Water? Check! Batteries? Check! Flashlights, first aid, canned goods? Check! If you’re a Floridian, you know this checklist by heart. Storm season began June 1 and, as we’ve already seen, it’s a busy one.

Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) has its own checklist to prepare for hurricane seasons, such as conducting an annual storm drill and countless pole inspections and tree trimmings. FPL is also working with FIU on cutting-edge research to protect the reliability of our energy supply during future severe weather events.

This is a project that not only has the potential to revolutionize the grid, it also demonstrates how cross-sector partnerships can result in innovation that benefits us all and provides meaningful opportunities for the next generation. As a professor at FIU’s College of Engineering and Computing and director of FIU’s Energy, Power and Sustainability Group, I have led research into renewable energy systems, large-scale storage, big-data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), electric vehicle systems, grid resiliency and smart grids. The project that my students and I have been developing with FPL is an AI-based microgrid scheduled to launch this fall.

A micro-what? A microgrid is a smaller grid that can transition between grid-connected operations and “islanded” or autonomous operations. In other words, a microgrid can operate independently from the larger grid. To understand the significance of this capability and how its impact extends beyond FIU, it’s important to understand how the larger grid that FPL operates works.

The larger grid is an interconnected system that delivers electricity to our homes, businesses and even college campuses. Because the system is interconnected, when one area of the grid is damaged by a devastating storm or natural disaster, it can cause many of us to lose power. But a microgrid’s ability to operate autonomously changes the game and is an example of how South Florida’s leaders can come together to tackle the unique challenges our region faces, like hurricanes and their impact on our infrastructure.

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