Prof. Gil Zussman along with co-PIs Prof. Dan Bienstock from the Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research and Prof. Eytan Modiano from MIT received a $1.05M grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Their project will focus on studying the resilience of the power grid to geographically correlated failures.
The project is motivated by the fact that large-scale failures of the power grid can have a devastating impact on almost every aspect of modern life, as well as on interdependent systems (e.g., telecommunications). The power grid is vulnerable to an outage of several lines in the same geographical area that may result from a WMD attack, such as an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) attack. Unlike flow in communication networks, flow in the power grid is governed by the laws of physics. As a result, the failure of one line, can lead to overflow, and the subsequent failure of other power lines. Such failure cascades can lead to significant widespread outages throughout the grid. The project's objective is to study the vulnerability of the power grid to geographically correlated failures and to develop control and design methods to avert such failures. The PIs will focus on outages caused by a large-scale physical attack, and develop algorithms for identifying the most vulnerable areas in the grid as well as for assessing the effect of a random attack. They will also develop control mechanisms for mitigating the effect of an attack and methods for robust power network design. Finally, they will investigate the properties of cascading power failures, as well as failure cascades between interdependent network infrastructures (such as the telecommunication infrastructure).