The July 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Rebuilding Puerto Rico’s Power Grid: The Inside Story

Electricity may be fully restored this May—but the hard work of hurricane-proofing the grid remains

20 min read
Obed Santos, manager of the AES Illumina solar farm in Guayama.
A transmission tower felled by Hurricane Maria.
Photo: Erika P. Rodriguez

As Hurricane Maria churned menacingly toward Puerto Rico on 19 September, Gary Soto was hunkering down on the outskirts of San Juan. Soto, the operations manager of Puerto Rico’s state-run utility, faced a daunting task: to keep the grid running and minimize damage from the storm.

In a windowless, wood-paneled control center at the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), Soto and a dozen other engineers and supervisors worked at U-shaped desks littered with paper coffee cups, staring at computer monitors that displayed real-time conditions on the grid. One after another, transmission lines were failing, and the team hastily debated their course of action. In this fragile state, the network wouldn’t be able to absorb an oversupply of power, excess voltages, or swings in frequency. They could inject test currents into the downed lines, to see which ones could be restored, or else reduce the level of electricity being put on the grid, to protect the remaining transmission system. Hour after hour, the team’s chatter filled the room with rising urgency.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

When Gamers Get Nasty

Researchers grapple with subjectivity as they develop aIgorithms to detect toxicity in online gaming

2 min read
A man wearing a headset is seen in a dark room playing video games
Getty Images

Online gaming is a chance for players to come together, socialize and enjoy some friendly competition. Unfortunately, this enjoyable activity can be hindered by abusive language and toxicity, negatively impacting the gaming experience and causing psychological harm. Gendered and racial toxicity, in particular, are all too common in online gaming.

To combat this issue, various groups of researchers have been developing AI models that can detect toxic behavior in real-time as people play. One group recently developed a new model, which is described in a study published May 23 in IEEE Transactions on Games. While the model can detect toxicity with a fair amount of accuracy, its development demonstrates just how challenging it can be to determine what is considered toxic—a subjective matter.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Quantum Computing for Dummies

New guide helps beginners run quantum algorithms on IBM's quantum computers over the cloud

3 min read
An image of the inside of an IBM quantum computer.
IBM

Quantum computers may one day rapidly find solutions to problems no regular computer might ever hope to solve, but there are vanishingly few quantum programmers when compared with the number of conventional programmers in the world. Now a new beginner's guide aims to walk would-be quantum programmers through the implementation of quantum algorithms over the cloud on IBM's publicly available quantum computers.

Whereas classical computers switch transistors either on or off to symbolize data as ones or zeroes, quantum computers use quantum bits, or "qubits," which because of the peculiar nature of quantum physics can exist in a state called superposition where they are both 1 and 0 at the same time. This essentially lets each qubit perform two calculations at once. The more qubits are quantum-mechanically linked, or entangled (see our explainer), within a quantum computer, the greater its computational power can grow, in an exponential fashion.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

A Multiphysics Approach to Designing Fuel Cells for Electric Vehicles

White paper on fuel cell modeling and simulation

1 min read
Comsol Logo
Comsol

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) often reach higher energy density and exhibit greater efficiency than battery EVs; however, they also have high manufacturing costs, limited service life, and relatively low power density.

Modeling and simulation can improve fuel cell design and optimize EV performance. Learn more in this white paper.