Avoiding the Dark
A visualization tool can predict a hurricane's impact on the Southeast's electric grid.
The next time a violent hurricane slams the Southeast's shores, the Federal Energy Management Agency may learn more quickly than in the past which transmission lines are likely to be knocked out and which counties face a major power outage. Using Oak Ridge National Laboratory's new "situational awareness tool," government agencies in conjunction with electric utilities can expedite a coordinated federal emergency response to areas most likely to need assistance immediately after a hurricane or tornado batters a southeastern region.
"Major power outages in the United States over the past decade have a recurring theme—the lack of wide-area situational understanding," says Tom King, manager of electric transmission and distribution technologies for ORNL's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program. "Knowing the electric grid's vulnerabilities and ways to protect the infrastructure will enable utilities to prevent some large-area blackouts and help the government prepare for and more quickly respond to destructive events."
ORNL has developed a computer-driven, situational awareness visualization tool for monitoring and visualizing in real time the status of the Southeast's transmission system. The tool also can predict the transmission lines particularly at risk of storm damage as well as the population in specific areas likely to lose power as a result of destructive winds.
This real-time national visualization tool, called Visualizing Energy Resources Dynamically on Earth (VERDE), is being developed for the Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. With access to the world's most powerful open supercomputer, ORNL is leading the development of a national visualization capability to enable electric utility control-room personnel to see potential and actual problems affecting electric grids across the Eastern Interconnection, which covers the region east of the Rocky Mountains, and the Western Interconnection, which embraces the region west of the Rockies.
"Our team used novel computational approaches supported by a network of sensors, real-time visualization, graph algorithms and hybrid simulation to enable a more secure and reliable electric grid," says Arjun Shankar who, along with John Stovall, is leading the ORNL effort.
Using Google Earth as its platform as well as population density data from ORNL's Landscan, VERDE will assist federal agencies in the coordinated response to power outages, natural disasters and other catastrophic events. VERDE will eventually provide emergency responders and decision makers with instant information on the real-time status and health of the electric grid and critical energy sectors. VERDE can assist in preventing wide-scale power outages by helping utilities improve their understanding of the electric grid status with neighboring regions and across a wider region.
Additionally, with the data and analysis available to electric utilities and government entities, faster restoration and coordination of relief efforts are expected to be improved. According to King, functions featured in VERDE will include a determination of the real-time status of the electric grid; real-time weather data; data on transmission-line power flows and voltages for certain transmission lines and the on-off status of motors and generators; and the ability to do extreme contingency analysis, to improve the accuracy of predictions that knocking out a particular set of transmission lines or power generators could make a wide-area blackout more likely.
ORNL is developing this strategic tool in collaboration with industry, other national laboratories and university partners. Tennessee Valley Authority played an important role in collecting utility data for the Southeast visualization tool. TVA and other major utilities spanning multiple regions across both grid interconnections are providing information on the real-time status of their systems. Analysis generated by DOE's Visualization and Modeling Working group is also being incorporated into the tool to visualize predictive impacts of hurricanes on the electric delivery infrastructure.
Genscape and other businesses are providing ORNL's computational creations with additional datasets to improve visualization and advanced modeling analyses, lessening the likelihood that electric utility operators and their customers will be in the dark.—Carolyn Krause
Web site provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Communications and External Relations