central control, which can change the parameters of the AGC systems over timescales of a minute or longer to further adjust the regional network flows and the operating frequency of the grid.


For timekeeping purposes, over the course of a day the operating frequency will be varied so as to balance out deviations and to prevent line-operated clocks from gaining or losing significant time by ensuring there are 4.32 million on 50 Hz, and 5.184 million cycles on 60 Hz systems each day.

This can, rarely, lead to problems. In 2018 Kosovo used more power than it generated due to a row with Serbia, leading to the phase in the whole synchronous grid of Continental Europe lagging behind what it should have been. The frequency dropped to 49.996 Hz. Over time, this caused synchronous electric clocks to become six minutes slow until the disagreement was resolved.[4]

DC interconnection

High-voltage direct current lines, solid-state transformers or variable-frequency transformers can be used to connect two alternating current interconnection networks which are not necessarily synchronized with each other. This provides the benefit of interconnection without the need to synchronize an even wider area. For example, compare the wide area synchronous grid map of Europe (above left) with the map of HVDC lines (below right). Solid state transformers have larger losses than conventional transformers, but DC lines lack reactive impedance and overall HVDC lines have lower losses sending power over long distances within a synchronous grid, or between them.

Deployed networks

NameCoversGeneration capacityYearly generationYear/Refs
Continental Europesynchronous zone serving 24 European countries, serving 450 million859 GW2569 TWh2017[5]
Eastern Interconnectioneastern US (except most of Texas) and eastern Canada (except Quebec)610 GW
IPS/UPS12 countries of former Soviet Union serving 280 million337 GW1285 TWh2005[6][7]
Indian national gridIndia serving over a billion people329 GW1236 TWh2017[8]
Western Interconnectionwestern US, western Canada, and northern Baja California in Mexico265 GW883 TWh2015[9]
Synchronous grid of Northern EuropeNordic countries synchronous zone (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Eastern Denmark) serving 25 million people.93 GW390 TWh
National Grid (Great Britain)Great Britain's synchronous zone, serving 65 million. Run by National Grid plc83 GW (2018)[10]336 TWh2017[10]
Iran national grid Including I.R. of Iran and Armenia, serving 84 million people 82 GW 2019[11]
Texas InterconnectionElectric Reliability Council of Texas serves (ERCOT) serves 24 million customers78 GW352 TWh (2016)[12]2018[13]
National Electricity MarketAustralia's States and Territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.50 GW196 TWh2018[14]
Quebec InterconnectionQuebec42 GW184 TWh
SEMBSouth Eastern Mediterranean Block serves Libya, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.
SIEPACThe Central American Electrical Interconnection System serves Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
SWMBSouth Western Mediterranean Block serves Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Southern African Power PoolSAPP serves 12 countries in Southern Africa.
Irish National GridIreland. Run by EirGrid
State GridNorthern Chinese State Grid run by State Grid Corporation of China
China Southern Power GridChinese southern grid. Run by China Southern Power Grid

A partial table of some of the larger interconnections.


  • China's electricity suppliers plan to complete by 2020 its ultra high voltage AC synchronous grid linking the current North, Central, and Eastern grids.[15] When complete, its generation capacity will dwarf that of the UCTE Interconnection.
  • Union of the UCTE and IPS/UPS grid unifying 36 countries across 13 time zones.[16]
  • Unified Smart Grid unification of the US interconnections into a single grid with smart grid features.
  • SuperSmart Grid a similar mega grid proposal linking UCTE, IPSUPS, North Africa and Turkish networks.

Planned non synchronous connections

The Tres Amigas SuperStation aims to enable energy transfers and trading between the Eastern Interconnection and Western Interconnection using 30GW HVDC connections.

See also


  1. "EEX Market Monitor Q3/2008" (PDF). Leipzig: Market Surveillance (HÜSt) group of the European Energy Exchange. 2008-10-30: 4. Retrieved 2008-12-06. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. Haubrich, Hans-Jürgen; Dieter Denzel (2008-10-23). "Characteristics of interconnected operation" (PDF). Operation of Interconnected Power Systems (PDF). Aachen: Institute for Electrical Equipment and Power Plants (IAEW) at RWTH Aachen University. p. 3. Retrieved 2008-12-06. (See "Operation of Power Systems" link for title page and table of contents.)
  3. https://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/publications/energy/chapter2.pdf
  4. "Serbia, Kosovo power grid row delays European clocks". Reuters. Mar 7, 2018.
  5. "ENTSO-E Statistical Factsheet 2017" (PDF). www.entsoe.eu. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  6. UCTE-IPSUPS Study Group (2008-12-07). "Feasibility Study: Synchronous Interconnection of the IPS/UPS with the UCTE". TEN-Energy programme of the European Commission: 2. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. Sergei Lebed RAO UES (2005-04-20). "IPS/UPS Overview" (PDF). Brussels: UCTE-IPSUPS Study presentation: 4. Retrieved 2008-12-07. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. Electricity sector in India
  9. 2016 State of the Interconnection page 10-14 + 18-23. WECC, 2016. Archive
  10. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/electricity-chapter-5-digest-of-united-kingdom-energy-statistics-dukes
  11. "Dalahoo Power Plant Adds 310 MW to Power Capacity". Eghtesad Online. Retrieved 2019-12-02.
  12. http://www.ercot.com/content/wcm/lists/89476/ERCOT2016D_E.xlsx
  13. "Quick facts" (PDF). www.ercot.com. 818.
  14. https://www.aer.gov.au/wholesale-markets/wholesale-statistics/electricity-supply-to-regions-of-the-national-electricity-market
  15. Liu Zhengya President of SGCC (2006-11-29). "Address at the 2006 International Conference of UHV Transmission Technology". Beijing: UCTE-IPSUPS Study presentation. Retrieved 20068-12-06. Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  16. Sergey Kouzmin UES of Russia (2006-04-05). "Synchronous Interconnection of IPS/UPS with UCTE - Study Overview" (PDF). Bucharest, Romania: Black Sea Energy Conference: 2. Retrieved 2008-12-07. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
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