Extreme challenges await electrical engineers' efforts to restore power on Gulf Coast

09/09/05

Feature story in September issue of IEEE-USA Today's Engineer

Electrical engineers will face "extreme challenges" in their role to restore power to the Gulf Coast ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, according to a September article in IEEE-USA Today's Engineer. Damage to the regional electric grid, which includes power plants, substations and transmission and distribution lines, is extensive.

"The challenge is to figure out what pieces of the regional electric grid are left, put them back together in a sequence that restores as much power as possible as fast as possible and remains stable in operation as conditions change and [demand for electricity] is added back to the system," said Harold Adams, a power engineer with Dominion Resources Services in Glen Allen, Va. "The challenge to localized service is similar, but there is a more detailed focus on the particular restoration priorities for local customers and government.

"In all of these cases, manpower and equipment logistics often present a major challenge."

IEEE-USA Today's Engineer conducted a question-and-answer session with Adams and Jack Casazza, two electrical engineers experienced in storm damage and electric system restoration following natural disasters. Both are members of the IEEE Power Engineering Society and IEEE-USA Energy Policy Committee. While engineers can design transmission and distribution systems that help protect against major power loss in severe weather, nothing can be done to guarantee electricity to public facilities, homes and businesses.

"You really cannot storm-proof the system completely," Casazza said. "No matter what you do, the electric power system is going to be subject to interruptions major interruptions."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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