As the nation moves toward energy independence, research is under way in the ECE department to solve some of the most challenging infrastructure problems. Dr. Peter Young, associate professor, is leading the effort, working on how to incorporate "green" solutions into the complex puzzle of the electricity grid.
Dr. Young and his team are conducting research to help make the country's energy generation and distribution systems more affordable, clean, efficient, and reliable. Controlling the various aspects of reconfigurable power grids to deliver high performance, while at the same time maintaining guaranteed stability, has proved challenging to researchers.
"It is a large and complex system," said Young. "Certain aspects are statistically predictable, such as when people turn on their air conditioners. However, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are not totally predictable, making the problem much more involved."
While supply and demand is a core concept in virtually all other industries, it is one with which the current grid struggles greatly, because electricity must be consumed as soon as it is generated. Without being able to determine demand precisely, at a given time, having just the right supply available to deal with every contingency can be problematic.
Young is addressing these challenges by developing and testing more advanced tools for microgrid operations, with a particular focus on clean energy sources integrated with traditional power generation systems. He is leveraging the large-scale experimentation capabilities of the InteGrid Laboratory, which is jointly owned and operated by Colorado State's Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory and Spirae, a Fort Collins company specializing in the characterization and integration of renewable and distributed power into smart-grid systems. The laboratory models all the elements of a real world power distribution system. It can operate connected to the grid or its switch gear system can disconnect InteGrid from the grid at anytime, islanding the system, and extending the capabilities of the facility.
The IntegGrid researchers work in conjunction with a team of clean energy companies as part of Fort Zed, a three-way partnership between the City of Fort Collins, Northern Colorado Clean Energy Cluster, and UniverCity Connections. Fort Collins also was selected by the Department of Energy as one of nine demonstration projects nationwide that will demonstrate peak load reduction on substation feeders using renewable and distributed energy technologies.
Dr. Young is also on the selection committee for tenure track faculty positions that will be hiring for this program.