TRU joins international group to improve western power grid resilience to extreme weather, wildfire

TRU joins wildfire alliance

Thompson Rivers University has joined a newly formed climate-resiliency alliance, with the goal of making one of the largest power grids in North America more resilient to extreme weather including wildfire.

In a news release, the university said the U.S.-Canada Centre on Climate-Resilient Western Interconnected Grid aims to enhance the grid’s resiliency to extreme weather events, such as wildfires and heatwaves.

TRU said the western interconnected grid is the “backbone” to one of the largest "regional economic engines" in the world, and one of two major power grids in North America.

The grid serves approximately 80 million people over a 4.6-million-square-kilometre region stretching from B.C. to the border of Baja, Mexico, and from the California coast to the Rockies, according to TRU.

TRU’s Dr. Mike Flannigan, a BC Innovation research chair in predictive services, emergency management and fire science, is working with other leading experts in the face of more frequent, intense and longer extreme weather events.

“Our research team at TRU strongly supports this effort to better protect our communities and our electrical power supply during this period of increasing challenges from climate change,” Flannigan said.

TRU said Flannigan's work emphasizes the need to improve wildfire prediction models, which includes predicting the probability of power-caused wildfires under historical weather conditions in Western Canada.

Flannigan’s work will be used to identify and mitigate hot spots in order to reduce the chance of catastrophic wildfires, according to TRU.

The newly formed centre has received $5 million in funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation and $3.75 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Other academic members include the University of Calgary, the University of British Columbia, the University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus, the University of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina, the University of Utah, the WIFIRE Lab at the University of California San Diego, The University of San Diego, the University of New Mexico, and the Desert Research Institute.

TRU has joined the centre after recently getting the go-ahead from senate to establish the proposed Institute for Wildfire Science, Adaptation and Resiliency.

Flannigan will be heading up the new wildfire institute at TRU, which the university hopes will be a world leader in wildfire science.

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