Michael Ropp poses for a photo at Sandia’s Distributed Energy Technology Lab (DETL) on Oct. 13, 2023. His team is working on ways for an energy microgrids to self-heal using computer algorithms. Photo by Craig Fritz/Sandia National Labs

Creating the self-healing grid of the future

March 14, 2024 8:00 am Published by

Self-healing electrical grids: It may sound like a concept from science fiction, with tiny robots or some sentient tech crawling around fixing power lines, but in a reality not far from fiction a team of researchers is bringing this idea to life.

What’s not hard to imagine is the potential value of a self-healing grid, one able to adapt and bounce back to life, ensuring uninterrupted power even when assailed by a hurricane or a group of bad guys. Together a team from Sandia National Laboratories and New Mexico State University is making this vision possible — not with tiny robots, but rather a cutting-edge library of algorithms. By coding these algorithms into grid relays, the system can quickly restore power to as many hospitals, grocery stores and homes as possible before grid operators can begin repairs or provide instructions.

“The ultimate goal is to enable systems to self-heal and form these ad hoc configurations when things go really bad,” said Michael Ropp, Sandia electrical engineer and the project lead. “After the system is damaged or compromised, the system can automatically figure out how to get to a new steady-state that provides power to as many customers as it possibly can; that’s what we mean by ‘self-healing.’ The key is that we’re doing it entirely with local measurements, so there is no need for expensive fiber optics or human controllers.”

Learn more about the self-healing grid.

Photo: Sandia National Laboratories electrical engineer Michael Ropp and his team have created a library of codes to improve the resilience, reliability and self-healing nature of the electric grid. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

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