ME-EM Graduate Seminar: Turning Power Distribution Feeders into Microgrids

The Department of Mechanical Engineering – Engineering Mechanics Graduate Seminar Series:
Thursday, Mar. 6, 2013 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Room 103, EERC Bldg.
Professor Andrea Mammoli, Director of the Center for Emerging Energy Technologies, University of New Mexico

Title: Turning Power Distribution Feeders into Microgrids: Challenges & Opportunities

Photovoltaic power generation is almost at grid parity. Electric vehicles are gaining popularity. Smart meters, smart thermostats and many other clever devices are being installed at rapidly increasing rates, replacing old equipment. At the same time, every time bad weather happens, large parts of the grid fail, and days go by before normality is restored. Even houses with undamaged rooftop photovoltaic systems have no power! Our increased reliance on electricity to drive all kinds of devices and machinery has, in fact, made us more vulnerable to disruptions in service. An important reason for this state of affairs is that the grid is not taking advantage of the information that is available through these myriad devices, and is operating largely as it has been for decades. On the other hand, managing information from millions of devices is not something utility companies are able or willing to do. A possible solution is to localize both information management and distributed power generation at the distribution feeder level, turning it into a microgrid. This would be able to provide basic services when islanded from the grid, and also to provide ancillary services to the grid as needed to help prevent grid-wide disruption. The problem is one of resource management: how much local generation is needed, how much and what storage, and how is power flow managed and coordinated? Also, what are the changes to infrastructure that would be needed to make all power distribution feeders into microgrids? Some of the answers will be provided as a result of a research program that started in New Mexico several years ago at Mesa del Sol, a Greenfield development south of Albuquerque that will ultimately be the home to 100,000 residents, who will live, work and play there. Studio14, a power distribution feeder that connects various innovative distributed power system, is used as a basis for studying how we can go from 19th century power to 21st century power. In this talk, we will provide examples from several ongoing projects that show how it is possible to achieve the goal of a clean, resilient power system at reasonable cost.

Andrea A. Mammoli is Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Director of the Center for Emerging Energy Technologies at the University of New Mexico. He also holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Mammoli obtained his Bachelor of Engineering and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the University of Western Australia. After two years as Director funded postdoctoral fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in 1997 Mammoli joined the University of New Mexico as Research Assistant
Professor. Until 2004, Mammoli conducted research in flow of heterogeneous materials, using both experimental techniques (nuclear magnetic resonance, particle image velocimetry and rheometry) as well as high-performance direct numerical simulation using primarily boundary element techniques. Stimulated by a DOE-sponsored project on CO2 sequestration, and by a sabbatical year at the Università Politecnica delle Marche in Italy, in 2005 Mammoli steered his research activities to the area of energy systems, beginning with a project to refurbish and modernize the solar-assisted HVAC in the UNM Mechanical Engineering building. This initial effort spun off many related projects, dealing with the interaction between buildings and the electric power grid, especially concerning how buildings can enable higher levels of renewable energy from all sources. Mammoli collaborates with the utility industry and national laborarories (Sandia, Berkeley and Los Alamos) on various demonstration projects and testbeds designed to bring new technologies to mainstream operations.