FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Researchers to Develop Solar Technologies to Improve Disaster Resilience
A team of researchers from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is developing a modular solar power system that can help communities maintain power during natural disasters.
The work is part of a US Department of Energy (DOE) initiative known as the Renewables Advancing Community Energy Resilience (RACER) program, which aims to increase disaster resilience through the use of renewable energy sources. The Department of Energy has provided $33 million to fund 20 research projects across the country to help communities plan for their future clean energy transition and improve grid reliability and security. This project will receive $3 million in funding.
“Extreme weather can cut off power for days, especially if it damages critical parts of the power infrastructure,” said Yuan Li, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering who is leading the project. “Our solution is to develop a system that replicates this critical infrastructure across multiple sub-modules so that the electrical system can continue to operate even if part of it is compromised.”
Li and her team are developing light and compact inverters for solar power plants. Inverters that convert direct current to alternating current help regulate the flow of electricity from power plants to the electrical grid. They are small enough to be installed by a two-man team without heavy equipment, allowing solar farms to quickly restore power after disruptions such as the hurricanes that hit Florida in the summer.
This inverter will have identical modules that control the different sections of the solar plant. If the weather damages part of the inverter, the rest of the modules will continue to work. This technology also allows workers to replace the failed part while the rest of the inverter system generates electricity.
Along with other faculty in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the team includes researchers from the College’s Center for Sustainable Infrastructure and Disaster Response and the Center for Advanced Energy Systems at Florida State University. They will also be working on a project with the City of Tallahassee, Northeastern University, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“Improving community resilience to natural disasters is a cross-cutting issue,” said project contributor Simon Fu, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “A disaster affects so many aspects of society, so our response to it must take this into account.”
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