Electric power production in the 21st Century will see dramatic changes in both the physical infrastructure and the control and information infrastructure. A shift will take place from a relatively few large, concentrated generation centers and the transmission of electricity over mostly a high voltage ac grid to a more diverse and dispersed generation infrastructure that also has a higher percentage of dc transmission lines. This change in the physical infrastructure combined with a more deregulated electric power industry will result in more parties generating power - or distributed generation.

The advent of high power electronic modules has also encouraged the use of more dc transmission and made the prospects of interfacing dc power sources such as fuel cells and photovoltaics with an ac power system more easily attainable. A modular, scalable power electronics technology that is ideal for these types of utility applications is the transformerless multilevel converter. The use of a multilevel converter to control the frequency, voltage output, and real and reactive power flow at a dc/ac interface provides significant opportunities in the control of distributed power systems and/or as an enabling technology for dc energy sources such as photovoltaics, fuel cells, and rectified wind generation.

In power engineering, traditional educational curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate students has courses in two distinct areas: power systems and power electronics. However, power electronics are increasingly being integrated into power systems as interfaces with distributed generation sources and for such applications as high voltage dc transmission, active power filters, static var compensation, and large medium voltage motor drives. Research and education in power engineering needs an integrated approach in the study of power systems and power electronics by considering the interactions that these two technologies have on each other and how power quality and reliability can be maintained and even improved in the uncertain future of distributed generation.

This proposal calls for new research into the use of multilevel inverters in a distributed generation environment as an enabling technology to more quickly bring about the use of renewable or other efficient energy sources and as a technology that promotes ancillary services such as voltage support, harmonic mitigation, and power factor correction.

In addition, an integrated power systems and power electronics curriculum at the undergraduate and graduate level will be developed as part of this proposal. Proven effective teaching techniques such as active learning and cooperative learning will be used so that students can gain a deeper understanding and better mastery of power engineering concepts. These teaching techniques will be used to provide students with a richer learning environment and to help integrate research into undergraduate and graduate classes. University of Tennessee undergraduate and graduate students will be encouraged to participate in national power engineering competitions and to work with researchers at nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory to gain a higher-level understanding of the issues in the field of power engineering.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Electrical, Communications and Cyber Systems (ECCS)
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Dagmar Niebur
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University of Tennessee Knoxville
United States
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