October 22, 2009
ECE Professor Rohit Negi has received a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop monitoring tools for predicting non-robust behavior, such as annoying rolling blackouts, so endemic to the nation's fragile power grid.
Negi will lead a team of university electricity and computing experts to analyze the robustness of cyber-physical systems, such as electric, water, sewer and gas networks. Negi's team includes Marija Ilic, professor of electrical and computer engineering and engineering and public policy; Franz Franchetti, assistant research professor in electrical and computer engineering; and Ole Mengshoel, a senior systems scientist at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley.
"Through this multidisciplinary team, we want to study the behavior of these critical networks that play such an important role in our daily lives," Negi said. "Blackouts, for example, in the electric power grid can cause economic loss for businesses and security risks for the nation's transportation and shipping sectors."
The electrical power grid is an interconnected network of national, state and regional infrastructure for generating, transmitting, distributing and delivering electricity from suppliers to customers. In recent years, several massive power outages nationwide have made both consumers and industry analysts question the reliability of the existing electricity grid. Future anticipated growth in the grid, including distributed generation provided by wind, solar and other renewable sources, makes the study of the robustness problem even more critical.
"Blackouts are experienced in different regions, affecting residents and daily life," said Negi, whose NSF award was funded by the Obama administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The economic stimulus bill passed in February 2009 allocated $11 billion to upgrade the nation's outdated power infrastructure.
Earlier this month, more than 34,000 customers were without power in the San Francisco Bay area and industry analysts report that seasonal heavy winds and rain could create more havoc to power grids.
Carnegie Mellon researchers have vowed to develop methods to monitor and ensure the robustness of such networks. "By studying puzzling network-wide behavior that results from simple local interactions, our team has the potential to clarify the role of complexity in large-scale networks," Negi said.
Chriss Swaney Carnegie Mellon News