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NYPA Part of Hurricane Study Aimed at Strengthening Grid

Sept. 21, 2016
National Science Foundation grant will support research into cost-effective strategies to upgrade networks and reduce power disruptions

The New York Power Authority is working with The Ohio State University to study the effects of hurricanes on transmission lines and towers to come up with solutions for a stronger, more resilient power grid throughout the U.S.

The three-year project is being funded by a $529,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Ohio State researchers will develop a new class of advanced computerized models and scaled three-dimensional “towers” to study the effects of powerful storms and provide new insights into various complex wind-induced behaviors of these systems.

The announcement was made during Climate Week, an international platform for government, business and civil society to collaborate on low-carbon solutions.

“We know how much damage hurricanes can cause to transmission lines and towers yet it isn’t feasible for any utility to upgrade its entire infrastructure,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “However, being able to more easily identify vulnerable systems and provide retrofit solutions would be a cost-effective way to upgrade the national network.”

In addition to supporting the project research, NYPA will provide information about its high-voltage transmission lines and support structures, such as age, type, configuration, size of towers, number of circuits, level of voltage, type of conductors, etc. Data regarding the performance of transmission tower-line systems during past strong wind events will also be contributed.

Abdollah Shafieezadeh, the Ohio State professor leading the project, reached out to NYPA as well as American Electric Power, a utility serving 11 Southern and Midwestern states, and the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal power marketing administration in the Pacific Northwest, to take part in the study. He wanted to make sure different regions were represented and get a practical perspective from hands-on researchers and engineers.

“The outcomes of the research will significantly improve the hurricane resilience of transmission power systems and power grids in the U.S., and reduce the impact of outages on the functioning of other critical infrastructures such as telecommunication, water and transportation systems,” said Shafieezadeh, who expects to complete the research by August 2019.

Transmission infrastructure in the U.S., especially coastal areas, faces substantial risk from hurricanes and extreme winds. For example, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 cost New York State almost $42 billion in damages, bringing down more than 100 transmission lines, transformer banks, phase angle regulators, and transformers, and knocking out power for more than 2 million electric customers for as long as three weeks.

The project will develop computerized models to predict the effect of weather events and show the different levels of infrastructure failure. Three-dimensional scaled models of towers and conductors will be subject to wind tunnel experiments at the National Science Foundation-supported Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Wall of Wind Experimental Facility at Florida International University. New models and design strategies are expected to lead to cost-effective solutions to strengthen or improve transmission systems.

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