Understanding infrastructure resilience in hurricane-prone electric power distribution systems

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Reliable energy, water and transportation services are an essential part in ensuring national security and sustaining economic productivity and social well-being. This critical infrastructure and the communities that rely on their services are growing increasingly more vulnerable to climatic shocks—the US Department of Energy revealed that severe climate events were among the most frequent cause of power outages since the early 2000s. The recent devastation caused by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria further highlights the need for accurate and holistic disaster resilience modeling for proactive preparation, response, and mitigation planning to help minimize the large-scale costs that are typical of natural hazards like tornadoes and hurricanes.

Professor Roshanak Nateghi (Industrial Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering) has proposed a new approach to conceptualize the disaster resilience of our critical infrastructure. Rather than looking at resilience as a 1-dimensional concept (e.g., resilience as a function of the fraction of customers without power or the number of protective devices activated during disaster impacts), Nateghi uses a multivariate framework to model the complex interplay between climate hazards, system topology, and the topography of the region to approximate the multidimensional resilience of a system. She then applied the model to estimate the number of power outages, the number of customers without power and the time it took to restore power. The model also established which variables are critical for approximating the resilience of the system.  In this analysis, she focused on an electric utility company that serves the central Gulf Coast region of the U.S. This service area was heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina with more than 80% of the customers affected and outage restorations taking up to 12 days. The model performed well and was found to be a powerful tool for assessing the effectiveness of alternative investment decisions in improving the various dimensions of the resilience of the system.

Nateghi, R. (2018). Multi-Dimensional Infrastructure Resilience Modeling: An Application to Hurricane-Prone Electric Power Distribution Systems. IEEE Access, vol. 6, 2018.

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