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K-State research channels powerful Kansas wind to keep electricity running
Date:3/21/2011

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- One of Kansas' most abundant natural resources may hold the key to preventing major power outages. A team of Kansas State University engineers is researching ways to use Kansas wind and other distributed energy sources to avoid cascading failures.

Sakshi Pahwa, doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering, India, explored the topic for her recently completed master's project, "Distributed Sources and Islanding to Mitigate Cascading Failures in Power Grid Networks." The project was a winner at the recent Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka.

Pahwa's co-advisers on the project include Caterina Scoglio, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Noel Schulz, Paslay professor of electrical and computer engineering and K-State's first lady. Pahwa is continuing this work for her doctoral research under Scoglio and Ruth Douglas Miller, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The research looks at using distributed energy sources to avoid cascading failures in power grids. A cascading failure occurs when an interconnected part of a power system fails and then triggers successive parts to fail like the one that happened in the Northeast Blackout of 2003, a power outage that affected 55 million people in the United States and Canada.

To prevent cascading failures researchers are investigating a technique called islanding, which works to minimize the impact of a power system fault to a small area. Islanding prevents this fault from affecting other areas and stops further disturbances in the network.

"We used a network partitioning algorithm, and then depending on where the fault is I can disconnect that portion of the network," Pahwa said. "That disconnected portion can then be powered using renewable or distributed energy sources, such as wind turbines or solar panels, and the remaining parts are still being powered by conventional sources."

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Contact: Noel Schulz
noels@k-state.edu
785-532-5600
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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