• InfrastructureThe old, dirty, creaky U.S. electric grid would cost $5 trillion to replace. Where should infrastructure spending go?

    By Joshua D. Rhodes

    The electric grid is an amazing integrated system of machines spanning an entire continent. The National Academy of Engineering has called it one of the greatest engineering achievements of the twentieth century. But it is also expensive. By my analysis, the current (depreciated) value of the U.S. electric grid, comprising power plants, wires, transformers and poles, is roughly $1.5 to $2 trillion. To replace it would cost almost $5 trillion. That means the U.S. electric infrastructure, which already contains trillions of dollars of sunk capital, will soon need significant ongoing investment just to keep things the way they are. There is no path toward shoring up or upgrading the U.S. electric grid that does not require investment – even just maintaining what we have will cost hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars over the next decade. The bigger question is: As we continue to replace and rebuild this amazing grid, what technologies should we focus on?

  • Grid securityCybersecurity of the power grid: A growing challenge

    By Manimaran Govindarasu and Adam Hahn

    Called the “largest interconnected machine,” the U.S. electricity grid is a complex digital and physical system crucial to life and commerce in this country. Today, it is made up of more than 7,000 power plants, 55,000 substations, 160,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines, and millions of miles of low-voltage distribution lines. This web of generators, substations, and power lines is organized into three major interconnections, operated by 66 balancing authorities and 3,000 different utilities. That’s a lot of power, and many possible vulnerabilities. The grid has been vulnerable physically for decades. Today, we are just beginning to understand the seriousness of an emerging threat to the grid’s cybersecurity.

  • Infrastructure protectionProtecting bulk power Systems from hackers

    Most of us take turning the lights on for granted. In reality, the energy we draw from the electrical grid to brighten homes, freeze food and watch TV is part of a complicated and widespread system. Understanding that system’s vulnerabilities and reliability is a crucial step towards improving its security. Reliability measures of electrical grid has risen to a new norm as it involves physical security and cybersecurity. Threats to either can trigger instability, leading to blackouts and economic losses.

     

  • GridMicrogrids spread globally

    To a greater or lesser extent, every business needs access to reliable and economical sources of power. It is an additional bonus for some if that electricity can be generated using renewable sources. Modern technology allows businesses to meet these needs themselves, producing energy as well as consuming it locally, creating flexible networks known as “microgrids.” Microgrids are spreading globally, driven by technological, regulatory, economic, and environmental factors. Siemens helps build and get the best from these modern energy systems.

  • GridWhy artificial intelligence could be key to future-proofing the grid

    By Valentin Robu

    The expansion of renewable energy, mainly from wind and solar power, is a good thing — but one problem with this great expansion in renewables is they are intermittent, meaning they depend on weather conditions such as the wind blowing or sun shining. Unlike conventional power, this means they can’t necessarily meet surges in demand. Hence many press headlines in recent years about the “lights going out.” One solution to the problem is known as demand-side response. One aspect involves rewarding certain electricity consumers for reducing their usage at short notice. This can range from large industrial customers to smaller consumers using power for heating rooms, cooling, lighting or even refrigeration. Emerging artificial intelligence technologies look like providing answers to the challenges of effectively managing demand-side systems. To select the best participants, for example, grid operators will be able to use sophisticated machine-learning techniques to model the behavior of individual devices and battery storage units by reviewing data from smart meters and sensors.

  • GridOff-grid power in remote areas will require special business model to succeed

    Around the world, more than 1.2 billion people lack access to basic electricity service. The majority of those people are living in developing nations, in rural or isolated areas with high rates of poverty. Steep costs and remote terrain often make it impractical or even impossible to extend the electric grid. Low-cost, off-grid solar energy could provide significant economic benefit to people living in some remote areas, but a new study suggests they generally lack the access to financial resources, commercial institutions and markets needed to bring solar electricity to their communities.

  • GridRestoring power to a grid facing a cyberattack

    Currently, utility companies in North America have procedures and capacity to handle localized power outages caused by events such as extreme weather and high usage on hot days. However, there are not any tools available to resolve the type of widespread outages that can be caused using malware. Researchers from SRI International are leading a collaborative team to develop cutting-edge technology that can be used by utilities and cyber first responders to restore power to an electric grid that has come under a cyberattack.

  • GridINL’s more adaptive grid better for testing new technologies

    Essential services like power distribution require reliable service and continuous operations. The power grid on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho Site is being transitioned to a more adaptive architecture to enable greater flexibility in testing new ideas and technologies.

  • Extreme weatherInvestor-owned utilities better prepared to handle catastrophic weather

    Investor-owned utility companies may be better prepared than municipal utility companies to deal with catastrophic weather conditions and subsequent power outages. One of the main arguments made in favor of municipal utilities is the alleged poor performance of investor-owned utilities after major storms. The author of a new study says, however, that “compared with investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities spend more on maintenance of power distribution lines, yet deliver worse customer service after major storms.”

  • DisastersS&T, NASA show online tool to help prepare for solar storms

    When solar storms release solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) toward Earth, we can feel the effects here on the ground. They can interfere with Earth’s magnetic field and produce geo-magnetically induced currents. These currents impact our electric grid and can cause permanent damage to critical grid components, including high-voltage transformers. While we cannot stop solar storms and CMEs, we can mitigate their effect on the electric grid.

  • ResilienceStrengthening U.S. infrastructure to withstand disasters

    The delivery of essential services — whether in food, water, health, or emergency response — relies increasingly upon a complex, interconnected system of critical infrastructure. Ensuring these interdependent systems continue to operate during disasters and other disruptive events is crucial to maintaining public health and safety. NSF announces $22.7 million in new investments to promote better understanding and functioning of these infrastructures in an effort to improve their resilience.

  • Grid securityThe smart grid makes it easier for hackers to turn out the lights

    The development of the smart power grid and the smart meter in our homes to accompany it brings several benefits, such as improved delivery and more efficient billing. Conversely, any digital, connected technology also represents a security risk. The smart electricity grid is more vulnerable to accidental and incidental problems with the flow of data, and to malicious manipulation for the sake of sabotage, criminal, or online military or terrorist action.

  • Grid securityMapping, quantifying the risks space-weather poses to electric-power grids

    The vulnerability of modern society to geoelectric hazards was demonstrated in March 1989, when an intense magnetic storm caused the collapse of the entire Canadian Hydro-Québec power-grid system, leaving six million people without electricity for nine hours. Scientists recently published research — including maps covering large areas of the United States — showing how the effects from intense geomagnetic storms are impacted by the Earth’s electrical conductivity. This is one of the first steps toward mapping nation-wide “induction hazards.”

  • GridElectric grid vulnerabilities in extreme weather areas

    Climate and energy scientists at the DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to pinpoint which electrical service areas will be most vulnerable as populations grow and temperatures rise. The scientists’ integrated approach – combining ORNL’s unique infrastructure and population datasets with high-resolution climate simulations run on the lab’s Titan supercomputer —  identifies substations at the neighborhood level and determines their ability to handle additional demand based on predicted changes in climate and population.

  • Grid securityIncreasing power grid cybersecurity

    Cybersecurity experts are leading a new program to develop new data analysis methods better to protect the nation’s power grid. The goal of this project is to develop technologies and methodologies to protect the grid from advanced cyber and threats by developing the means to distinguish between power grid failures caused by cyber attacks and failures caused by other means, including natural disasters, “normal” equipment failures, and even physical attacks.