Goodbye blackouts! China’s power grid can now be reset in three seconds thanks to AI

The same process used to take six to 10 hours.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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  • The new AI-powered grid can fix a blackout in three seconds as opposed to 10 hours.
  • There are plans to make the system operational throughout China.
  • The system, like all AIs, learns as it goes along.

Is it possible to eliminate blackouts and all power-related issues in seconds? Apparently, yes. China's state-owned power grid company has just introduced a new AI system that resolves power issues in just three seconds, according to an article by the South China Morning Post (SCMP). This process used to take six to 10 hours.

Multiple sensors equipped with brains

As efficient and powerful as the new system is, it is not operational everywhere. It has only been trialled for one month in Qitailu, a residential community with more than 200 families located in Urumqi in the Xinjiang region.

The new community power grid has multiple sensors, each of which has its own "brain". These can autonomously choose the most efficient and viable power supply routes. No human intervention is needed, significantly speeding up all grid-related activities.

If any failure occurs, the AI system is designed to “instantly start the self-healing function, including automatic fault location, fault isolation and power restoration,” said a Science and Technology Daily report. Because of this, there has been a significant improvement in power supply.

“Now the outage is almost nothing. The power comes as soon as it stops, not affecting life and work in any way,” an unnamed resident told the state-owned newspaper.

However, a senior engineer working at the headquarters of the State Grid Corporation of China in Beijing told SCMP that most issues in the country are still currently being handled manually.

“In a residential community, the grid connects to a large number of end users. The environment is quite complex. Many different kinds of problems can happen. Most issues need to be located and identified manually,” explained the engineer who remained anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“And Chinese power grid workers are probably the most efficient in the world. But when it happens, it still takes hours to fix the problem,” he added.

He further explained how differently the AI works from computer and human operators. When a blackout occurs, the conventional power grid management computers issue a large number of error codes.

AI understands the messages behind error codes

A human operator then needs to investigate these codes to conceive of a solution to fix the blackout which can be very time-consuming. The AI uses natural language processing to do this much faster by “understanding” the message behind the error code.

Like all AIs, the power grid AI collects a significant amount of data produced by a wide range of sensors to get better at fixing blackouts. Soon, the service will be available throughout China even in the smallest of regions, said the engineer.

“In the past these sensors and related data transmission technology were only available for high-voltage power lines. Now they are making ways into neighborhoods,” he concluded.

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