As Assistant Professor Jaedo Park views the changing energy landscape, he sees multiple benefits to placing generation systems closer to their users.
First, building a small-scale distributed generation system, or “microgrid,” in a rural area where there is no main transmission line could provide capacity relief to the utility grid, Park said. It also can provide cost savings to the end users.
Also, putting a microgrid next to a hospital, data center or laboratory, for example, improves power quality and reliability. With today’s sophisticated user systems, such as data servers and hospital equipment, even small a glitch can cause major problems.
“We can improve the power quality by eliminating those disturbances,” said Park, an assistant professor in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado-Denver. “A microgrid can do this when there’s disturbances in the utility grid by operating as a standalone, disconnected from the grid.”
Park said energy systems are rapidly diversifying, as renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and solar panels enhance the traditional systems of long-distance utility lines and hydro-power plants. His research is focusing on the creation of microgrids as well as the optimal interaction between participating devices, such as renewable energy sources, energy storage including flywheels and batteries, and mainline grid systems.
Park attended a software training workshop, thanks to a grant from the Center for Faculty Development. The software, which the Electrical Engineering Department already purchased, allows analyses and modeling of power systems, Park said. By using computer simulation models to predict outcomes and investigate grid connectivity, he said, "you can easily generate the various operating conditions in a power system."
Through Park's research, students are gaining insights into how to maximize and enhance today's complex technology grid, which often operates at near-capacity.
"With fossil fuels, you never know when they're going to dry up," Park said. "We have to find alternative sources for energy. At the same time, we need the clean energy to replace the old conventional energies that create pollutants. We can use this research in that context — in clean energy and sustainable energy."