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University Researchers Develop New Smart Grid Solution For Isolated Communities

15 Mar 2012

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s Electric Energy Systems Group (EESG) in the United States developed a new smart energy grid technology that could result in significant reductions in both electricity costs and CO2 emissions for remote islands and coastal communities.


EESG director and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon, said Marija Ilic, explains, “We have developed a suite of computer models, decision-making tools and automation for efficient and reliable integration of wind and other sustainable energy sources. Embedding these tools in energy resources, system users and the power grid itself will enable cost-effective utilization of all assets and can help the economic health of islands worldwide.”

Ilic, along with about a dozen of EESG researchers and their collaborators in Portugal, have developed a real-world database for electric power grids of Flores and San Miguel, two of nine volcanic islands located in the middle of the North Atlantic, approximately 900 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. Through the database, the team has modeled and assessed the potential of residential and commercial electricity users to participate in a load management program needed to make the most out of inexpensive, clean wind energy.

The team reports it also simulated new automation concepts for ensuring reliable and stable electric power service using electric vehicles and fast storage, and evaluated their possible benefits, concluding fast automation can ensure stable operations of the power grid when there are large wind gusts that are hard to predict.

The research will be published by Springer this spring in the book, Engineering IT Enabled Sustainable Electricity Services: The Case of Low-Cost Green Azores Islands, which details the potential of all these technologies by documenting the database, developed models, and simulation results.
Ilic notes: “By implementing our smart grid management software to measure wind velocity, we could help San Miguel residents switch to using more energy fueled by wind turbines and deflating electricity cost from the current $185 per megawatt to $88 per megawatt. The similar scenario could be true for most remote islands or coastal communities where energy is consistently expensive.”

The importance of smarter grids for remote, isolated communities was emphasized earlier this year during the dramatic efforts of the United States Coast Guard icebreaker Healy and the Russian ship Renda’s to reach Nome, Alaska, to deliver fuel. In that community, some residents spend almost half of their income on energy.

Remceo Verzijlbergh, a team member from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, adds: “Major cost and environmental savings could be accomplished by monitoring when and how electric hybrid vehicles are plugged in to help store more energy. In the islands with extreme wind penetration, the CO2 emissions can be drastically reduced, up to 80 percent of today’s typical emission level, with the same or lower long-term electricity cost and reliable service.”