The staggering cost of power system outages due to natural disasters, an estimated $18-33 billion per year, and its adverse effects on personal safety and security due to extended loss of critical services call for improving resilience in the electric power grid to extreme weather events. The need for resilience is particularly critical for the aging mid- and low-voltage power distribution systems, responsible for an estimated 90% of the outages. This CAREER project proposes a transformative approach to manage disruptions and improve the operational resilience of the distribution systems by leveraging upon the recent smart grid advances. The proposed innovations add the required flexibility for island formation and bottom-up restoration using distributed energy resources (DERs) and enhanced distribution automation capabilities, thus, allowing for a faster recovery of critical services during a natural disaster. A successful completion of this project will: 1) improve public safety and reduce the cost of natural disasters to US economy using automated and distributed solutions for resilience, 2) help develop new standards to tap into the potential for growing levels of DER penetrations for grid resilience, and 3) encourage DER integration and help reduce US carbon footprint by setting new value propositions for DER technology. The models and results of this effort can be potentially extended to other critical infrastructures. An equally important component of this project focuses on addressing the critical need for a skilled, interdisciplinary, and inclusive workforce to support the future power distribution grid with the help of a well-integrated education plan. This is accomplished through innovative classroom and online courses on power distribution systems, introducing undergraduate students and underrepresented minority students to challenging interdisciplinary problems, and targeted outreach to high-school students.

The overarching goal of this CAREER project is to realize the full potential of the emerging distribution grid to manage rarely occurring disruptions that are high-impact low-probability (HILP) events by decentralization of infrastructure and operations. The core idea is that enhanced resilience will be attained through innovations in employing DERs for islanded operation and allowing distributed decision-making during a disaster situation. The project goals are achieved by (1) strategic resource planning to enhance the ability to restore critical services using DERs; (2) distributed decision-making for DER-driven service restoration that allows for a faster service recovery during a disaster; and (3) characterizing graph-theoretic and algebraic conditions that relate to the small-signal stability of DER energized islands and their design parameters; these conditions are used to guide service restoration process such that the restored islands are not only operationally feasible but also stable. The novelty of our approach stems from a closely interwoven planning and operational framework that prioritizes the use of DERs to enable new and transformative ways of operating the power distribution grid during disruptions. Theoretical contributions are expected on the characterization of HILP events towards resilience and risk-averse planning methods; distributed optimization methods for a combinatorial, non-convex, and large-scale problem for service restoration; the analytical characterization of network-level properties for a lossy DER energized island that relates to its small-signal stability; and implications of structural properties and design parameters on the stability of low-inertia systems.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
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Aranya Chakrabortty
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Washington State University
United States
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