As Threats to America’s Power Grid Rise, WVU Professor Develops Advanced Solutions for Human-Machine Coordination | Today

WVU Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering students Partha Sarker, Paroma Chatterjee, and Jannatul Adan discuss a power grid simulation project led by Anurag Srivastava, professor and department head, at GOLab.
(WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

The power grid faces a growing barrage of threats that could trigger a butterfly effect – floods, superstorms, heat waves, cyberattacks, not to mention its own complexity and size – that the nation is unprepared to handle, according to a West Virginia University scientific.

But Anurag Srivastavaprofessor and president of the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineeringhas plans to prevent and respond to potential power grid outages, through two research projects funded by the National Science Foundation.

“In the grid, we have the butterfly effect,” Srivastava said. “That means if a butterfly flaps its wings in Florida, it will cause a windstorm in Connecticut because things are connected synchronously, like dominoes. In the power grid, states like Florida, Connecticut, Illinois, and West Virginia are all part of the Eastern Interconnect and are interconnected.

“If a big event happens in the Deep South, it will cause a problem in the North. To stop this, we must detect the problem area as soon as possible and gracefully separate this part so that the disturbance does not spread throughout.

With more than $1.3 million in combined funding, Srivastava and researchers are tackling two converging studies aimed at transforming power grid crisis response. One includes a major grant from NSF’s Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier program and the other is a joint project grant awarded by NSF and the German Research Foundation.

A study focuses on aDaptioN: software capable of working with non-centralized information from the entire network to make, in some cases, its own decisions on the correct response to a problem in the electrical network. The other study develops an advanced tool to train human network operators to manage large amounts of information and track if they enter information overload.

Srivastava’s research will enable flexible, accurate and rapid responses from network infrastructures and human network operators in crisis situations. It starts with his development of the aDaptioN software. The name refers to “data-driven secure holonic control and optimization for networked cyber-physical system”.

When faced with a potential threat, aDaptioN software autonomously isolates and quarantines problematic parts of the network, preventing those sections from wreaking havoc. Additionally, aDaptioN will use distributed intelligence sharing to protect against cyberattacks, sealing a major hole in national security preparedness.

The U.S. grid is much more complicated than it was a few decades ago, which Srivastava attributes to the competitive electricity market created in the late 1990s and the rise of small-scale power sources. scale like home solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations, both of which have tangled the paths electricity takes from the plant to the substation to the consumer.

Intelligently controlling the tidal wave of information produced at multiple points on the grid would be a game-changer, and while adaptation is part of achieving this goal, there is another equally crucial step. The Srivastava team will create the Grid Operation Lab in Evansdale, a state-of-the-art cyber-physical-human system simulation laboratory that will be a working, scale model of a power grid control room.

At GOLab, around 60 energy engineering students will play the role of control operators in simulated crisis scenarios. Advanced operational tools will provide them with information. If they receive too much information, they will not be able to process it effectively. If they receive too little, they will make the wrong calls.

In a training and testing process inspired by spacecraft flight simulators, operators will be connected and surrounded by sensors that measure their cognitive performance by tracking their skin’s electrical responses and eye movements. Srivastava and his team will determine the conditions under which an operator’s alertness decreases and fatigue sets in.

Network operators must maintain a relentless focus on vast data streams. To maintain continuity of awareness, Srivastava said, operators typically work 12-hour shifts. Each operator works at a specific desk with unique responsibility.

“Somebody can focus on the flow of energy from state to state,” Srivastava said, “while someone is focusing on the levels of tension. Someone else is constantly doing this what we call a ‘security scan’ – running ‘What if?’ scenarios. They all need to talk to each other and their neighbors in other control rooms whenever they see a problem.”

As the operators play their part in the simulations, Srivastava will track their responses to the flow of information. It will first refine student tracking and analysis, then bring in 30 experienced professional operators to work with collaborators and validate the technology.

Whether it’s a wildfire, cyberattack, fuel shortage or winter storm, Srivastava knows the next crisis in America’s power grid will set off a high-speed cascade of alarms. , cross-communication, automated shutdowns and uncoordinated individual responses. This scenario will play out very differently, he predicts, once his research leads control network operators into the eye of the information storm.



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