The NSF Sustainable Energy pathways (SEP) Program, under the umbrella of the NSF Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative, will support the research program of Prof. Dennice Gayme and co-workers at Johns Hopkins University, Prof. Aranya Chakrabortty and co-workers at North Carolina State University, and Prof. Judith cardell and co-workers at Smith College to develop a method to integrate heterogeneous energy resources to form sustainable power networks. The objective of this program is to examine how the control and design of large-scale and distributed energy resources can facilitate the grid-integration of large amounts of renewable energy. Wind energy is used as a representative, heterogeneous and variable renewable energy source to address the following three fundamental challenges: (I) the need to manage stability, (II) the need to cost effectively maintain reliable operation, and (III) the need to reflect stability and operational criteria in markets and policy. Models of the power grid, such as continuum representations (partial differential equations that directly support combined spatial and temporal analysis) and network power flows that include storage and demand-side management, will be developed and used to address stability, control, reliability, and performance/efficiency questions. As input for these continuum and power flow models, the project will utilize outputs from fluid dynamics ("Large-Eddy") simulations that model unsteady wind farm and atmospheric boundary layer interactions and have been validated using laboratory and field observations. Analysis using the grid level models will both inform and be shaped by the design of new regulatory and economic reforms that will enable renewable resource purveyors to participate in power markets. Connections between operational and market issues such as power flow regulation, grid operation and risk mitigation strategies using storage and demand-side management will be made by leveraging tools based on optimization, convex relaxations and optimal control theory, which are common to the economics and controls communities.
This project will facilitate a more sustainable power system through its technical contributions, education, training and mentorship. Research topics will form the basis for student projects in new sustainable energy related curricula at all three participating institutions. Summer undergraduate research opportunities will provide students with skills for participating in sustainable energy research and future employment in related industries. This program will directly facilitate NSF's STEM related goals through JHU's participation in the NSF-funded Center for Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), the Science House partnership between NCSU and local K-12 teachers, and the involvement of the only all-women engineering program in the US (Smith College). At JHU this project will operate under the aegis of E2SHI, which promotes cross-disciplinary research, outreach, and education for critical environmental, energy and sustainability issues. E2SHI is committed to systems-level integrated research and outreach for sustainability.
The tools to be developed will help facilitate the transformation of our current fossil fuel based power system to one that is safe, reliable and efficient without compromising energy security or exhausting resources needed for future generations. The project's results will be directly relevant to the electric power industry and its regulators as they are faced with the challenges of incorporating larger fractions of highly heterogeneous renewable resources, such as wind energy, into the grid. Specifically, the results will provide system operators with better representations of the impacts of renewables, and better control tools to mitigate those impacts; planners and investors with a framework for evaluating optimal resource allocation; and policy makers with a systematic means of investigating how new regulations and market rules can incent effective deployment of these tools and resources. Complementary educational programs and mentorship will develop researchers and practitioners with the skills required to create and advance this sustainable energy future.