Research > Research Areas

Advanced Energy Systems and Technologies Group

The research programs of the Energy Group address today's and tomorrow's energy challenges covering key topics such as smart grids, renewable energy, power electronics, automated maintenance, high-performance simulation, intelligent systems, electricity markets structures, and the resilience of the power infrastructure. The group faculty consists of Professors Daniel Kirschen, Rich Christie, Mohamed El-Sharkawi, Alexander Mamishev and Miguel Ortega-Vazquez. The activities of this faculty regularly involve others from such "tangential" areas as communications, control, electromagnetics, materials and economics resulting in a rich network of collaborations.

Here are some examples of the type of research that we are doing:

As recent electrical blackouts demonstrate, electrical grids can be fragile and thus require careful management and protective measures. The Energy Group studies the mechanisms that lead to these catastrophes, and how their likelihood can be reduced through preventive and corrective actions. The integration of large amounts of renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar) makes this problem considerably more complex than before because these sources are both variable and stochastic. In addition, their ability to contribute to the control of the overall system is very limited. We are therefore investigating how other sources of "flexibility", such as energy storage and demand response, can be deployed in a cost effective manner to maintain the stability of the grid.

Large wind turbines and photovoltaic panels are connected to the grid through power electronic interfaces. The design of these interfaces provides many opportunities to improve the efficiency of the energy conversion process and the dynamic characteristics of these energy sources. Work in this area thus involves not only the design of high performance circuits but also the development of sophisticated control algorithms and embedded systems.

The number of electric vehicles is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years. While this electrification of transport will have environmental benefits, it raises significant issues for the operation of distribution networks. However, the charging of electric vehicles represent a rather flexible load and this flexibility can be exploited to minimize the negative impacts that they may have on the grid. We explore these issues from a perspective that combines technical and economic considerations.

Another active area of research is the development of new approaches to improving power quality, i.e. maintaining adequate and uninterrupted service at nominal voltage and frequency. One such activity is the development of new sensors and robotic vehicles to inspect underground cables to detect defective components before failure occurs.

The research of the group is supported by both Federal agencies and industry. In particular, the Electric Energy Industrial Consortium (EEIC) is a group of local companies that regularly interact with the faculty and students in education as well as research.

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