EPIC Energy Seminar: Impact of Natural Disasters on the Grid: A Puerto Rico Case Study

October 16, 2018 - 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM

During the Fall and Spring semesters, EPIC presents the Energy Seminar Series with speakers from around the region. These experts share valuable information and their insight into trends and news that is related to energy. Seminars are FREE and are open to students, faculty, and the public. Pizza is included so please register to attend.


The 2017 hurricane season inflicted three severe blows (Harvey, Irma and Maria) in the Atlantic region, resulting in significant economic losses to the US territory totaling $183 billion exceeding the 2005 Katrina economic losses ($108 billion). The losses include power loss for many customers resulting from collapsed structures, faulted lines, and failure to resurrect the electrical power grid operations after the storm. There is an urgent need to establish a dialogue about ways to make the power grid more resilient against climate change.

EPIC has recently launched NSF sponsored (NSF 1807813) research to study the aftermath from 2017 hurricanes, specifically, Irma and Maria. The effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria are consistent with projected increases in natural disasters due to climate change, which has also been associated with the recent 2018 hurricane Florence that devastated part of the Carolinas. The critical question raised by a concerned public is if such storms are examples of future extreme events? And how can the power delivery systems be more resilient?

In this presentation, the panelists will report their studies to date and discuss the issues of grid resilience against climate change. In light of the fiascos in Puerto Rico, the power grids are differentiated into non-IAIPSs and IAIPSs (Isolated and Autonomous Island Power Systems). This presentation will reflect on the climate change effects and how grid resilience is critically associated with the banding together of the utilities.

This research is a joint effort between multiple universities (UNC Charlotte and University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez), Duke Energy and Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Faculties from UNC Charlotte include Drs. Madhav Manjrekar, Yamilka Baez-Rivera, Miguel Pando, Shen-en Chen and Wenwu Tang.

About the Speakers

Dr. Yamilka Baez-Rivera is a Teaching Assistant Professor and EET Program Director for the Engineering Technology and Construction Management Department at UNC Charlotte. She earned a BS and MS from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez Campus in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a Ph.D. from Mississippi State University. Previously she was a Lecturer and Manager of the Duke Energy Smart Grid Laboratory in the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC). Her primary research consists of modeling and simulations, visualization and hardware in the loop. Before coming to UNC Charlotte, Dr. Baez-Rivera taught engineering technology and medical imaging at ECPI University. While attending Mississippi State University as a Ph.D. student, she interned with Northrop Grumman Ship Systems Division working with load shedding and stability control for the LHD-8 Iwo Jima Navy assault ship during its design and implementation phase. In the UNC Charlotte community, Yamilka is a member of the Chancellor’s Diversity Fund Committee, as well as the Latino Faculty and Staff Caucus.

Dr. Miguel A. Pando is currently an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNC Charlotte, and was previously an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM). In addition to his research in Geotechnical Engineering on the topics of soil-structure interaction and engineering characterization of geomaterials, Dr. Pando has been actively involved in teaching and mentoring students at both UPRM and UNC Charlotte. Related to the seminar, Dr Pando was the co-leader of the NSF funded GEER reconnaissance mission to assess geotechnical damages such as landslides, coastal and river erosion, and foundation failures in Puerto Rico associated to hurricane Maria. He was also co-PI of the NSF Rapid project with Dr. Chen (PI), Dr. Baez (co-PI) and colleagues for the university in Puerto Rico at Mayaguez that is the main focus of this seminar. His graduate education includes a master of science from the University of Alberta, Canada (1995) and a doctoral degree from Virginia Tech, USA (2003) both degrees in Civil Engineering with specialization in geotechnical engineering. 

Dr. Shen-En Chen  is a professor in Civil Engineering at UNC-Charlotte). Prior to UNC-Charlotte, he taught at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His research focuses on non-destructive health monitoring of power transmission and bridge systems using remote sensing techniques, such as 3D terrestrial LiDAR, laser vibrometry scanners and small format aerial photography. His other energy-related research include carbon capture and storage, ceramic candle filter testing for emission gas filtration during coal fire testing and more recently, study of power system resilience during extreme climate events. He is a member of the Forensic Engineering Division of the American Society of Civil Engineering and has lead the US team to investigate the aftermath of Supertyphoon Haiyan (landfall wind speed of 180 mph) in the Philippines. He has 80 peer-reviewed journal publications and graduated eight Ph.D. students at UNC Charlotte.

Dr. Wenwu Tang is Associate Professor at the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences and Executive Director of the Center for Applied GIScience at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Wenwu holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of Iowa and was a Post-doc and Research Scientist at the U.S. National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include cyberinfrastructure and high-performance geocomputation, agent-based modeling, and land change modeling. Tang has over 70 peer-reviewed publications, including 48 journal articles, 10 book chapters, and 12 conference proceedings. Courses that Wenwu have taught include CyberGIS and Big Data, Spatial Statistics, Web GIS, Cartography and Geovisualization. Wenwu is the editorial board member of Landscape and Urban Planning, and academic editor of PLOS One.






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