Electricity networks of the future will incorporate intelligent monitoring and control systems enabling them to access and distribute a growing proportion of clean, renewable energy from sources such as wind farms and marine generating stations.
"Smart Grids", as they are known, will also provide significant benefits for consumers. With access to real time information about their energy consumption, they will be able to control and plan their usage effectively and even have the option of switching automatically to the best value energy suppliers.
Helping to turn that vision into reality is Haifeng Wang of the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science who is working to develop some of the critical technology that will be required.
One of the key challenges faced by his team is the need to increase the reliability of electricity supply to reduce the effects of power cuts on consumers. This will become an ever more complex task in years to come as the amount of energy supplied to the grid from decentralised renewable sources increases substantially to keep pace with government targets.
Part of that solution is to introduce new types of energy storage systems around the network. These will be used to ensure supply in the event of network faults or sudden loss of generating capacity caused, for example, by unfavourable weather conditions reducing the amount of wind or marine energy available to the grid.
"Our work is aimed at developing the systems that will be needed to monitor and control these new types of energy stores. We believe it has big commercial potential because we are the only team in the UK working in this important area of applying energy storage in power transmission," says Haifeng.
"We are fortunate because our close working relationship with the localOur work is aimed at developing the systems that will be needed to monitor and control these new types of energy stores power industry means we have direct online access to monitoring equipment installed at various location around the grid. This has enabled us to collect vital data, which we have used to develop our initial models.
"Our next step will be to validate those models through field tests in China where a major power company will give us access to their system data."
Originally from Nanjing in southeast China, Haifeng completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering at Southeast University in 1988. Aware of Queen's University's expertise in his chosen field, he applied successfully for one of only two available visiting fellowships and subsequently worked at the University as a research fellow until 1993.
He then moved to England where he held research positions at Manchester and Bath universities before returning to Belfast to take up his current post in 2007. He has worked on a number of projects sponsored by UK power companies, including the National Grid Transco (NGT), the Schneider Group and Toshiba International plc.
"International co-operation is a vital aspect of the EPSRC projects we are working on. It is providing an opportunity to establish international collaboration with leading institutions in China, where previous research links have already resulted in a number of important technology advances."
"In contrast to other regions, the island of Ireland has a relatively small, self-contained power system with a disproportionately high reliance on renewable generation. These factors put our research team in a strong position to develop solutions that will be readily exportable to other power systems around the globe."
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