A new study has revealed that climate change in the US is likely to expose electric grids to new vulnerabilities.

Climate and energy scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed new analysis strategies for finding the parts of the electric grid that are most vulnerable to extreme weather.

The team comprising of Mellissa Allen, Mohammed Olama, Joshua Fu and Steven Fernandez has developed new algorithms that combine ORNL’s infrastructure and population datasets with high-resolution climate simulations run on the lab’s supercomputer.

The new approach can pinpoint substations at neighbourhood level and can calculate their potential in handling added demand based on predicted changes in climate and production.

With the new system’s high resolution capability, interconnections in complex systems such as critical infrastructure and weather can be explored along with deciding on the potential pathways for future global change.

The team also noted that the study could help city leaders and authorities to plan for adjustments or upgrades to existing infrastructure. It can also help decision makers to arrange for population movement under extreme weather events.

A natural disaster like a hurricane strikes, tens of thousands could be displaced to areas which are not fully equipped to handle such a sudden influx of people. Such sudden influx could spike the demand for electricity in such regions.

Such an analysis was conducted by team with impact of population and temperature changes through 2050 in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Melissa Allen said: “For the first time, we were able to apply data at a high enough resolution to be relevant.”

“These results can affect how future service areas are defined and where new substation capacity within the national grid may need to be located.” 

Image: USDOE team finds ways to know gird vulnerabilities. Photo: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Department of Energy.