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Henrietta Post
  • RIT researchers get $78K to improve electric grid

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  • Seven research teams statewide have received $3.3 million in funding aimed at projects to improve the resiliency and efficiency of the state electric grid. That's something many say is much-needed in light of outages following recent violent storms statewide.
    The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) houses one of seven research teams that will be working to improve the grid.
    The teams will develop technologies that work to increase the efficiency of the grid, reduce power outages, lessen environmental impacts and potentially reduce the cost of power delivery.
    RIT was awarded $78,000 to develop controls for microgrids. Microgrids are smaller versions of the electric system and are of a concern to local utilities, according to a press release from Cuomo's office. Although popular among businesses, universities and the like, microgrids can cause power quality problems.
    “This is an area of significant need, in part with integrating renewables into the grid,” said Mike Thurston, a program supporter and an associate research faculty at RIT. “There are concerns with integrating these renewables and how it will affect overall grid operation.”
    "These projects will improve grid resiliency, strengthen utility performance and make the delivery of energy more efficient,” said Governor Cuomo in a press release. “By investing in these seven smart grids, we are further readying the State for the new reality of severe weather, and ensuring that the work we do today will mean fewer power outages and more deliberate energy consumption in the future."
    The controls developed by the RIT research team would contribute to a better cooperation between microgrids and utilities. This may, for example, reduce power quality issues for customers. The team will also research how renewable energy will interact with microgrids.
    “One of the main roles of microgrids is to use their controls and local storage to bring renewable energy sources to the grid in a benign manner,” said Nenad Nenandic, principle investigator for the project and a research faculty at RIT. “When connected to the grid directly, renewable energy sources can be somewhat hostile to the grid as they haphazardly drop energy, depending on the environmental conditions that govern their generation.”
    The RIT team will begin working on the project within the next two weeks and hopes to finish the project in 18 months. At the end of the project they should be able to simulate their program. “What we hope to establish is a good process and protocols and demonstrate them through simulation . . .” said Nenandic. “We hope to eventually demonstrate this with our own microgrid.” The microgrid Nenandic refers to is for the Golisano Institute of Sustainability,on the RIT campus.
    The other award winners were: Brookhaven National Laboratory, Long Island; Clarkson University, Potsdam; ClearGrid Innovations Inc., New York City; Con Edison, New York City; Cornell University, Ithaca; and Lockheed Martin Missions Systems Training, Oswego.
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