Princeton Expert to Help Brazil With Electricity Supply Problems

John Sullivan, Office of Engineering Communications ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

The historic drought that parched Brazil over the last two years was not just a water-supply problem — it was also a power problem. The nation’s heavy use of hydroelectricity, which had made it a model of renewable energy, contributed to an increased risk of rolling blackouts in some of Brazil’s largest cities during severe droughts. Now, Princeton researchers are joining with colleagues at a Brazilian university to help the operator of Brazil’s electric grid and the country’s major utilities develop a system to better manage their electric system when hydropower dries up.

Warren Powell, a professor of operations research and financial engineering, will join colleagues at the University of Campinas to analyze plans for integrating new types of renewable energy into the Brazilian electric grid. Powell, whose work focuses on optimization and uncertainty, has done extensive research on electricity distribution systems. Among other topics, Powell has analyzed the PJM Interconnection — the massive grid that supports an area ranging from the Mid-Atlantic states to the Ohio Valley. A group of 19 electric power generation companies in Brazil asked for Powell’s help in managing their own system — in particular they were seeking advice on integrating wind power into the grid.