Electric Power Systems
Electric Power Research
The nation’s electric power grid is in a time of transformation. Advanced monitoring, measurement and control devices; integration of alternative energy resources; and price-responsive electricity customers are changing the traditional methods of electricity generation, transmission and distribution. Researchers in the Cullen College’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are developing the tools that will allow these “Smart Grids” to fulfill their potential, increasing power reliability while reducing costs for customers and providers alike.
Smart Grid Data Analytics
A vast amount of data—more than 200 million reports per day in the Houston area alone—is already being generated by smart grid components such as smart meters. To take advantage of this data department researchers are conducting work in:
- Data analytics that draws on this information to identify meaningful trends in energy usage, power generation and more.
- Distributed algorithms that allow customers to manage their power usage while helping to optimize grid operations as a whole.
- Smart Grid Security protocols that protect the grid by analyzing behavior and limiting the damage hackers and other malicious users can cause.
Renewable Energy Integration
The power generated by renewable energy resources such as wind and solar is highly intermittent, depending on whether the wind is blowing or the sun is shining at a particular place and time. As a result, accounting for these sources in the electric power grid is extremely difficult. To address this challenge, researchers with the ECE department are:
- Developing algorithms that use smart grid data to update power generation forecasts for large-scale renewable energy sources every 15 minutes.
- Building algorithms that integrate small-scale renewables, such as solar panels installed on a residential roof, into power generation forecasts.
- Using stochastic game theory to develop systems that optimize power generation in the face of inevitable mismatches between power supply and demand.
Enhanced Customer Participation
Electric utility customers stand to benefit from Smart Grid technologies that will allow them to control when and how much electricity they use. Department researchers are conducting work that will allow them to reap these benefits. Their projects include:
- Developing algorithms for smart grid components that model the power consumption of appliances and entire homes, and can help minimize customers’ electricity costs.
- Customer data security research, ensuring that power usage information remains private.