Power grid and stations

  • 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.

  • GridConnecting dead ends increases power grid stability

    Climate change mitigation strategies such as the German Energiewende – the post-Fukushima German policy of phasing out nuclear power — require linking vast numbers of new power generation facilities to the grid. As the input from many renewable sources is rather volatile, depending on how much the wind blows or the sun shines, there is a higher risk of local power instabilities and eventually blackouts. Scientists now employed a novel concept from nonlinear systems analysis called basin stability to tackle this challenge.

  • EnergyPower plant emission detection by satellites verified

    Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from two coal-fired power plants in the Four Corners area of northwest New Mexico, the largest point source of pollution in America, were measured remotely by a Los Alamos National Laboratory team. The study is the first to show that space-based techniques can successfully verify international regulations on fossil energy emissions.

  • Grid protectionTesting distributed computing to protect against cyberattacks on power grids

    The power grid is complicated, divided up into sections that cover everything from a single municipal area (like New York City) to large regions (like the entire state of California). Each of these sections is controlled by a single control center. If that control center stops functioning, because of a cyberattack or for any other reason, it is no longer capable of monitoring and maintaining the grid, resulting in severe instabilities in the system. The SmartAmerica Challenge, which kicked off in late 2013 to highlight U.S. research in the field of cyberphysical systems, aims to address power grid security concerns.

  • Grid securityStates lack expertise, staff to deal with cyberthreats to utilities

    The vulnerability of national electric grids to cyberattacks has caught the attention of federal utility regulators and industry safety groups, but state commissions tasked with regulating local distribution utilities are slow to respond to emerging cybersecurity risks. The annual membership directory of state utility regulators lists hundreds of key staff members of state commissions throughout the country, but not a single staff position had “cybersecurity” in the title.

  • GridCourt to decide a Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” case

    Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law is the center of a case set for trial later this week, in which developers of CapX2020, the region’s power grid improvement project, will contest a lawsuit by Cedar Summit Farm. The state law requires utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms along the path of the power line if the affected landowners demand it. CapX2020 argues the farm does not meet the buyout criteria set in the law.

  • GridFeds struggle to plug power grid security holes

    Many of the current vulnerabilities in the power grid are attributable to newly adopted smart-grid technology, which allows operators to transmit energy from a diverse pool of resources. Smart-grid technology relies on devices in remote locations which constantly communicate with substations, those access points can be compromised by hackers.

  • GridA grid of the right size could reduce blackout risk

    Scientists argue that for every animal there is an optimal size — one which allows it to make best use of its environment and the physical laws that govern its activities, whether hiding, hunting, hoofing, or hibernating. Now, researchers are asking whether there is a “right” size for another type of huge beast: the U.S. power grid. The researchers believe that smaller grids would reduce the likelihood of severe outages, such as the 2003 Northeast blackout that cut power to fifty million people in the United States and Canada for up to two days.

  • EnergyControversial Mississippi power station to cut emissions by more than half

    A new $5 billion state-of-the-art power facility is under construction Kemper County, Mississippi. It places a firm bet on the future of carbon-capture technology, and other technological advancements, including: it utilizes the gasification process with carbon in unique ways; it recycles treated wastewater to generate power; and it makes money from the carbon dioxide it has removed by selling it to oil companies for their own extraction. Critics say that investing so much money in untested technologies is too much of a gamble.

  • GridNERC drill finds U.S. grid preparedness insufficient

    The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) reported that its recent GridEx II exercise has highlighted the fact that nearly all the utilities which took part in the two-day drill last November – a drill aiming to test the preparedness of the U.S. power grid to withstand cyber and physical attacks – admitted that their planning for such attacks was insufficient. NERC’s president, Gerry Cauley, said that protecting utilities against cyber and physical attacks should be considered in the context of measures taken to protect the grid from other threats. He noted that utilities are already hardening their systems against storms like Hurricane Sandy, while working to determine their vulnerability to solar activity that changes the earth’s magnetic field.

  • EnergySmall biomass power plants could help rural economies, stabilize national power grid

    As energy costs rise, more Americans are turning to bioenergy to provide power to their homes and workplaces. Bioenergy is renewable energy made from organic sources, such as biomass. Technology has advanced enough that biomass power plants small enough to fit on a farm can be built at relatively low costs. Researchers have found that creating a bioenergy grid with these small plants could benefit people in rural areas of the country as well as provide relief to an overworked national power grid.

  • GridFERC orders development of physical security standards for transmission grid

    The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on Friday directed the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to develop reliability standards requiring owners and operators of the Bulk-Power System to address risks due to physical security threats and vulnerabilities.

  • Grid protectionProtecting the grid from geomagnetic storms

    A geomagnetic storm disrupts the Earth’s magnetic field by producing geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) on the Earth’s surface, which can enter the power grid at transformer stations and move along power lines, disrupting normal operations. A geomagnetic storm would reach Earth between fourteen and ninety-six hours, leaving little time to safeguard critical infrastructure. U.S. regulators are drafting reliability standards and procedures to protect the U.S. power grid from such storms.

  • BlackoutsPower cuts will be more common in the future

    U.S. figures show that since 2007, commercial and domestic air-conditioning alone consumed 484billion kilowatt hours of electricity — not much more than the country’s total energy consumption in the mid-1950s. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has warned that U.S. generation systems could collapse by 2020 without $100 billion of new investment in power stations. Demands of high-powered electrical appliances, a growing world population, and inadequate investment in the power sector will create more frequent power blackouts in Western societies.

  • Infrastructure protectionOld-fashioned way to protect high-voltage substations

    There are about 45,000 substations in the United States, but far fewer high-voltage substations like the one attacked last April in Metcalf. California. Americans could see what the loss of just one important power substation can have when, in 2003, a failure in one such substation knocked out power to fifty million people in the United States and Canada for days. Illinois-based IDT says that since Biblical times, the method of thick-walled fortifications to halt manned and artillery attacks remains the best technology for protecting lives and important assets. The company says that its METALITH, a several-feet-thick prefabricated steel barrier structure filled with sand, would offer the best protection to vulnerable power substations. “While most of the electrical industry has been focused on the threat of cyber-terrorism, the San Jose [Metcalf is near San Jose] attack points to the need for physical protection of strategic power grid assets as well,” says Tom Carlton, IDT’s CEO.