Mayor Michael Bloomberg just announced a Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). The initiative is intended to be a strategic alliance between the New York State utilities and the City of New York. The objective is to design strategies to anticipate, measure and monitor major weather events and their impact on the local infrastructure and the power grid.
The most obvious area of collaboration is in updating disaster recovery plans in light of the experience gained from Superstorm Sandy. The storm itself triggered a massive response by all levels of government, but existing disaster recovery plans clearly need to be updated to reflect future preventive steps.
Examples of measures to be improved based on the learning experience are: shutting down transportation facilities before a storm; evacuating people in areas proximate to the storm surge; relocating power plant operations onto higher ground; and building strategically located artificial barriers to manage local flooding.
City planners need to surround Manhattan Island with natural barriers like parks and playgrounds instead of high-rise buildings. In addition, remote data collection sites which replicate data need to be located in areas far removed from major waterways and earthquake zones.
A hallmark of the SIRR effort is to formulate a smart grid with artificial intelligence capabilities to enhance electrical algorithms in light of newly gained experience. Practically speaking, this effort means that machines can learn from the experience gained from individual storms. Traditionally, knowledge engineers have updated artificial intelligence databases after consulting with a community of experts to help them update system algorithms to handle newly encountered conditions for events like major storms and other natural disasters.
Before the smart power grid can be created, city planners and local utilities must define it. The power grid consists of power generation, maintenance and delivery from Con Edison and local carriers like Direct Energy; nuclear power plant operators; wind energy farms; geothermal, solar, and ocean wave power generation; and the general public.
Many thousands of private homeowners and even small businesses have installed their own solar panels which feed into the overall power grid. Private homeowners receive a credit on their electric bills for solar power fed back into the system from individual homesite solar energy roof installations. Increasingly municipalities, educational institutions and even hospitals are generating their own power from solar energy and other sources like natural gas. This trend will grow as new housing is built with solar energy capabilities.
In order to have the maximum benefit, the SIRR project must identify all of the strategic constituencies which generate power in New York City and the surrounding areas. Once that has been done, the smart power grid can interface with each power generator/source and arrive at an optimal strategy for protecting the system from the grossest effects of natural disasters such as those that impact the region during the hurricane season.