Power Systems Engineering
The Faculty of Engineering at The University of Western Ontario (UWO), in its Strategic Research Plan, has committed to develop a world-class power systems engineering research and education program. As a part of this endeavour, the Faculty has recently recruited three internationally known faculty members, one being a Hydro One senior industrial research chair in power systems. This, in addition to the recently announced NSERC-UNENE Senior Industrial Research Chair in the area of power systems, has made UWO one of the leading centres for power systems engineering research in Canada and around the world. This Power Systems Engineering group resides within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Western Ontario.
Electric industry restructuring, emerging competitive electricity markets and anticipated rapid growth of alternative energy generation have led to the emergence of many new research opportunities. The key challenges lie in the domain of conditioning, control, protection and operation of the interconnections between the alternate energy generators and the existing electric power grids. Similar research challenges also exist in interfacing alternate energy sources, such as, fuel cells for use in vehicular transportation systems. The expertise and strength of the group lies in power electronic (ac-dc) conditioning technologies, control systems and protection techniques, and is thus very well positioned to perform pioneering research in the abovementioned areas. Although, the group has been established very recently, intensive industry collaborations in above areas have already been established, mainly because of the unique capabilities of this group. The following paragraphs provide brief information about the areas of strength, faculty members, laboratory facilities and collaborations.
AREAS OF STRENGTH
The power systems engineering research group at Western aims at providing innovative solutions for interfacing and interconnecting alternative energy sources, such as, fuel cells, to the emerging electric grids and future transportation systems. Emphasis is on the application of power electronics, computers, digital signal processing, and communication technologies. The group specifically focuses on:
- Cost effective design and implementation of power electronic ac-dc converters/conditioners for low/medium power applications incorporating alternate energy sources and for high power applications employing Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) technology
- Integrated control and protection of both the interface and the electric grid
- Unified control and protection of power electronic interface for emerging transportation systems
- Real time voltage and power regulation including power factor improvement; power quality enhancement
- Nuclear power plant control and instrumentation
- Computer-based relays and protection systems
- Smart metering technologies in deregulated systems
- Demand side management, modeling, controllability, communication aspects
The group's expertise is unique for providing cutting-edge technology solutions and setting standards and practices for safe and efficient operation of the power systems of the future that will have high penetration of alternate energy sources.
Since the inception of the Power Systems Engineering Group, the members of the group have been successful in securing funding from various sources to establish state-of-the-art research facilities that do not exist at any other University in Ontario. These facilities are indispensable for conducting research in the areas of interconnection and interface of energy sources to the electric power grid. Specifically, these include:
- Real time simulation of power systems with a Real Time Digital Simulator (RTDS) and a Real Time Playback (RTP) Simulator. These simulators are ideal tools for thoroughly designing, studying, and testing control and protection schemes. They perform the entire system simulation in a “computational time period” which is equivalent to the “real time of occurrence” of the physical phenomena. The importance of these Simulators lie in the fact that any control and protection strategies validated on it will be readily accepted by industry for implementation.
- State-of-the-Art power system protection laboratory with a host of modern protective relays for studying the protection aspects of interconnections of energy sources with the electric grid; and transmission and distribution systems.
- Commercial grade software packages for performing comprehensive and specialized studies related to power system stability, electromagnetic transients, fault studies, etc.
- Facilities for designing, implementing and testing power electronic converters/conditioners, power system protection devices and Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) controllers.
- An array of computing and networking facilities for studying IT applications in modern power systems having alternate energy sources.
The above facilities are relocated in the new $ 27.4 million Thompson Engineering Building, a novel research and teaching facility designed to effectively support the new strategic direction of the Faculty of Engineering.
COLLABORATIONS AND INDUSTRY LINKS
The power systems engineering group at Western has identified emerging energy systems as its principal focus of research. With this objective, the group has vigorously pursued and secured financial support and active collaborations from several leading local, regional and international electric utilities and manufacturing organisations as listed below:
- Hydro One, Toronto - Contributed one million dollars towards the establishment of a research chair in power systems. Additionally, Hydro One has also provided money to set up scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students in power area.
- UNENE, Canada - Contributed one million dollars (over five years) for the establishment of NSERC-UNENE Senior Industry Research Chair in Control, Instrumentation and Electrical Power Systems in Nuclear Power Plants.
- Schweitzer Engineering Labs, USA - Made an in-kind contribution of US$300,000 to set up a state-of-the-art laboratory for teaching and research in the area of protection of modern energy systems.
- RTDS Technologies, Winnipeg - Provided in-kind hardware/software contribution of $188,000 towards the purchase of real-time digital simulators
- A local power engineering company, MVA, is collaborating to develop fuel cell based generating units.
- A local company, Cos Phi Inc., is collaborating for developing power electronic converters to improve power factor, thus leading to savings in electric power consumption.
- A local company, Utilismart Corp., is collaborating in the area of interval metering for deregulated power systems.
- General Electric Multilin, Markham, Ontario - Established a collaborative research program with the power systems engineering group with a grant of $44,000 per year.
- Arise Technologies Corporation, Kitchener, is seeking collaboration to design and implement Digital Signal Processing (DSP) based controller for solar system interface with the electric grid.
- Texas Instruments, Dallas, USA - Committed to provide digital signal processing boards, worth about US$50,000, for developing new protection and control devices.
- Collaboration has been instituted with Ontario Power Generation, Bruce Power and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd to develop new control techniques for nuclear power plants.
- A regional electric utility company, Kitchener Hydro, is sponsoring its engineer for graduate studies at Western.
- The group has ongoing collaborations with researchers from the University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan and National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico.
- Collaborations with other groups in the Faculty of Engineering, such as, Biochemical engineering and Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction, are in progress for developing innovative solutions to energy-related problems.
- Recently, the Group has set up collaboration with the Power Group from the University of Waterloo to jointly apply for a Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) infrastructure grant of $5.65 million to create a Modern Power Systems Engineering Research Centre which will be unique in Canada.