VIP Tackles Grid Resilience with Real-Time Power Outage Tracker

Georgia Tech's new GROWER VIP is creating the country's most comprehensive real-time power outage tracker for research use. The database will help researchers explore questions about the causes and effects of power outages and how policy interventions can help strengthen grid resilience. 

Why now? 

This understanding is urgent in the wake of increasingly extreme climate change-driven weather events and natural disasters, as well as the federal government’s investment of more than $15 billion in grid modernization under the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

The database will help researchers learn more about the causes of outages and their societal impacts, such as on housing prices, business activity, public health, and crime. It will also help them obtain greater insight into which communities experience the most frequent and longest outages and what can be done to help.  

How does it work? 

  • Utility companies report real-time power outages, but the data is fractured across different service territories and states. 
  • Users can’t download data directly, making the information difficult to use for research and evaluation. 
  • Because of this, it's hard for researchers and agencies to understand the extent and scope of problems with the energy grid. 

To address these challenges, the GROWER team developed algorithms and web scrapers. They use Amazon Web Services to crawl the utility websites every 15 minutes and collect the power outage data for many states in one place.  

Who’s Involved? 

The Grid Resilience, Outage, Weather, and Emergency Response (GROWER) Lab is a Vertically Integrated Project launched in 2024 by faculty and students in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering. 

Brian Y. An, an assistant professor in the School of Public Policy, and Constance Crozier, an assistant professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, lead the project alongside John Kim, the lab manager and a public policy Ph.D. student. The group includes 15 students in computer science, city and regional planning, business, public policy, and industrial systems and engineering programs. 

What’s Next? 

The GROWER team has already begun applying findings from the dataset to research questions. 

They are writing a paper based on data showing that racial and ethnic minorities experience more frequent and longer power outages than other groups and have also begun examining the effects of power outages on crime and medical emergencies. 

This summer, they will partner with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to provide technical assistance to the Department of Energy Grid Deployment Office, which is the lead federal agency administering grid modernization grants.  

“It is incredibly rewarding to connect with research groups in and out of Georgia Tech who share this vision with us,” An said. “We’re excited to conduct robust research that will inform real-word policy making across the country."