Interdisciplinary Seminar in Nonlinear Science

Title: Towards Estimating the Risk of Cascading Failure Blackouts
Speaker: Prof. Ian Dobson
Speaker Info: University of Wisconsin - Madison
Brief Description:
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Large blackouts are usually caused by a complicated sequence of cascading failures. Initial failures weaken the system and cause further failures, which further weaken the system and so on. A spectacular example is the August 2003 blackout in North America that disconnected electric power to 50 million people at a cost estimated in billions of dollars. How can we quantify the risk of such a complicated event on a controlled network with a huge number and variety of components? Probabilistic branching process models of cascading failure and methods of assessing the risk of cascading failure are emerging. In particular, I will discuss methods to estimate the extent to which failures propagate and the probability distribution of blackout sizes based on data from simulations of cascading failure. There is evidence that there is a critical transition in blackout risk as the electric power grid becomes more stressed and the methods also quantify the nearness to this critical transition. The overall research goal is a theory and metrics for cascading failure that can be applied to monitor the risk of blackouts. This is joint work with Kevin Wierzbicki at the University of Wisconsin, Ben Carreras at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee and David Newman at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
Date: Friday, April 14, 2006
Time: 2:00PM
Where: Tech M416
Contact Person: Mary Catsicopoulos
Contact email: maryc@northwestern.edu
Contact Phone: 847/491-5586
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