California Utility Expands Use of Texas A&M Wildfire Prevention System

The Texas A&M University System News Release

PG&E engineers call outage prediction tool ‘fundamental’ to reducing risk

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The threat of catastrophic wildfires has led California investor-owned utility Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to significantly expand its use of a tool developed at Texas A&M University that helps stop fires before they start.

The tool is called Distribution Fault Anticipation (DFA). It’s a unique hardware and software system that detects circuit anomalies, notifying utility operators to address issues before they cause power outages or spark fires.

Two veteran PG&E engineers, Eric Schoenman and John Mead, highlighted the utility’s growing use of DFA in an article last month titled New Tools in the Fight to Reduce Wildfire Ignition. It was published in T&D World, a leading utility industry magazine.

In 2019, PG&E installed DFA on seven circuits to evaluate its effectiveness. Based on the results, the utility is adding DFA to 50 circuits in 2021 and anticipates adding 600 circuits over the next three years.

Priority will be given to circuits in the areas most vulnerable to wildfires. Nearly one-third of PG&E electric lines are in state-designated high fire-threat zones.

“DFA detects low-current events that conventional systems do not detect,” Schoenman and Mead wrote. “The fundamental key to addressing these phenomena is knowledge that they are occurring, knowledge that DFA can in many cases provide.” 

The Texas A&M team of engineers that developed DFA is led by Distinguished Professor Dr. B. Don Russell and Research Professor Carl L. Benner, both of Texas A&M’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The team has worked closely with PG&E engineers on integrating DFA with the utility’s other equipment, including other types of risk reduction tools.

“We’re proud to make a positive difference in a region of the country that is so vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires,” Russell said.

The expansion at PG&E is the latest example of utilities turning to DFA. The system also is being used by Southern California Edison and a number of utilities in Texas, Georgia, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Mid-South Synergy Electric Co-op in Texas, which operates in small towns and rural areas southeast of College Station, is placing DFA on all of its circuits.

“It’s a great system,” General Manager Kerry Kelton said. “We have miles and miles of exposed feeder lines across pastures that are not easy to inspect directly. DFA gives us the intelligence we need to prevent many outages. It can help us every day.”

Electrical power outages commonly are caused by falling tree branches, errant animals or failures of devices such as clamps, switches, conductors and connectors.

The conditions can build up over weeks or months, impacting electrical currents in small ways before actual failures. DFA monitors currents and applies algorithms to detect and report abnormalities for investigation and repair.

Until now, utilities have had little choice but to wait and react to actual failures. Operators recognize that something better is needed, given the growing threat of wildfires.

“DFA gives operators real-time awareness of the health of their system,” Benner said. “While nothing will ever prevent all outages, DFA can increase reliability for a utility’s customers and reduce ignition risks.”

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $9.6 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.
 
Contact: Mike ReillyOffice of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6492
(402) 679-0456 cell
mreilly@tamus.edu

Major improvements set for Easterwood Airport

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN/ COLLEGE-STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System is set to begin nearly $5.9 million worth of work to make Easterwood Airport safer.

The work will realign one of the airport’s main taxiways, Taxiway Alpha, to support large aircraft. The taxiway is currently too close to an aircraft parking apron for large aircraft to use. The project will also allow for more aircraft parking. The work will be paid for by a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration and is expected to begin in January.

The population in the Bryan-College Station area has grown at an unprecedented rate — 12-percent — since 2016 and it’s important that Easterwood keep up.

“Bryan-College Station is a growing community with endless potential on the horizon. The Easterwood Airport project will restructure operations to allow for bigger and better commercial air service that will have substantial economic benefits,” said Congressman Pete Sessions. “Our vibrant community deserves to have an airport that matches the quality of its people and capacity to adapt to the area’s rapid advancements. I greatly look forward to seeing Central Texans’ lives enhanced by this endeavor.”

The $5.9 million grant is part of $766 million the FAA recently awarded to build safer, more sustainable and more accessible airports across the nation. The federal government has waived the usual 10-percent local match thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

“This project is essential to the continued growth of commercial air service to Aggieland,” said John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “We appreciate everything our senators did to ensure Easterwood’s continued growth.”

Easterwood Airport, just minutes from Texas A&M University, is owned by The Texas A&M University System. Easterwood’s current passenger numbers are up 184 percent from 2020. Easterwood’s quick pandemic rebound has led to the growth of its commercial service which currently has more daily flights than in 2019.

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $9.6 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.
Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

Texas A&M faculty get $7.7 million to advance their research

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN/ COLLEGE-STATION, Texas — Thirteen distinguished faculty members from across Texas A&M University have been honored as 2021 Chancellor’s Enhancing Development and Generating Excellence in Scholarship (EDGES) Fellows.

The fellowships — which come with more than $7.7 million in funding — are just the latest investment The Texas A&M University System has made to recruit and retain world-class faculty, said Chancellor John Sharp.

“The A&M System is making unprecedented investments in top scholars and I could not be more proud about it,” Sharp said. “Over the past eight years, we’ve invested a total of $230 million to recruit and retain top academic talent.”

Since 2013, the Chancellor’s Research Initiative has provided one-time funds to recruit and hire faculty who will have a transformational impact upon the academic and research missions of their schools.

Sharp launched the EDGES Fellowship in 2019 to honor, incentivize and boost mid-career faculty at the associate or early full professor ranks who are making significant marks in their disciplines. The recognition highlights the Texas A&M System’s focus on supporting, retaining and recognizing faculty with significant and sustained accomplishments and the promise of continued high-impact scholarship.

“Chancellor John Sharp’s support for EDGES recognizes our outstanding faculty members who are earning national and international acclaim,” said Mark H. Weichold, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs for The Texas A&M University System.

