Sustainable Electric Power Systems
Today’s Electric Power System (EPS) as depicted in the figure below incorporates interconnected Large/Centralized Generators, High Voltage Transmission Lines. Medium and Low Voltage Distribution Networks, and Decentralized/Distributed Consumption as well as Generation Resources (e.g., roof top photovoltaics). Since all of the EPS components have to be continuously synchronized and to operate in a manner that preserves EPS security and stability (generation and usage must be balanced in real time!), EPSs can be thought of as the largest machines that humans have constructed.
Sustainable EPS research in the department of ME addresses the potential contribution of the cyber component of EPSs to the creation of a Cyber-Physical Energy System that can support
- the integration of extensive capacity of clean energy generation whose output is either intermittent (e.g., wind, solar) or inflexible (e.g., nuclear), a problem, given the difficulty/high-cost of storing electricity,
- the sustainable electrification of the transportation sector that is today responsible for one third of green house gas emissions,
- higher efficiency/conservation in the use of electricity and fossil fuels in general and in particular in the commercial and residential sectors, and
- scheduling and management of electricity consumption so as to create synergies that contribute to all of the goals mentioned above.
Specific research topics address (i) building technology and space conditioning systems, (ii) design and utilization of cyber capabilities incorporated into the developing Smart Grid, (iii) design, operation and analysis of Power system markets, (iv) optimization under uncertainty for the decision support of power market participants, and (v) new business model, contract and rate design for risk mitigation and provision of efficient economic incentives to investors and users of market-ready sustainable energy technologies including clean energy generation, hybrid electric vehicles, storage devices, smart microgrids and controls, and other centralized and distributed resources.
Research on Sustainable Electric Power Systems at Boston University is evolving along cross disciplinary directions involving engineering technology, systems engineering and optimization, climate science, economics, management and the social/behavioral sciences. Professors Caramanis, Gevelber and Vakili are investigating aspects of (i) through (v) above. Examples of research outcomes can be found here.