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The Development of EAGLE-I: the First-Ever Technology to Track Power Outages Nationwide

May 12, 2014 - 3:58pm

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Hurricane Sandy -- shown here via satellite on the night of November 2, 2012 -- was the first real test of EAGLE-I's capabilities | Photo courtesy of CIMSS/University Wisconsin-Madison/NASA/NOAA.

Hurricane Sandy -- shown here via satellite on the night of November 2, 2012 -- was the first real test of EAGLE-I's capabilities | Photo courtesy of CIMSS/University Wisconsin-Madison/NASA/NOAA.

As recently as 2002, no system in America could gather and share real-time emergency situation information on power and natural gas infrastructure -- a weakness exposed by the widespread destruction by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. A team of Energy Department experts remedied this situation by developing a system to do just that, and are now being recognized for their work.

They are finalists for the prestigious Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, awarded each year by the Partnership for Public Service.

It started when Alice Lippert, a senior technical advisor in the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, realized there had to be a better way to collect and provide up-to-the-minute information on the status of energy infrastructure during times of crisis. At the time, she directed a small team that had to gather data manually by logging on to utility company websites or by contacting the companies directly by email or telephone -- which could take hours.

She looked to Gil Bindewald for help. Gil, a program manager for advanced grid-modeling research in the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, worked with the Energy Department's national labs and utility partners to find a technical solution. They teamed up with Patrick Willging, a senior logistics specialist with computer programming and emergency response experience.

Together they worked in-house to build an automated system called EAGLE-I, a web tool that automatically gathers electrical grid service status data from company websites every 15 minutes, and organizes it into an easy to read picture of electrical service status nationwide. Now covering 75 percent of all U.S. electricity customers, it provides real-time information about the grid -- what’s up, what’s down, the number and location of outages, when service is restored -- to the Energy Department, other federal agencies, and state and local emergency responders.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 put EAGLE-I to the test. It was used to produce regular reports that allowed senior leadership and responders to make informed decisions that could mitigate Sandy’s human and economic impacts. Tested and improved, EAGLE-I is helping the Energy Department be more prepared than ever for this year’s and future hurricane seasons -- thanks to the innovative spirit and hard work of Alice, Gil, Patrick and others.

The Partnership will announce the 2014 award winners on September 22.

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