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UNM School of Engineering Collaborates on New International Smart Grid Project

May 18, 2012

The University of New Mexico and an international consortium focused on new energy solutions held a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil a state-of-the-art micro grid facility at Mesa del Sol on Thursday, May 17.

Local, state, U.S. and Japanese dignitaries including UNM president elect Bob Frank (right) provided perspectives on the significance of the collaboration and on using sustainable energy sources as a way to address global energy and environmental problems.

The international consortium includes Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), nine Japanese technology companies, the UNM School of Engineering, Sandia National Laboratories, and Mesa del Sol.

NEDO is investing $22 million in the Mesa del Sol microgrid, which integrates power generated on-site, including solar photovoltaics, fuel cell, and back-up systems with off-site electrical energy delivered by PNM’s centralized grid, including wind and other renewable energy sources. The microgrid will be a showcase for future smart grid projects. 

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Andrea Mammoli (left) is leading UNM’s involvement in the project. As director of the Center for Emerging Energy Technologies (CEET), Mammoli has ongoing research in projects with PNM, Sandia National Labs and the Electric Power Research Institute. UNM’s role in the NEDO project is to collaborate on the design and implementation of the control system of PNM's Prosperity Energy Storage project and the integration of the NEDO system, conduct research on photovoltaic power production forecasting, and test smart grid simulation models.

Mammoli has assembled a multidisciplinary team of faculty and students for the two-year NEDO project. Olga Lavrova, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is modeling multi–agent behavior and analyzing the best way to configure an automatic system that includes many different nodes and controls. Francesco Sorrentino, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is investigating networks of distributed energy resources and dynamics of power flow as a function of pricing structure. Tom Caudell, professor of electrical and computer engineering, will use his expertise in neural networks to develop ways of effectively monitoring these increasingly complex systems.

“The NEDO microgrid is an essential component of the UNM School of Engineering’s commitment to renewable energy and sustainability,” said Catalin Roman, dean of the UNM School of Engineering.

“The years of shared activity and research in the NEDO microgrid project will be applied to teaching smart grid technologies and energy efficiency to the workforce of the future,” added Mammoli. “UNM’s role as an academic institution is to educate students who will be innovative and creative in developing smart energy solutions.”

For more, see The Integrated Sustainable Energy Systems Laboratory.