Eclipse provides opportunity for smart grid research
August 17, 2017
The historic eclipse that will cut across the USA on August 21 will give Clemson University researchers and industry collaborators in South Carolina a chance to study what happens when solar panels suddenly quit generating energy.
The research underscores one of the challenges that utilities face as they incorporate more renewable energy into the electrical grid.
The grid relies on a steady flow of power and what experts call balance of energy to run smoothly. Too much or too little could trigger rolling blackouts that leave thousands in the dark.
Utilities have well-established technologies and decades of experience in maintaining the flow of power when using coal, nuclear energy, natural gas or some other source under their control. But as they bring in more solar and wind power, the flow is less predictable.
Clemson researchers are taking on the challenge by working with industry in laboratories to develop smart grid technologies.
On the day of the eclipse, Kumar Venayagamoorthy (pictured), distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his research group will be holding a simulation of solar-power generation at utility scale. They will be capturing the effects of the solar eclipse on real-time power system operations with and without smart grid technologies.
Their test includes one of their patent-pending technologies, which was recently approved by the US Patent & Trademark Office. The simulation will take place in the Real-Time Power & Intelligent Systems Laboratory, where Venayagamoorthy is founder and director.
Johan Enslin, endowed chair in smart grid technology and executive director of the energy systems programme, leads graduate education and the development and growth of research initiatives in emerging electric-grid technologies at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston.
The research programme builds upon Clemson’s research facilities. They include a wind-turbine drivetrain testing and research facility and the Duke Energy eGrid, which can emulate any grid. These two projects form the cornerstone of the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center and are said to be the largest such facilities in the world. The facilities represent more than $110m in public and private investment.
Also on the team is Rajendra Singh, professor of electrical and computer engineering and the director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics. The White House honoured Singh in 2014 as a Champion of Change for his more than 40 years of working to promote and expand solar deployment in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.