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Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2004 Feb;69(2 Pt 2):025103. Epub 2004 Feb 26.

Structural vulnerability of the North American power grid.

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Department of Physics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA.


The magnitude of the August 2003 blackout affecting the United States has put the challenges of energy transmission and distribution into limelight. Despite all the interest and concerted effort, the complexity and interconnectivity of the electric infrastructure precluded us for a long time from understanding why certain events happened. In this paper we study the power grid from a network perspective and determine its ability to transfer power between generators and consumers when certain nodes are disrupted. We find that the power grid is robust to most perturbations, yet disturbances affecting key transmission substations greatly reduce its ability to function. We emphasize that the global properties of the underlying network must be understood as they greatly affect local behavior.


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