The devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and Irma are critical reminders of the impact that rapid changes in temperature and precipitation can have on power generation, distribution and critical infrastructure.

New work being done by the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory is helping energy suppliers and distributors better adapt to such changes and build resilience using climate modeling, data analysis and infrastructure planning. The insights can help power providers anticipate risk and identify solutions to enhance service reliability today and in years to come.
Argonne National Laboratory
“Argonne has the tools to help ensure that systems and technologies for distributed generation are deployed in a way that optimizes their benefits with respect to resilience and operations,” said Mark Petri, Argonne’s Electric Power Grid Program Director.

Changes in regional climate and weather, whether fast or gradual, affect grid-connected systems, particularly those that rely on distributed energy resources such as solar and wind. For example, rising temperatures can cause power lines to sag and become weaker, impacting conductivity. It can also increase energy demand as more people use cooling services, which can strain generation and delivery systems.

Argonne helps energy providers to forecast changes in regional climate and weather and predict how these changes may, among other things, affect energy demand and infrastructure.

“If you’re investing in long-term infrastructure, it’s important to know how climate and energy demand will change over time, because you can’t simply pick up and move your microgrid. You’ve got to be able to work under existing – and future – conditions,” said Argonne Infrastructure and Preparedness Analyst Tom Wall, one of the initiative’s lead researchers.

To identify actionable information, Wall and other collaborators integrate data from climate models with infrastructure and environmental models, and incorporate statistical analysis and decision science into their evaluation.

Climate models can show regional climate conditions at a hyper-localized level; environmental models can predict how climate projections can affect the occurrence and severity of flooding, heatwaves and drought and other processes; and infrastructure modeling and risk assessment can forecast how these conditions will affect electrical infrastructure, supply and demand, and continuity of service.

“With our resources and experts, you can ask many questions, such as: How will the regional climate change in years to come, how will those changes impact flooding, and, in turn, energy demand? Will there be more outages, and if so how long will disruptions last?” said Petri.

“We can also help system developers deploy decentralized systems successfully by helping them understand the practical implications of where they put their infrastructure, and how location may influence generation capacity and operations now and in the future.”

This work stems from extensive collaboration among climate and environmental scientists, computer scientists, engineers, statisticians and experts in decision science and risk management, all of whom are brought together within the laboratory.

“Argonne brings together the diverse set of resources and experts needed to fill the gap between applications and scientific research, and this initiative exemplifies that,” said company Climate Scientist Yan Feng, one of the initiative’s leaders.

“Some institutions can model climate and environmental processes and others can analyze infrastructure and energy systems. Very few places can unite both these capabilities, as Argonne can.”

For more information on Argonne’ suite of services, contact