There is an optimum size for electrical networks if what is being considered is the risk of a blackout. This is the conclusion reached by a scientific study done by researchers at Universidad Carlos III in Madrid (UC3M); the study analyzes the dynamics of these complex infrastructures.
In 1928, the British biologist and geneticist John Haldane wrote the essay “On being the right size” in which he stated that “For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form”. The application of Haldane’s Principle spread to fields like physiology and paleontology, and there was speculation that it could be used with institutions and social organizations, as well. And that is precisely what these researchers have done with social infrastructures as complex as electrical networks. In light of Haldane’s comments, the scientists wondered if the expansion of these networks should continue or if, on the contrary, there is an optimum adequate size for their correct functioning. The answer is yes, according to the results of the power network model that these UC3M scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Iowa State University (both in the USA), used in the study, which was recently published in the journal Chaos.
To sum up: size matters if the risk of a blackout is being taken into account. “Risk is defined as the product of the probability of failure multiplied by the cost it generates,” explains researcher Benjamín Carreras, the 2014 Chair of Excellence in UC3M’s Physics Department. “When small networks join together, a lot of local black-outs are avoided, generally reducing costs; in contrast, huge black-outs occur in the large networks and, although they are very infrequent, they have an enormous cost, which limits the acceptable size for networks of this kind,” states Carreras, who makes this important point regarding the cost-benefit ratio, “The short-term benefits are mainly for the electrical companies, but it is not very clear who pays for the large black-outs, so there may not be a lot of interest in changing things.”
To reach these conclusions the researchers simulated the operation of an electrical network and statistically measured the risk of failures in the energy supply in function of the size of the infrastructures. To do this, they maintained a set of fixed conditions, such as reliability (the probability of the failure of a component), the network’s administration (how an increase in electrical demand is managed) and the environmental conditions (the influence of earthquakes, storms, etc.).
Reliability, operations and environment
The two first factors are the most important, according to the researchers, although the third is steadily growing in importance. “In a recent study it was shown that, in recent decades, there has been a systematic increase in failures in the grid due to weather conditions, probably because of climate change. We are talking about an 80% increase since 2003,” points out Carreras. Nevertheless, everything depends on one’s point of view; really, localized blackouts caused by storms are not necessarily bad, according to the researcher, because when they are repaired it is possible to make the systems more resistant to general blackouts.
During this study, the researchers took parameters from the electrical grid in the United States, but their models and results can be extrapolated to any type of electrical network. In fact, there are important parallelisms with other types of infrastructures, and even with economic systems: “In these systems, “blackouts” are known as “crises” and their size has increased with globalization, so it would be very interesting to apply these ideas to economic models,” they note. Their conclusions lead to questioning the idea of “the bigger, the better”. At least when it comes to electrical grids.
Does size matter? B. A. Carreras. D. E. Newman. Ian Dobson. Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science 24, 023104. Published online on April 8, 2014. doi: 10.1063/1.4868393 http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.4868393
Javier Alonso | Eurek Alert!
Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon
27.06.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH
Air pollution casts shadow over solar energy production
27.06.2017 | Duke University
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.06.2017 | Information Technology
27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy