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Seminar by Dr. Paul Hines

On Oct. 28th,Dr. Paul Hines presented a seminar at CURENT Northeast University entitled “Cascading Failure Risk in Interdependent Power and Communications Systems.”  The presentation was from 10am – 11am in 442 Dana. Dr. Ali Abur, ECE department, hosted the seminar.

Dr. Paul Hines received his Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 and his M.S. (2001) and B.S. (1997) degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University, respectively. He is currently an Associate Professor in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Vermont, a member of the adjunct research faculty at the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, and a visiting faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute. Formerly he worked at the U.S. National Energy Technology Laboratory, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Alstom ESCA, and Black and Veatch. He currently serves as the chair of the Green Mountain Section of the IEEE, as the vice-chair of the IEEE PES Working Group on Cascading Failure, and as an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid. He is a National Science Foundation CAREER award winner.

 Presentation Summary:

While power grids are generally robust to small perturbations, they are also notoriously vulnerable to large cascading failures. Measuring the risk of large blackouts is difficult because of the scale-free nature of blackout sizes, the combinatorial space of possible triggering disturbances, and the low probabilities of the potential triggers. Yet understanding risk is necessary because of the vital role of electricity in modern societies. The first part of this talk will present results from a new approach to risk assessment based on a search algorithm called "Random Chemistry," which is orders of magnitude faster than Monte Carlo. The efficiency of the algorithm allows us to find insights into the sources of cascading failure risk that were not previously possible. In the second part of this talk, I will discuss how emerging "smart grid" technologies, which couple power and communications networks may impact risk. Several different models of these interdependent systems show, firstly, how overly simplistic topological models can lead to misleading conclusions and, secondly, how interdependency can be beneficial if designed well, or detrimental if designed poorly.