iPower project to sync energy production, consumption
CSL Professor Andrew Alleyne has received a three-year grant of $105,690 as part of an international energy project, the iPower Platform.
This project, which totals more than $23 million, is sponsored mostly by the Danish government -- primarily the Danish Council of Strategic Research. Other collaborators include Danfoss, Grundfoss, Vestas and IBM. The research will focus on creating an intelligent power grid and is part of the larger movement to make energy usage more efficient.
The goal of the project is to look at sources of energy that fluctuate, and find a way to coincide the energy generation with energy consumption.
“The idea is, ‘Can I actually be flexible in my consumer demand, to match the amount that is available on the grid?’” said Alleyne, the Ralph & Catherine Fisher Professor of Mechanical Science and Engineering and the associate dean of research in Illinois’ College of Engineering.
For example, at the start of the day, many people turn on their computers or air conditioners, drawing a lot of power. However, if the primary source of energy comes from wind generation and the wind isn’t blowing very hard at the time, power companies will have to draw electricity off the grid to meet demand. Because demand fluctuates and can’t be easily predicted, the electricity used to supplement wind energy can be expensive depending on current conditions. Conversely, there’s no mechanism for storing wind energy when production exceeds demand.
“Suppose there is a lot of generation and as the wind picks up, it starts to extract a lot of energy. Now there is all this power (and we’re looking at whether there is) a way to save it, using some of the existing consumer mechanisms,” Alleyne said.
Energy conservation research is information-rich with multiple dimensions and thrusts, Alleyne said. For example, iPower can look at energy usage in a geographic location or patterns of energy usage across different business sectors.
iPower could also research consumer behavior or consumer reactions to new technologies like the smart refrigerator or smart computer. For example, in order to save energy, people might have to accept that their refrigerators might not be as cold during some hours of the day, Alleyne said. Or consumers might have to pay a little extra during the peak hours in order to reduce the overall demand on the power grid.
Since the project is primarily based in Denmark, the research is focused on wind power, in which that country specializes in producing. Alleyne is the primary U.S. partner on the overall project.
"It will be focused on early system development with a lot of theoretical and conceptual ideas to try out in simulation environments," Alleyne said. " With the industry partnerships, we will have the opportunity to do large scale demonstrations later in the project with the likelihood of limited commercial deployment at the end."