Mass. – Integrating new clean and efficient energy sources into the existing
electric system is not as simple as adding the sources to regional power grids. But
it also is not insurmountable, according to Smith professor Judith Cardell.
With a new $70,000 National Science Foundation (NSF)
grant, Cardell is leading research that will determine how to combine new energy
sources into the existing system without hurting its stability.
“The electric power system is one of the most complex, interconnected engineering
systems in existence,” said Cardell, associate professor in engineering and
computer science. “As this system evolves under the combined influence of restructuring,
technological advances and restrictions on pollution emissions, distributed energy
resources organized into semi-autonomous 'microgrids' will have an important role.”
The project promotes the expanded use of these distributed
resources such as wind-turbines, photovoltaics and cogeneration plants, and creates
new opportunities for Smith undergraduates to learn about a critical industry – one
that has suffered from a decline in student interest, according to Cardell.
The best way to promote the evolution of the electric
power system is to demonstrate the effectiveness of distributed energy resources
in meeting the demand for clean and reliable electricity. In an industry that suffers
when blackouts occur, reliability is a factor that must be proven before the industry
will change, said Cardell.
Cardell is an adjunct researcher with the Power Systems
Engineering Research Center (PSERC), a national collaborative of about 400 researchers
from more than a dozen institutions of higher education that allows academics and
industry to work together to plan for the necessary evolution of the power system.
Smith is among the few colleges within the NSF-initiated collaboration; most are
To accomplish the goal, Cardell’s work focuses
on developing computer simulations of the electric power system. With the NSF grant,
Cardell will develop computer models in which each new small-scale power generator
will determine output and price on its own, but within a set of rules. Designing
these operating rules and demonstrating that they will ensure grid stability is a
major objective of the research.
Once the modeling framework is developed, it will be
used to analyze the effectiveness of the system on reducing greenhouse gas emissions
and on the economic ability of individual providers to participate in bulk electricity
markets as a unified resource.
Before coming to Smith, Cardell worked for the federal
government and as a consultant to the power industry. She was involved in writing
federal electricity policy that addressed many aspects of the deregulation of the
electric power industry.
Smith College educates women of promise for lives of
distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith
enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.