New AI model could ‘heal’ the grid during power outages

New AI model could ‘heal’ the grid during power outages

New AI model could ‘heal’ the grid during power outages

With uncertainty about grid resilience and reliability growing, Texas needs solutions.

Earlier this year, we wrote about the need to make the grid more reliable and resilient to prevent power outages during extreme weather. And this need is becoming more apparent, especially since ERCOT has already projected a 16% chance of a grid emergency and a 12% chance of rolling blackouts for this summer.

Along with many other potential solutions, artificial intelligence could be a key tool in solving power grid uncertainty. And while this technology is still years away from being ready for use, it is worth further research.

In a study recently published in Nature Communications, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas collaborated with engineers at the University of Buffalo to create an AI model that “heals” the grid by redirecting power, in the event of an emergency, in a matter of milliseconds.

According to Jie Zhang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UTD, their research showed that AI can restore power to buildings by tapping into other energy sources, such as solar panels, company batteries and university power.

We’ve already seen how natural disasters put additional strain on the grid. Whether it was the thunderstorm system in May that left thousands without power for days or the winter storm of 2021, which left more than 200 people dead, we need solutions that will restore power to people quickly and efficiently.

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As Texans have recently learned, it sometimes takes days for power to reach certain parts of the state. But if this technology lives up to its potential, it could instantly reroute power to those who need it, provided there is a power source available to reroute it to.

The power grid faces many problems, whether climate change, demand, generation or transmission. This technology cannot solve all of these problems, but if further research proves Zhang and his team right, it could, for example, turn the lights back on when a transformer breaks down during a storm.

Power outages occur frequently in Texas due to severe weather, and most people just want the electricity to work so they can get back to normal life.

We have criticized the state Legislature for favoring oil and gas companies over the grid, but it has not shown the same favoritism toward AI. Caution is needed when deploying AI in such a crucial area. We are pleased to see a recent bipartisan initiative in Austin to propose ways to regulate AI applications and protect consumers. Without regulation, AI is a serious security risk to personal privacy and businesses.

But at its core, AI is a tool. And if it’s the kind of tool that allows businesses to keep running while also helping life get back to normal, it could be a tool that not only makes life easier, but can also save lives in the event of a disaster.

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