February 28, 2020

Dr. Kevin F. Forbes, an associate professor of economics here at the Catholic University of America, is currently on sabbatical leave in Ireland helping to conduct research with ESRI. The Economic and Social Research Institute is the premier think-tank in Ireland, and Dr. Forbes is applying data science methods to help resolve the challenges of transitioning the power grid to cleaner forms of energy. Recently, Dr. Forbes and his colleague published a peer-reviewed article in AGU’s Space Weather Journal entitled, “The Challenge Posed by Space Weather to High‐Voltage Electricity Flows: Evidence From Ontario, Canada, and New York State, USA.”

After noting a gap in research quantifying the effects of space weather, Dr. Forbes began researching whether loop flows- the unexplained difference between the scheduled flows and actual flows of electricity between two regions- could be explained by geomagnetically induced currents (GICS). This research is important not only to advance the field of physics, but to the electrical power industry as a whole both in terms of efficiency and reliability. Because electricity currents “follow the laws of physics… rather than the laws of supply and demand,” sometimes in New York City “there are market periods in which the real-time price of electricity is more than five times the day-ahead price for the same hour.” Accordingly, “in extreme cases, the flows may represent a significant challenge to the reliability of the electric power system,” because there is no model to accurately predict loop flows. Forbes et al. formulated a model examining the relationship between geomagnetic activity and electricity estimating it with data from Ontario and New York. They found that, “the predictions [of electricity flows] are more accurate when the predictions take geomagnetic activity into account,” suggesting that “GICs do have the potential to disrupt the electricity flows.”

Congratulations and thank you to Dr. Forbes for his research! If you want to read the full article, you can find the link here.