• Smart 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.

  • Resilient 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.

  • More 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.

  • New 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.

  • Solar 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.

  • Scientists 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.

  • The 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.

  • Microgrids 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.

  • Connecting 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.

  • Power 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.

  • Testing 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.

  • States 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.

  • Court 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.

  • Feds 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.

  • A 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.