Preventing the Grid from Caving In

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Published: 23rd May 2013
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The University of Arkansas and its team of researchers may finally have the key to eliminate cascading power outages and prevent massive blackouts that affect millions of people. If you worry that flicking the air conditioner on in the hottest part of summer along with all of your neighbors is going to trigger a blackout, there may be a new technology that prevents the grid from shutting down and leaving the whole town or city in the dark.

Fault Current Limiter

The researchers at the University of Arkansas freely admit that they did not come up with the fault current limiter device; it had already been invented. However, they did develop a model that employs a silicon semiconductor device and supporting technology that took them roughly five years to create. This advanced fault current limiter regulates the amount of current, that is, excessive current flowing through the grid during power surges. Researchers say that their model is highly durable; in fact, it is believed to be far superior to the materials that are used throughout American power grids today.

The Problem of Rolling Blackouts

Rolling blackouts are typically caused by accidents like trees falling down on power lines or even lightning strikes. They can cause a major surge in the grid that leads to rapid short circuiting and the unplanned blackouts that leave so many without electricity. The device, on the other hand, protects the grid from such incredible surges and people retain their power without interruption. The device seems to have the ability to prevent the types of rolling blackouts that can affect millions.


This durable material is what is making this grid protection possible according to the research team. Not only is it stronger that materials that are typically used throughout the country, it is faster. The material, moreover, appears un-phased by high, even very high voltage. Because it can handle the heat, the grid can also do away with various equipment currently needed at the grid for heat removal duties.

More Benefits

The silicon-carbide fault current limiter is envisioned as a nuanced protector—particularly for vulnerable facilities like hospitals. Reports suggest that the device could work in conjunction with the circuit breakers of other buildings such as hospitals. As the country looks for ways to build smarter and more effective power grids, this model will provide the safeguards they’ll need to ward off the major power outages of yesteryears.

Smarter Grids

The fault current limiter device is one upgrade that can help make a better power grid. However, the U.S. government has been looking at many other ways to enhance grids to service consumers better. The first key, of course, is to stop relying on outdated technologies to operate the nation’s grids. Smart grids can lead to more efficient use of power as well as less interrupted power as in the case of the rolling blackouts. These more secure grids will provide the upgrades the nation’s aging power grids will need to thrive in the future.

The smart grids, as they’ve often dubbed, will be connected to more effective power meters that allow homeowners to use energy more cost-effectively. The meters may be able to indicate when people should turn off appliances to avoid costly energy peak times. New digital technologies will also impact the grids’ ability to operate optimally and make energy consumption better for everyone. The government has also strongly promoted alternative energies to drive the nation’s energy revolution, but the emphasis on the grids along with new technology like the fault current limiter is not only promising—it’s quite close at hand.


Laura Ginn is very much aware of how the demand for power is increasing, and how some of the older power grid systems are finding it difficult to cope with the increased demand. However, she also knows that she can get the best energy prices using the UK’s largest price comparison website.

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