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Research and Scholarship

Electrifying funding to improve the national grid

Professor Federico Milano, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering , is to receive €1.7m in funding from Science Foundation Ireland to conduct research into Advanced Modelling for Power System Analysis and Simulation (AMPSAS) to help improve the efficiency of the national grid.

The project will run between now and 2021 and six PhD students and two post-doctoral students will be recruited to join the highly multidisciplinary team. Researchers on the project will come from backgrounds in power systems as well as applied mathematics, automatic control and computer science.

Professor Milano, Professor in Power Systems Control and Protection,  joined UCD in 2013 from the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain. Prior to this he was visiting scholar at the University of Waterloo, Canada. He is a graduate in electrical engineering from the University of Genoa, Italy. In January 2016 he was made a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) , a distinction awarded to those deemed to have made an extraordinary contribution in one of the organisation’s fields of interest. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional organisation dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humankind.

Professor Milano’s main research interests revolve around the stability and security of power systems. By extension this brings him into areas such as improving the efficiency of national grids and analysing how to best integrate renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, into the energy matrix.

“There are a variety of new methodologies and technologies that are changing the way modern electric power systems are modelled, simulated and operated,” he says.  “We are using these advances in power system modelling, control and stability analysis to underpin our research.” Professor Milano’s AMPSAS project will focus on developing novel analytical and computational tools that can help the power industry to understand, efficiently design and optimise the output of constantly changing modern power systems and smart grids.

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“Three aspects of power systems that have had a significant impact on renewable energy supply and power system operation are the effect of large stochastic perturbations such as wind and solar generation; the impact of controller and modelling imperfections such as delays and discontinuities on both local and area-wide regulators in power systems; and the stability analysis of power systems modelled through stochastic, functional and hybrid differential-algebraic equations,” Milano says.

He adds that the AMPSAS research is of particular relevance now due to the ever-growing worldwide demand for guaranteed power produced as efficiently as possible at reasonable cost – something the EU is very keen to achieve under its Horizon 2020 programme to encourage European competitiveness in the global market.

Throughout the project the researchers will work closely with EirGrid which operates the Irish transmission system. “The support of EirGrid and other international collaborators is fundamental to providing the required knowledge, skills and data we need and also to provide a forum where we can discuss, test and implement the models and the techniques that emerge from the project,” says Professor Milano who has recently introduced undergraduate modules on power systems dynamics and stability analysis at UCD for the first time.

“The energy industry is conservative for obvious reasons, but it also means that it is slow to change and many of the models and controllers it is still using are very dated,” he says. “When I say dated I’m talking about software going back to the 1980s when the power system picture was quite different. Working with dated models gets in the way of efficiency. For example at the moment there is a 50% limit on the amount of wind power that can be integrated into the Irish national grid for stability reasons. A primary goal of this project is to show that, with proper system modelling and novel controllers, the balance can be changed while still safeguarding the stability and supply of the system. This is highly relevant in countries, such as Ireland, with the resources to generate a lot of wind power.”

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Professor Milano says that being able to work with EirGrid is also a real plus for his students. “The Irish power system is small and manageable and therefore easy to study,” he says. “But what is really crucial is that it means we are dealing with real data. Secondly, it gives our students and postdocs the opportunity to work in EirGrid and to benefit from the extensive knowledge that exists there. For the size of EirGrid, it has a very big population of employees with PhDs – many from UCD – who understand what research is about. Of course EirGrid is also a potential employer for our students when they graduate. We are keen to get going on the AMPSAS project and I expect to have my PhD students and postdocs on board by the end of the year. The fact that a project focused on power system stability has been funded under the prestigious SFI Investigator Programme is a real indication of how important this topic is for the future of this country,” Professor Milano concludes.

This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 edition of UCD Today , the university magazine.

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Featured Researcher:

Professor Federico Milano, Professor in Power Systems Control and Protection, UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering