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09-14-2015

NSF Awards Clarkson University $1M to Develop Advanced Microgrid Technology

The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today that it has awarded Clarkson University $999,720 to develop advanced, resilient microgrid technology to improve disaster response capability.

Clarkson University Engineer Michael Tremper (orange hard hat) explains PV Solar Farm controller performance characteristics to the research team on Clarkson's NSF Developing Advanced Resilient Microgrid Technology to Improve Disaster Response Capability project. Left to right: Assoc. Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Lei Wu, Asst. Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Jie Li, Asst. Prof. of Engineering & Management Cecilia Martinez, Assoc. Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Daqing Hou, Assoc. Prof. of Political Science Stephen Bird, Prof. of Economics & Financial Studies Mark Frascatore, Tremper, and Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Tom Ortmeyer.Thought of as an electrical island, or local region that is capable of becoming independent from the main power grid, a microgrid is a small electrical grid which relies on locally-generated electricity combined with advanced technology, to barricade itself from the larger, surrounding power grid in the event of an emergency.

The Clarkson project team will develop a “smart scheduler” application as a part of the NSF's Partnership for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program. This smart scheduler will coordinate with the microgrid operator and the local disaster response team to maximize the microgrid’s performance during the time of disaster recovery.

"The microgrid must operate successfully disconnected from the grid for two weeks or more in catastrophic situations where the level of damage is unanticipated and the microgrid itself has experienced reduced capability," said Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Tom Ortmeyer, the project's principal investigator. “The smart scheduler must become an integral part of the team that responds rapidly and effectively to ever-changing capability and demands.”  

Clarkson University (Wallace Coulter School of Engineering, School of Business, and School of Arts and Sciences) is leading the project. The primary industrial partner on the project is National Grid USA, the electric service provider for a large part of New York and New England, including Potsdam, N.Y. National Grid would own the underground distribution network that is the backbone of the microgrid.

“We are thrilled with the commitment of the National Science Foundation to support Clarkson University,” said Ed White, vice president of National Grid’s New Energy Solutions team. “The grant will go a long way to promote our partnership with Clarkson and to provide our customers and the community with a next generation solution to an old dilemma.”

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Knoxville, Tenn., is the teams’ primary R&D collaborator and will provide assistance with project design, data collection and expert analysis.   

“Successfully performing microgrids, such as those in industrial parks, hospitals or Army bases, are critical to large-scale outage restoration after a dramatic event,” said Mark McGranaghan, vice president of Power Delivery and Utilization at EPRI. “Microgrids also provide an excellent opportunity to evaluate new technology and test reliability, affordability and efficiency, the core components of an integrated, smart electric grid.”

The project will complement ongoing projects to plan and design a resilient underground microgrid in Potsdam. The Potsdam microgrid features a unique partnership of generator owners, local government, regulated utility, and critical load entities. This diverse set of microgrid partners is key to providing the resilience required of the microgrid.

In Potsdam, Clarkson University, SUNY Potsdam, the Village of Potsdam, and Canton-Potsdam Hospital are among the entities that would participate in the microgrid and are potential generation owners on the microgrid.

“Governor Cuomo is committed to ensuring that communities are well-prepared for future energy emergencies and has directed significant resources to strengthen the resiliency of the State’s energy systems," said New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President and CEO John B. Rhodes. "An underground microgrid system will be a valuable resource to maintain critical operations in Potsdam during a power outage. New York is proud to support this project to mitigate future risks and commends Clarkson University, National Grid, General Electric, SUNY Potsdam and other partners for their efforts.”

Co-principal investigators on the project are Professor of Economics & Financial Studies Mark Frascatore, Assistant Professor of Engineering & Management Cecilia Martinez, Assistant Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Jie Li and Associate Professor of Political Science Stephen Bird. Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Daqing Hou and Associate Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering Lei Wu are senior investigators on the project.

The NSF has invested $10 million in innovative new partnership projects to create service systems that are smart and human-centric. The interdisciplinary projects, such as the one awarded to Clarkson, will engage academia and the private sector in highly interactive collaborations. The partners will advance, adapt and integrate novel smart technologies for service systems in ways that dramatically improve performance.

See the full National Science Foundation news release at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=136268 .

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University Engineer Michael Tremper (orange hard hat) explains PV Solar Farm controller performance characteristics to the research team on Clarkson's NSF "PFI:BIC - Developing Advanced Resilient Microgrid Technology to Improve Disaster Response Capability" project. Left to right: Assoc. Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Lei Wu, Asst. Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Jie Li, Asst. Prof. of Engineering & Management Cecilia Martinez, Assoc. Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Daqing Hou, Assoc. Prof. of Political Science Stephen Bird, Prof. of Economics & Financial Studies Mark Frascatore, Tremper, and Prof. of Electrical & Computer Engineering Tom Ortmeyer.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/clarkson-nsf-microgrid.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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