How dead ends undermine power grid stability

Peter J. Menck, Jobst Heitzig, Jurgen Kurths, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

301 Citations (Scopus)


The cheapest and thus widespread way to add new generators to a high-voltage power grid is by a simple tree-like connection scheme. However, it is not entirely clear how such locally cost-minimizing connection schemes affect overall system performance, in particular the stability against blackouts. Here we investigate how local patterns in the network topology influence a power grid’s ability to withstand blackout-prone large perturbations. Employing basin stability, a nonlinear concept, we find in numerical simulations of artificially generated power grids that tree-like connection schemes—so-called dead ends and dead trees—strongly diminish stability. A case study of the Northern European power system confirms this result and demonstrates that the inverse is also true: repairing dead ends by addition of a few transmission lines substantially enhances stability. This may indicate a topological design principle for future power grids: avoid dead ends.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3969
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

The authors acknowledge financial support from the Government of the Russian Federation (Agreement No. 14.Z50.31.0033), IRTG 1740 (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), the SWIPO-Project (European Union EIT Climate-KIC) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung. P.J.M. dankt Annbritt, Emil, Ole und Alma


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