Power grid and stations

  • Coastal infrastructurePower grids in coastal U.S. cities increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change

    Cities such as Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. A new analysis finds, however, that climate change will give other major metropolitan areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins University engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes. By factoring historic hurricane information with plausible scenarios for future storm behavior, the team determined which of twenty-seven cities, from Texas to Maine, will become more susceptible to blackouts from future hurricanes. The team’s analysis could help metropolitan areas better plan for climate change.

  • Infrastructure protectionImpact of solar storm on U.S. infrastructure cannot be predicted with certainty

    Of the many threats to the U.S. electric grid, from cyberattacks to terrorism, industry experts agree that the most catastrophic, yet least likely to occur, threat is a magnetic space storm which could shut down the grid and cause other infrastructure to fail. Previous large scale solar storms include the 1859 Carrington Event — the strongest storm on record — and a March 1989 coronal mass ejection which caused a 9-hour blackout in Quebec.

  • Public healthLink between power lines and ill-health called into question

    Several past studies have suggested that the magnetic fields created by phones, high-voltage power lines, and other electrical equipment are harmful for humans. Research first carried out in the 1970s and again subsequently, found an association between people living near overhead power lines and an increased risk of childhood leukemia, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has categorized low frequency magnetic fields as “possibly carcinogenic.” A mechanism for this association has never been found, and now a research team studying the effects of weak magnetic fields (WMFs) on key human proteins, including those crucial for health, found that they have no detectable impact.

  • CybersecurityRussian government hackers insert malware in U.S. critical infrastructure control software

    Investigators have uncovered a Trojan Horse named BlackEnergy in the software that runs much of the U.S. critical infrastructure. In a worst case scenario, the malware could shut down oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, and wind turbines, causing an economic catastrophe. Some industry insiders learned of the intrusion last week via a DHS alert bulletin issued by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team(ICS-CERT). The BlackEnergy penetration had recently been detected by several companies. Experts say Russia has placed the malware in key U.S. systems as a threat or a deterrent to a U.S. cyberattack on Russian systems – mutual assured destruction from a cold war-era playbook.

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  • EnergyState, federal role in electric utilities’ labor issues should be reexamined: Study

    Power outages have never been more costly. Electricity is critical to communication, transportation, commerce and national security systems, and wide-spread or prolonged outages have the potential to threaten public safety and cause millions, even billions, of dollars in damages. This is why it may be time to re-examine the role of public utility commissions and the effect of the National Labor Relations Act in labor disputes regarding electric utilities, a new study suggests.

  • GridStandardizing small, self-sustaining electric microgrids

    When Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers talk about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, they are discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids — small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

  • Power supplyLights out: Experts say instability of world’s power supplies must be urgently addressed

    A new study reveals the urgent need to address instabilities in the supply of electrical power to counteract an increase in the frequency and severity of urban blackouts. The work builds on previous studies which examined a sharp increase in electrical usage over recent years, and warned the world to prepare for the prospect of coping without electricity as instances of complete power failure become increasingly common.

  • GridSmart grid needed to shift electrical system to alternative energy: Expert

    Solar, wind, and other alternative sources are easier on the environment but less predictable than coal, gas, or oil-fired plants, demanding a more sophisticated distribution and delivery system. A more resilient, responsive electrical grid – a smart grid – would adjust electrical loads to energy demands, preventing the shutdowns that leave people without air conditioning just when they need it most. A smart grid is thus a flexible grid – it is an infrastructure which allows shifting load and demand around effectively, ultimately balancing the electrical power and delivery system at lower costs.

  • GridResilient electric grid feasibility study launched in Chicago

    Currently, many urban-area electrical substations are not connected to each other because of the amount of copper cables that would be required to move massive amounts of power as well as the risk of damaging equipment. With the existing infrastructure, if one substation loses power, all electricity in that area is lost until the substation comes back up. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has partnered with Massachusetts-based Company, AMSC, to develop a new superconductor cable — part of a Resilient Electric Grid (REG) program — that may enable urban utilities to “keep the lights on” during severe events.

  • DisastersMore states experiment with microgrids to withstand powerful storms

    During Superstorm Sandy, communities throughout the Northeast experienced power outages which affected critical facilities including hospitals, gas stations, and water treatment plants. As severe weather becomes more common, authorities are acknowledging the shortcomings of a large electric grid system. Some utility providers have contemplated burying power lines to help prevent outages, but it can cost up to $4 million per mile to place electric lines underground. Several states are now experimenting with microgrids, self-contained systems for generating and distributing power.

  • Infrastructure protectionNew method for predicting storm damage

    The United Illuminating Company (UI), an electric company based in New Haven, Connecticut, has announced that it will be adopting a technology developed by engineers at the University of Connecticut that can predict storm damage in detail, something which was not possible before the technology was developed.

  • Infrastructure protectionSolar super-storms “inevitable”: Scientists

    Solar storms are caused by violent eruptions on the surface of the Sun and are accompanied by coronal mass ejections (CME). The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event: This massive CME released about 1,022 kJ of energy — the equivalent to ten billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time — and hurled around a trillion kilograms of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3,000 km/s. These types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable. NASA scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average — which means that we are currently five years overdue — and that the likelihood of one occurring in the next decade is as high as 12 percent.

  • Infrastructure protectionScientists urge making critical infrastructure more resilient to solar storms

    Scientists predict the probability of a massive solar storm striking the Earth in the next decade to be 12 percent. The 23 July 2012 solar storm was pointed away from Earth and blasted safely into space, but had it been directed towards Earth, it would have produced the worst geomagnetic storm in more than four centuries, causing extensive electricity problems that could take years to resolve. Scientists are debating the amount of damage the grid would suffer during a massive solar storm. The U.S. National Academy of Sciencesestimated in 2008 that the damage and disruption could reach up to $2 trillion with a full recovery time between four and ten years.

  • GridThe smart grid offers convenience, but it also makes cyberattacks more likely

    Recent efforts to modernize the electric grid have increased communication between utilities and consumers, enhanced reliability, and created more opportunities for green energy producers; but it has also elevated the risk of cyberattacks. Proposed smart grids rely on technology that has created millions of new access points; and though more access points within the grid allows renewable energy generators to supply utilities, they also present opportunities for hackers to breach the system.

  • GridMicrogrids offer cities resiliency, reliability, accessibility

    A majority of the world’s population now lives in cities, which consume 75 percent of the world’s resources and emit most of its greenhouse gases. The United Nations estimates that by 2050, an additional three billion people will move into these dense, resource-intense urban environments. The focus in cities like New York or New Orleans is on building infrastructure to make cities more resilient when faced with extreme weather or natural disasters — by providing backup power during outages, as well as helping to ease systems back online as outages end. Microgrid researchers are taking up this challenge by developing an energy solution with the potential to strengthen all three critical factors of energy in a livable city: resiliency, reliability and accessibility.