CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Researchers at Oregon State University will receive more than $400,000 in federal funds to research how large earthquakes would affect the western electrical grid.
The award from the National Science Foundation will provide $433,792 to the “Earthquake Resilience of the Western Power Grid” project.
Researchers hope to find out just how many people could be without power in the event of a major earthquake, which could strike in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. They also want to find out how long it would take for power to be restored and the economic impacts associated with that.
OSU Professor Ted Brekken is working on the project. He said previous studies show that people could be without power for three to six months.
"It has the potential to be one of the largest natural disasters the U.S. has ever faced," Brekken said.
Brekken said they hope to pinpoint the weakest links in the grid and hope their findings will be used as a road map so utility companies and others can make improvements before the "Big One" strikes.
"One of the things we're facing is that we don't even know where the weak points are," Brekken said. "We know they are out there, but we know there are things out there we have not considered that are going to break."
Sen. Ron Wyden said he and Sen. Jeff Merkley helped the university to secure the funding. Wyden said the more we know about the risks the "Big One" could bring, the better we are prepared.
"It's absolutely critical to get the information upfront because the more information you can get ahead of time, the more local communities can respond in the face of disasters," Wyden said.
Brekken said the project will take three years to complete.