Chicago/Midwest Heat Wave Threatens Health with Dangerous Temps: Smart Grid Expert on Protecting Power, Life-Saving Air Conditioners
Source Newsroom: Lewis University
Newswise — The record-setting heat wave affecting Chicago and parts of the midwest threatens public health and safety, especially for children and the elderly. Officials have responded by closing schools and issuing advisories warning of the risk of heat-related illnesses. [CNN]
Nothing escalates the danger of a heat wave like power outages, which render life-saving air conditioners useless.
It's quite simple to protect our power grid and keep the air conditioners running, says Professor Dr. Ray Klump, Chair of Computer Science and Mathematics at Lewis University.
“First, we certainly love our air conditioners, but air conditioners demand a lot of power,” Dr. Klump explains. “That power is generated at only a few places in the country. Yet our air-conditioned homes and businesses and factories are everywhere.”
During a heat wave such as the one now affecting the midwest, so many air conditioners running at full power all at once can create a chain reaction of failing power lines, causing greater and greater strain on the power grid until entire towns, or even regions of the country lose electricity. But, Klump says, a Smart Grid would be able to solve this annual inconvenience if more places adopted the technology.
Read more about how heat affects the power grid at Why is hot weather to the power grid like kryptonite is to superman? And view Dr. Klump's expert profile page here. Dr. Klump is also available at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Because of the distance between where power is generated and where it is consumed, we need cable to transmit electricity to all these different destinations. Transmission lines, however, are just wires, and they have limited capacity. In fact, their capacity actually goes down when it’s hot.”
Numerous factors contributed to the poor performance of power lines in the summer heat. For example, Dr. Klump describes, “when a transmission line is carrying a lot of power, it heats up. The metal conductor in the line expands, causing the line to droop. If the line droops too much, it makes contact with foliage on the ground, resulting in a short circuit and an end to that line’s ability to carry power.”
When one line goes down, the problem immediately gets worse, Dr. Klump explains: “With that line now out of service, other lines have to pick up the slack, but they, too, become overloaded and prone to the same problem that caused the first line to fail.
“As the amount of power these lines carry grows, so does the amount of power lost through them due to heat, as well as the amount of 'magnetic loss,' and 'reactive power,' which impact the lines' ability to maintain voltages at their designed level.
“When the voltages fall below what they’re supposed to be, the lights in our home dim, our appliances run at speeds that cause wear and tear on their motors, and our air conditioners begin to pose an even greater burden on the system.”
Dr. Klump also describes how these troublesome feedback mechanisms could be mitigated by incorporated Smart Grid technology into the system.
“Smart Grid is giving operators a lot more opportunities to keep a weakened grid from falling apart,” he explains. “The Smart Grid is a national effort to modernize the electrical grid by adding lots of automatic, computerized controls to it. Some of these controls can actually communicate with each other autonomously, making decisions in real time without operator intervention. Some of the controls can actually be used to throttle individual customers’ energy use (provided they’ve contractually agreed to participate in such an action) to reduce demand in one area so that other areas can remain safe.
“A Smart Grid is also better able to incorporate renewable sources such as wind and solar power along with more traditional electrical sources like coal and natural gas and nuclear. Local solar and wind capacity can be used to provide some of the demands of a region, reducing the load on the broader grid.
“Finally, devices called synchrophasor measurement units give operators who work to ensure that the entire grid remains intact up-to-the-microsecond, GPS-synchronized data about what’s happening on the grid over hundreds of miles. That big-picture perspective gives operators and the automated equipment they depend an unprecedented view of emerging problems before they spread.”
Dr. Ray Klump is a Professor and, Chair of Computer Science and Mathematics at Lewis University in Illinois. He is available for further comment or to arrange an interview at email@example.com