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Dependable Electric Service in NYC Goal of Engineering Researchers

June 24, 2008

The electricity distribution system in New York City is the most sophisticated of its type in the world, but history has shown that even it is subject to failure. Two engineering researchers at The University of Texas at Arlington are working to reduce the chances of a power outage by identifying service problems before they cause a system shutdown.

Electrical Engineering Professor Wei-Jen Lee and Computer Science & Engineering Assistant Professor Heng Huang have received grants totaling $170,000 from the Consolidated Edison Company (ConEd) to develop algorithms that detect potential failures. ConEd supplies every customer with electric power from at least two sources; if one line is lost, the other takes over the load, providing continual service. However, if a large number of customers are being serviced from just one line, hotspots may develop, causing overloads and shutdowns.

Drs. Lee and Huang are taking a proactive approach to the problem. Though ConEd monitors its system and conducts computer simulations to help identify potential problem areas, lines and sensors under stress may not supply an accurate picture of actual conditions. The algorithms developed by Dr. Lee and Huang will more-accurately predict and detect a service area hotspot, allowing ConEd to sent repair crews to investigate and correct a problem before a serious event occurs, reducing the number of problems and minimizing the effects of small events.

Electrical Engineering researchers at UT Arlington have been assisting ConEd for more than 25 years, providing input and solutions for a host of electric transmission and distribution projects and problems.