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The Texas A&M University College of Engineering and Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES)-led research team has been awarded a $1 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create an organization that will develop the framework for utilizing vast amounts of data emerging in the nation’s smart grids.  

The team’s project, “Smart Grids Big Data,” is one of 10 “Big Data Spokes” announced recently by the NSF. The spokes support the four Big Data Regional Innovation Hubs, which reflect the unique priorities and capabilities of the U.S. geographic regions they service. The Texas A&M team and its collaborators are part of the South Big Data Hub. 

Since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, billions of dollars have been invested to develop new technology for electric power grid monitoring, control and infrastructure protection. The ARRA created overwhelmingly abundant Big Data in smart grids, but without a system in place to fully utilize it.  

Developing a fundamental framework for extracting knowledge and integrating big data for power system applications is the goal of the Smart Grids Big Data Spoke. This action-oriented organization will enable the South Big Data Hub to meet the societal grand challenge of creating technological solutions that can fulfill the economic potential inherent in Big Data analytics in the electric utility industry, which is expected to reach an annual value of close to $4 billion by 2020.

The principal investigator is Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, director of TEES’ Smart Grid Center and Eugene E. Webb Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M. Co-PIs from electrical and computer engineering are Dr. P.R. Kumar, Engineering Chair in Computer Engineering and distinguished professor; and Dr. Le Xie, associate professor; from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering is Dr. Dilma Da Silva, department head and holder of the Ford Motor Company Design Professorship II; Dr. Zoran Obradovic, Temple University; and Dr. Santiago Grijalva, Georgia Tech.

“Being part of this initiative gives us the opportunity to contribute to the great engineering challenges facing the world in terms of securing and modernizing the power grid utilizing unprecedented amounts of data characterizing different aspects of the grid operation,” said Kezunovic. 

The Big Data Hubs announced last year, are one way the NSF is addressing this need. The NSF established four Hubs, one each in the Midwest, Northeast, South and West regions of the country, to foster multi-sector collaborations among academia, industry and government. Each Hub is helping to bring together a wide range of big data stakeholders in order to solve regional challenges.

Each Big Data Spoke will work on a challenge that requires big data approaches and solutions in given domains. Like the Big Data Hubs, the Big Data Spokes will take on a convening and coordinating role as opposed to directly conducting research. Each will gather important stakeholders; engage end users and solution providers; and form multidisciplinary teams to tackle questions no single field can solve alone. However, unlike the Big Data Hubs, which aim to span the full range of data-driven challenges and solutions in a geographic region, each Big Data Spoke will have a specific, goal-driven mission.

“The Big Data Spokes advance the goals and regional priorities of each Big Data Hub, fusing the strengths of a range of institutions and investigators and applying them to problems that affect the communities and populations within their regions,” said Jim Kurose, assistant director of the NSF for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. “We are pleased to be making this substantial investment today to accelerate the nation’s big data R&D innovation ecosystem.”

Click here to read the complete NSF Big Data Spoke release.