My research interests span several areas of power and energy, particularly on the planning and operation of renewable energy resources and storage technologies in power systems, large-scale stochastic optimization techniques in power system operation and planning, transportation electrification, smart grids, resilient energy supply and microgrids, and smart cities. In the following, I am highlighting my research interests and their motivating broader impacts.
Renewable Energy Resources: In the strongest action ever taken in the United States to combat climate change, President Obama unveiled a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The regulations and policies could shutdown hundreds of coal-fired power plants, and increase the penetration level of solar and wind generation resources in the power systems. Promoting renewable generation introduces new challenges in energy networks, which requires effective technical and business solutions.
Resilient Energy Supply: Costly power outages throughout the world caused by natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes have highlighted the importance of reinforcing the electricity infrastructure to improve the resilience against such extreme conditions. A recent study conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy indicated the sustained power interruptions (over 5 minutes) in the United States cost over $26 billion dollars annually. Power outages caused by the Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina in the United States stressed the crucial role of smart grid technology and the need for further investments on more resilient and comprehensive data communication and distribution management systems, distributed energy resources, energy storage facilities, additional automation, reinforcing the existing generation and distribution assets and further migration toward decentralized operations of largely centralized power grid. Hurricane Sandy left approximately 7.5 million customers without power across 15 states and Washington DC after it hit the eastern shore of the United States. In a similar situation, Connecticut residents in 2011 suffered intense power outages from the effects of Tropical Storm Irene followed by the October snowstorm, which downed thousands of trees, left several towns without power for almost two weeks and costs millions of dollars for the towns to recover from the disaster. The widespread power outages in the wake of Hurricane Sandy cast light on the weakness of a centralized electric power system and spotlighted the benefits of distributed control of distribution systems. As the utility grid remains to be quite vulnerable and exposed to natural disasters, improving the resilience of electricity infrastructure system against extreme conditions is the one of the major challenges in the energy industry.
Microgrids: My research efforts are focused on developing self-sustained and autonomous architectures which provide reliable and resilient solutions for electricity supply. These architectures, which are often referred to as microgrids, are the building blocks of smart distribution networks. Microgrid is defined as a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources with distinct boundaries that can operate in both grid-connected or island mode. The global microgrid capacity was 3.6 GW in 2013 and is projected to reach about 9.4 GW with over $35 billion market share by 2020. This technology is the standard option to supply low-cost and reliable energy in mission critical facilities such as hospitals, data centers, military and disaster relief bases, as well as telecommunication networks that neither afford to rely solely on large, public power grids nor can afford the peak rate surcharges that many public utilities impose. The concerns over sustainability, economic, and reliability of energy supply have extended the applications of microgrids in recent years. This technology provides solutions for the challenges correspond to scalable integration of renewable energy resources which is foreseen to serve 80% of the US energy needs by 2050. Contemporary applications of microgrids are prevalent in smart net-zero buildings, utility, campus and community distribution networks. Such installations in the U.S. can cut the $80 billion costs associated with widespread outages which are mostly initiated from the distribution networks. Microgrids are also viable solutions to electrify remote areas in under-developed nations. Over 1.3 billion people in such nations including 635 million in Africa, and over 300 million people in India alone, do not have access to reliable electricity. Adequately financed and operated microgrids equipped with renewable energy resources can overcome many of the challenges faced by traditional electrification strategies.
Transportation Electrification: The transportation sector consumes 28% of the total U.S. energy and emits 30% of the total U.S. greenhouse gases. Environmental concerns over the greenhouse gas production and the adverse economic effects of dependency on fossil fuel imports are expected to have a major impact on the electric vehicle (EV) utilization in many countries. The Energy Technology Perspective (ETP) 2010 sets a 50% reduction in the global emission by 2050 as compared to 2005 in which the contribution of the transportation sector would reduce the CO2 emission to 30% below that of 2005. This is achieved by the annual sale of a few million EVs and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in which EV sales represents a 50% of the total sales. Recent studies show that the combined annual global EV and PHEV market will grow fourfold from 350,000 to 1.4 million vehicles between 2014 and 2020 with even faster growth likely in the following decade. Such increase in the number of EVs brings several challenges and opportunities to the electricity network operation. The increase in electricity demand as a result of charging EVs increase the peak demand which requires further capacity expansion in generation, transmission and distribution assets. Scheduling the EV charging, reduces the peak demand in electricity network and results in less expansion costs. Moreover, the storage capacity of EVs could be leveraged as a prominent energy resource by incorporating the vehicle to grid (V2G) technology. The bi-directional power flow further reduces the peak demand as well as the impact of uncertainties imposed on power grids by the high penetration of renewable energy resources. My research efforts on efficient and reliable operation of such mobile energy storage facilities will promote transportation electrification and provide novel solutions for charging/discharging EVs and PHEVs.