Power System Resilience

NREL is leading research efforts in resilience of the evolving power grid.

A resilient power grid withstands, responds to, and recovers rapidly from major power disruptions as its designers, planners, and operators anticipate, prepare for, and adapt to changing grid conditions. Aspects of resilience, specifically the ability to "absorb" an event, overlap with operational reliability and resource adequacy—two other important parts of a reliable grid. However, several aspects of resilience are unique, particularly how quickly power can be restored after an outage.

Resilience also typically includes more extreme, rare events that go beyond "reasonable" outages considered in resource adequacy and operational reliability.

Learn how place-based strategies can help define, measure, and monetize energy resilience in a conversation with NREL's Eliza Hotchkiss. Text version.

Extreme Events on the Power Grid

Extreme resilience events do not happen often, but they can affect many electric customers or geographic regions. These events can be caused by extreme weather such as thunderstorms (wind and lightning), winter weather, hurricanes, and tornadoes or human threats such as cyberattacks.

Extreme events can lead to outages on the grid, including major transmission line outages, equipment failures, and severe weather-related damage. More significant outages can impede the operation of critical services such as water treatment or medical care.

Large outages require coordination between grid operators and other stakeholders to restore power flow. The duration of an outage can depend on the cause, scale, complexity, available resources to repair the outage, and the overall impact to the affected area.

Improving Grid Resilience

As extreme weather events become more common due to climate change, organizations at every scale are working to improve grid resilience. Several organizations monitor resilience and the potential impact of extreme weather events, including the North American Electric Reliability Corp..

Power system owners and operators are weighing the costs and benefits of investing in various resilience strategies. To support decision making, NREL developed resilience analysis tools and frameworks to help determine the value of resilience over time and at different scales. Examples of resilience metrics could be the number of lost services (e.g., hospitals and fire stations without power), economic losses within a community over an outage duration, or the avoided cost of lost utility revenue.

In addition, NREL provides technical assistance to communities and utilities, performs site assessments and develops valuation tools, and studies interdependencies between energy and water systems, communications, transportation, and other sectors.

Additional Resources

To learn more about resilience on the evolving power grid, check out these resources:

NREL Energy System Resilience Research

Preparing Solar Photovoltaic Systems Against Storms

Preparación de Sistemas Solares Fotovoltaicos Contra Tormentas

The Evolving Role of Extreme Weather Events in the U.S. Power System With High Levels of Variable Renewable Energy

Valuing Resilience in Electricity Systems

NREL Energy Resilience Assessment Methodology

Adapting Existing Energy Planning, Simulation, and Operational Models for Resilience Analysis

Want more renewable energy grid basics? See more topics on planning and operating the future grid.