Asymmetry underlies stability in power grids

Ferenc Molnar, Takashi Nishikawa & Adilson E. Motter
Nature Communications 12, 1457 (2021)

Abstract: Behavioral homogeneity is often critical for the functioning of network systems of interacting entities. In power grids, whose stable operation requires generator frequencies to be synchronized—and thus homogeneous—across the network, previous work suggests that the stability of synchronous states can be improved by making the generators homogeneous. Here, we show that a substantial additional improvement is possible by instead making the generators suitably heterogeneous. We develop a general method for attributing this counterintuitive effect to converse symmetry breaking, a recently established phenomenon in which the system must be asymmetric to maintain a stable symmetric state. These findings constitute the first demonstration of converse symmetry breaking in real-world systems, and our method promises to enable identification of this phenomenon in other networks whose functions rely on behavioral homogeneity.

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