EDGES Fellows retain the right to use the title throughout their tenure as faculty members in good standing at Texas A&M University.

The awards pair with endeavors like the Presidential Impact Fellowships and other faculty investment programs to empower and advance the careers of faculty at every level.

The 2021 EDGES Fellows are:

  • Muthukumar Bagavathiannan, Associate Professor of Soil and Crop Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences;
  • Kalena Cortes, Associate Professor of Public Service and Administration, Bush School of Government & Public Service;
  • Scott V. Dindot, Associate Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences;
  • Arum Han, Professor of Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering;
  • Wendy Jepson, Professor of Geography, College of Geosciences;
  • Jeffrey Liew, Associate Dean for Research, College of Education and Human Development;
  • Wenshe Ray Liu, Professor of Chemistry, College of Science;
  • Michelle Meyer, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, College of Architecture;
  • Huyen Pham, Professor, School of Law;
  • Tiffany Radcliff, Professor & Associate Dean for Research, School of Public Health;
  • Shrihari Sridhar, Professor of Marketing, Mays Business School;
  • Pete Van Hengstum, Associate Professor, Texas A&M University at Galveston;
  • Sarah Zubairy, Associate Professor of Economics, College of Liberal Arts;

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $9.6 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.
 
Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

Dr. Mark Weichold accepts Texas A&M System position

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Effective September 13, Dr. Mark Weichold will join The Texas A&M University System as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. Weichold has served as interim provost and executive vice president since January 2021.

“We are looking forward to Dr. Weichold bringing his vast experience to the A&M System’s academic initiatives,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “His contribution will help advance all of our academic institutions.”

Weichold, a Regent’s professor of electrical and computer engineering, has previously served in numerous leadership roles, including senior associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Engineering, executive director of the Halliburton Engineering Global Program, dean and campus CEO for Texas A&M University’s branch campus in Qatar and associate provost for undergraduate academic programs.

In his new role with the A&M System Office of Academic Affairs, Weichold will provide leadership and support for academic programs, educational initiatives, academic policy, student affairs, digital learning and data analysis.

Dr. Tim Scott, associate provost for academic affairs and student success, has been named acting interim provost and executive vice president.  He joined the Department of Biology faculty in 1990 and was associate dean for undergraduate programs in the College of Science from 2000 to 2016. He is a professor of biology and science education policy.

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $9.6 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.
 
Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

Texas A&M announces contract extension for Coach Jimbo Fisher

The Texas A&M University System News Release

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted today to extend the contract for Aggie football coach Jimbo Fisher an additional four years through the 2031 season.

The Board authorized Texas A&M President Katherine Banks to execute the coach’s employment contract in conjunction with Director of Athletics Ross Bjork.

“I have great respect for Coach Fisher and his success with our student athletes. His ability to bring out the best in each of them is inspirational. I am confident that he will continue to raise Texas A&M University’s football program to new heights,” Banks said.

Bjork added, “Coach Fisher continues to demonstrate he is building our program for long-term success and he is a perfect fit for Texas A&M. Providing the appropriate amount of stability and continuity during this important time is critical as we support our football program at the highest level. As one of only five active head coaches to win a national championship, Coach Fisher knows what it takes to lead a comprehensive program on and off the field and develop our young men beyond football. There is momentum in all phases of our program and we are excited about what lies ahead for Aggie Football. We appreciate Coach Fisher’s commitment to Texas A&M.”

Fisher’s contact was extended by four (4) years until December 31, 2031. The terms of the new contract include an annual salary of $9,000,000 starting on January 1, 2022 and will increase to $9,150,000 on January 1, 2023. In each of the following years, the base salary increases by $100,000 on January 1. All other terms relative to performance incentives and other elements remain the same.

“The investment Texas A&M University is making in our program, coaching staff, and facilities speaks to the vision of our leadership and their commitment to long-term success,” Fisher stated. “I am thankful for the unwavering support of the administration, the faculty and staff, our 12th Man Foundation donors, the Aggie Network, and the 12th Man – the largest and loudest student section in the country. It is an honor to be the Head Football Coach at Texas A&M, and although I am proud of the strides we’ve made, we ain’t done yet!”

Fisher was hired at Texas A&M on Dec. 4, 2017 after eight seasons as head coach at Florida State University. Fisher’s three-season coaching record at Texas A&M is 26-10 and his overall record is 109-33 in 11 seasons as a head coach. Fisher’s Aggie teams have compiled a 3-0 record in bowl games, including last year’s 41-27 win over North Carolina in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Fisher’s 2020 team posted a 9-1 record, including an eight-game winning streak to end the season, and finished No. 4 in the final Associated Press Top 25, which was the program’s highest since winning the national championship in 1939.

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About Texas A&M Athletics | Home of the 12th Man:

One of the most successful Athletics Departments in the nation, Texas A&M ranked No. 19 in the most recent Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup standings and is one of seven Division I institutions nationally to finish in the top 20 of the prestigious ranking of athletics success for at least 14 consecutive years. For more information, go to www.12thMan.com.

About Texas A&M University:

Texas A&M University, the flagship university within the Texas A&M University System, is a tier-one research institution with nearly $1 billion in research grants and more than 69,000 students. The President of Texas A&M University has strategic oversight for campuses in Bryan-College Station and Galveston, Texas and Doha, Qatar. We include The Health Science Center with the College of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy, as well as The Texas A&M School of Law and Mays Business School. For more information, go to www.tamu.edu.

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Brad Marquardt  |  Assistant AD for Athletics Communications
Athletics Department  | Texas A&M University
1228 TAMU | College Station, TX 77843-1228

office: 979.845.5725  |  mobile: 979.229.8651  |  email: Bmarquardt@athletics.tamu.edu

About The Texas A&M University System

The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $9.6 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 153,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.
Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu