SFI Seminar: ‘Taming Complexity of Electricity-Cascading Failures and Statistical Early Warning’

Paul Hines

SFI News:

Paul Hines from the University of Vermont will present a seminar at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1 in the Collins Conference Room at the Santa Fe Institute at 1399 Hyde Park Road in Santa Fe.

The event is free and open to the public. Those attending are invited to bring their lunch. The SFI host is Jennifer Dunne.

Abstract.  Electric Energy is critical to modern society, but the networks from which most cities get their power are sometimes surprisingly fragile. Small disturbances can spread to create massive blackouts with serious social consequences.

This talk will begin with a brief overview of the physics of power grids, and then review results from two research projects. The first looks at how cascading failures spread through power systems, and ways to efficiently measure the resulting risk. The second builds on ideas from the literature on critical slowing down in dynamical systems to illustrate the conditions under which variance and autocorrelation are useful early warning signs of instability in power grids.

Finally, I will outline some key open questions in “transdisciplinary electric power grid science,” [1] particularly given the changes being brought about by the transition to increased renewable (and variable) energy sources and increasing stress posed by extreme weather.

[1] C. D. Brummitt, P. D. Hines, I. Dobson, C. Moore, and R. M. D’Souza, “Transdisciplinary electric power grid science,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110, no. 30, pp. 12159–12159, 2013.


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