March 12, 2012
Remote island communities from the Azores to Nome, Alaska, could experience drastic reductions in the cost of electricity and CO2 emissions by using new smart energy grid technology developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon's Electric Energy Systems Group (EESG).
"We have developed a suite of computer models, decision-making tools, and automation for efficient and reliable integration of wind and other sustainable energy sources," said Marija Ilic, ECE professor and EESG director. "Embedding these tools in energy resources, system users and the power grid itself will enable cost-effective utilization of all assets and can help the economic health of islands worldwide."
Already, Ilic and about a dozen EESG researchers and their collaborators in Portugal have developed a real-world database for electric power grids of Flores and San Miguel, two of nine volcanic islands that sit in the middle of the North Atlantic some 900 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal. Using this database, the team has modeled and assessed the potential for residential and commercial electricity users to participate in a load-management program needed to make the most out of inexpensive, clean wind energy.
The team also simulated new automation concepts for ensuring reliable and stable electric power service using electric vehicles and fast storage, such as flywheels, and evaluated their possible benefits. They demonstrated that fast automation can ensure stable operations of the power grid during large wind gusts that are hard to predict.
The research, featured in a new book to be published this spring by Springer, "Engineering IT Enabled Sustainable Electricity Services: The Case of Low-Cost Green Azores Islands," unveils the potential of all these technologies by documenting the database, developed models and simulation results.
Take the case of San Miguel, an island hub of tourism, fisheries and world-renowned cheese products.
"By implementing our smart grid management software to measure wind velocity, we could help San Miguel residents switch to using more energy fueled by wind turbines and deflate electricity costs from the current $185 per megawatt to $88 per megawatt," Ilic said. "The similar scenario could be true for most remote islands or coastal communities where energy is consistently expensive."
That notion of smarter grids for remote, isolated communities also gained traction earlier this year after the dramatic pilgrimage of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy and the Russian ship Renda's journey to Nome to deliver fuel to this wind-swept, ice-locked Alaskan community, where some spend more than 45 percent of their income on energy.
The research team also studied the potential for saving and storing energy through use of hybrid electric vehicles.
"Major cost and environmental savings could be accomplished by monitoring when and how electric hybrid vehicles are plugged in to help store more energy. In the islands with extreme wind penetration, CO2 emissions can be drastically reduced - up to 80 percent of today's typical emission level - with the same or lower long-term electricity cost and reliable service," said Remceo Verzijlbergh, a team member from Delft Technical University in the Netherlands.
Jose Moura, a professor of ECE and co-director of the Portugal/CMU program, said the work is an example of the great success of tackling research issues that span the global community.