Smart Grid Research @ DEI

The Research Team

The Smart Grid (SG) Research Group @ DEI is a multi-disciplinary team including experts in Power Electronics, Measurement Systems, Telecommunications and Control, see the research team page. Our mission is that of performing cutting-edge research on smart-grid technology, particularly focusing on:

  • Distributed energy storage: investigation of new batteries and control technologies to prolong their lifetime, while meeting the SG requirements.
  • Realtime data processing and optimized communication for Smart Metering: this activity entails the study and the realization of specialized hardware for smart metering, taking into account the specific requirements of Smart micro-Grids.
  • Distributed control algorithms: distributed, online and quasi-optimal policies for the control of 1) the distributed micro-generation from, e.g., renewable energy sources, 2) the realtime cooperative control of active (e.g., inverters) elements, 3) realtime activity scheduling for distributed residential scenarios.
  • Distributed feedback control strategies for optimal reactive power flow in smart micro-grids: recent technological advances, together with environmental and economic challenges, are spurring the deployment of small power generators in the low and medium voltage power distribution grids. The availability of a large number of these generators can yield relevant benefits to the network operation, which go beyond the availability of clean, inexpensive electrical power. In fact, they can be exploited to provide a number of ancillary services that are of great interest for the management of the grid. A problem of interest to us is that associated with the optimal reactive power compensation for power losses minimization and voltage support.
  • State estimation and topology identification in smart micro-grids: Traditionally state estimation in power system, i.e., the ability to predict voltages, currents and power flows, has been limited to the transmission level where the grid topology is exactly known. The advent of smart grids and the need to sense, monitor and control in real-time its state requires more precise state estimation procedures (also at the distribution level). This presents several challenges as compared to traditional state estimation, since topology is not perfectly known, the number of loads is orders of magnitude larger and more unpredictable, and sensors are more noisy. Our goal is to propose stochastic modeling of the loads that takes into consideration spatio-temporal correlation among them using real data from distribution systems operators (DSOs) and exploit the radial nature of the distribution grids (by positioning a few precise PMUs in the network) to achieve real-time state estimation used for fault-detection, active and reactive-power compensation and voltage support.
  • Interaction of SG and communication systems (e.g., 5G networks): next generation systems such as 5G are expected to exploit energy harvesting sources for their perpetual operation. These new communication networks will thus have some energy storage capability along with the ability of generating energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar, using part of it to operate the network and selling the excess energy to the micro-grid operator. These networks, from the micro-grid perspective, can be seen as a new type of user. We are interested in studying the new dynamics that arise in this new scenario, that combines the telecommunication and micro-grids domains.
  • Statistical modeling of energy harvesting sources: statistical characterization of renewable energy sources, obtaining compact and accurate analytical models. These are then used for the simulation of micro-grids dynamics as well as to develop theoretical models for the optimal control of micro-grid parameters in the presence of renewable sources. A related activity is carried out by the group of telecommunications and is related to the design of network protocols in the presence of (small factor) energy harvesting devices.
  • New communication paradigms for SG control and monitoring: this activity entails the study of novel communication architectures for SGs, including the design of secure communication modules.

Our Lab Facilities

Additionally, our Smart micro-Grid experimental lab, allows us to perform cutting-edge applied research on the following topics:

  • Local energy exploitation: efficient use of local power generation and energy storage, with full exploitation of renewable energy sources and vehicle-to-grid power transactions, taking advantage of electronic power processing to improve power quality, improving distribution efficiency by minimizing the energy paths.
  • Power networking: monitoring and exchanging information in a secure and reliable manner among all agents in the SG; exploiting distributed energy resources to increase flexibility, robustness and security of the grid also in case of loss of mains.
  • Synergic use of Information and Communications Technologies: i.e., the capability of: customizing current ICT schemes to the type of data needs of smart grids; gluing together solutions taken from various disciplines, towards an integrated solution that includes data communication and networking mostly PLC-based), sensing, control and actuation, data processing; providing a flexible software infrastructure, to be integrated in a smart micro-grid testbed, towards a versatile experimental research platform. This permits to run combined experiments where parts of the systems (such as the communication) are implemented with real hardware, whilst, e.g., energy markets and power grid dynamics are simulated.
  • Smart micro-grid facility: in addition to the above, we have set up a smart micro-grid facility in a dedicated lab, that allows the simultaneous experimentation of communication and energy control algorithms.