Four Projects Will Develop and Deploy Technologies to Address the Growing and Severe Threat of Wildfires to the Electric Grid

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $2.25 million in funding to accelerate four projects aimed at mitigating the threat wildfires pose to the Nation’s electric grid. This investment is part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to help strengthen U.S. wildfire prevention, preparedness, mitigation, and response efforts – and to protect communities  from wildfires and their devastating impacts.

“Climate change is driving extreme heat and drought, leading to more frequent and severe wildfires,” said Deputy Secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy, David Turk. “By partnering with industry and leveraging the advanced capabilities at DOE’s National Labs, these projects will expand real-world solutions at scale to help secure the electric grid that powers our communities and our daily lives.”

The four projects will: 

  • Utilize artificial intelligence to identify grid vulnerabilities and prevent disruptions. Led by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in partnership with Southern California Edison and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), this project will leverage the Grid Resilience and Intelligence Platform (GRIP) to develop and deploy technologies that can help identify areas of the electric grid that are vulnerable to disruptions caused by vegetation so they can be addressed before incidents occur.
  • Deploy high-fidelity sensors on the electric grid to detect early fire risk. Led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric company in California, this project will use high fidelity sensors to develop a “distribution arcing fault detecting and signature library” that will capture grid signatures that can be used as early indicators of arcing to identify and mitigate fire risk.
  • Equip autonomous drones with machine vision and learning capabilities to inspect vegetation and assess wildfire damage. Brains4Drones, a women-owned small business and a DOE Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awardee based in Texas, will lead this project to develop an intelligent cyber-secured “brain” that can be attached to off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles in order to identify damaged energy infrastructure and assess vegetation status.
  • Leverage advanced aerial autonomous vehicles technologies with real-time sensors to inspect transmission lines and vegetation. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will lead this project which will link the lab’s Multi-modal Autonomous Vehicle NETworks for Wildfire Mitigation (MAVNET) to unmanned aerial vehicles, enabling advanced command, control, communication, and computing capabilities that can inspect transmission lines and assess vegetation management.