K-State engineering professor to lead nearly $1M community project on energy resilience

MANHATTAN — Bala Natarajan, Kansas State University engineering professor, will lead a nearly $1 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy aimed at developing an analysis and planning tool that will enhance community power grid resilience in Ford County.

Natarajan, professor in the Mike Wiegers Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at K-State, will lead the two-year project, “Stakeholder-guided holistic, Adaptive Framework for enhancing community Energy Resilience (SAFER),” which involves nearly $800,000 in direct funding to the K-State team.

In addition to Natarajan, the team includes co-principal investigators George Amariucai, associate professor of computer science; Jason Bergtold, professor of agricultural economics; Anil Pahwa, university distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Marcellus Caldas, professor of geography and geospatial sciences. Additional funding from this award will go directly to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The project will examine the fundamental relationships between disasters, power grid resources, socioeconomics and energy burden in Ford County. Foundational research in holistic power grid resilience quantification and machine learning-based scalable resilience analysis will be accompanied by innovative approaches to determining optimal solar and battery deployments to enhance community resilience.

“The team will produce a resilience analysis and planning tool that can enhance the energy resilience of this community,” Natarajan said. “It will enable decision makers to evaluate solar-plus-storage investments that can lead to measurable impacts on resilience while also serving as a benchmark for other communities in Kansas and beyond.”

Natarajan holds the Clair N. Palmer and Sara M. Palmer Electrical Engineering Professorship and is a Steve Hsu keystone research scholar in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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