Newswise – ALBANY, NY (February 29, 2024) – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded more than $7 million in grants to support the Disaster resilience research across the nation—including a project led by Jorge González-Cruz of the University at Albany.

González-Cruz is a coastal urban climatologist with a particular focus on helping vulnerable island communities better prepare for and respond to climate extremes. His new project, among other things eight funded by NISTwill use Puerto Rico as a test bed to develop new solutions to improve the safety and resilience of coastal power grids during severe weather events.

The collaborative project involves a team of researchers from UAlbany, New York University and the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez.

“Energy infrastructure in coastal and island regions of the United States is frequently exposed to high winds and precipitation,” said González-Cruz, Empire Innovation Professor at UAlbany Atmospheric Sciences Research Center. “Current knowledge and tools available to assess weather-related risks to power transmission systems are very limited, often resulting in catastrophic consequences, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.” We propose a new, data-driven approach that we believe it will bring a significant improvement.”

Reconstruction of extreme weather events

In his previous work, González-Cruz led a collaborative project to reconstruct the Impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, one of the deadliest storms in US history. This was done through a combination of geophysical models, electrical and water network engineering models, review of damage reports, and using socioeconomic information to determine impacts on low-income communities.

With the new NIST funding, the research team will team up again to reconstruct other major past weather events in Puerto Rico and collect new data, with a focus on resilient energy infrastructure and adapting to a changing climate. Their new strategy includes installing sensors to monitor the safety of cell towers during extreme weather events.

“Our planned research builds on long-term collaboration between academic researchers and utilities on the island,” said González-Cruz. “The main goal is to reconstruct past weather events and collect new data from our installed sensors to develop a predictive modeling framework that can estimate the risk of disruption to the power transmission system during extreme weather conditions.”

In addition to the project’s research team, González-Cruz also plans to collaborate with other engineers and scientists from the academic community, energy utility sectors, energy regulators and other stakeholders. There will also be direct communication and collaboration with the Puerto Rico Energy Commission and the island’s energy suppliers.

The project will involve two graduate students, one from UAlbany and one from New York University. Students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez will also participate in the fieldwork.

“We will involve our graduate students directly in experimental and numerical modeling work and gain valuable experience in both areas,” said Gonzalez-Cruz. “The students will also have plenty of opportunity to come into direct contact with those involved in the project.”

Climate Adaptation Network

In the fall of 2023, Gonzalez-Cruz joined the Caribbean Climate Adaptation Network (CCAN), which aims to bring together multidisciplinary scientists with community and state stakeholders in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to better prepare for and respond to climate extremes.

He plans to involve the CCAN community in this new project in hopes of expanding the research to other island communities as well as other areas of the U.S. with complex terrain.

“Puerto Rico is our starting point for this work, but we believe the results are transferable to other locations where the distribution power system is often at risk,” Gonzalez-Cruz said.

Applicants for the new federal funding were asked to consider natural hazards such as hurricanes and tornadoes; persistent rain, coastal and inland flooding and tsunamis; Fires at the interface between forest and city; and earthquakes and how communities might reduce their vulnerability to them and increase their resilience.

The projects are financed by the Disaster Resilience Research Grant Programwhich NIST and NSF jointly manage.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *