New Electric Grid Monitoring System Developed At Texas A&M Can Prevent Wildfires Caused By Power Lines

After the 2011 Bastrop fire, A&M and the state of Texas started a pilot program develop technology to avert another disaster.

By Jill AmentDecember 4, 2019 4:44 pm, ,

The Bastrop County Complex Fire in 2011 burned more than 34,000 acres and 1,500 homes. It started on a windy day when trees fell on a power line, causing sparks to land on the dry grass below and ignite the forest. Wildfires caused by sparks from power lines are not unique, though; they were the source, in part, of recent major wildfires in California, for example. With that in mind, researchers at Texas A&M University developed a technology to prevent some of these fires before they start.

Don Russell, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Texas A&M, says his team can now predict wildfire threats hours, weeks and even years in advance, in some cases, with its Distribution Fault Anticipation technology, or DFA.

“We’ve developed a smart system, a diagnostic tool … where we know that things are in a failure mode and they can be found and fixed long before the catastrophic failure occurs,” Russell says.

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– How A&M’s system notifies an electric company when a circuit is likely to fail

– How the system prevents the need for some grid blackouts, which are dangerous for some people

– How the state of Texas helped with the development of DFA

– What it costs to install the monitoring system


Written by Kristen Cabrera.