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Grant to Fund Electric Power Market Optimization Research

PowerLines at sunset (Brookhaven National Lab)

(Brookhaven National Lab)

Iowa State University in Ames says three of its engineering faculty will receive $1.7 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to study new ways of scheduling and pricing electric power. ISU is the lead institution in a $3 million project involving Sandia National Laboratories, University of California at Davis, power grid systems company Alstom Inc., and the New England regional power grid, known as ISO-NE.

The grants will fund work at ISU led by Sarah Ryan, professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering.  Also participating in the team are Dionysios Aliprantis, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Leigh Tesfatsion, professor of economics, mathematics, and electrical and computer engineering.

Their research aims to help electricity market managers in the seven U.S. wholesale electric power markets, covering more than 60 percent of U.S. generation, meet energy demands brought on by new uncertainties from the growth of renewable resources such as wind and solar power. The studies will address the need for more precise scheduling and pricing wholesale electric power, particularly for timing the start and close of conventional power generators that need to be scheduled hours in advance. Faster starting generators can fill in when predictions do not match current needs, but they are more expensive to operate.

Current U.S. market management systems for electric power, say the researchers, cannot effectively accommodate the multiple sources of uncertainty that arise from new resources on the nation’s power grid, including new wind and solar power plants. The markets need better means for handling these uncertainties to make the entire power system more efficient and reliable. A more efficient and reliable grid can lead to lower costs for electric power, and a greater ability to maintain the balance of power supply and demand .

Ryan, whose previous research involves optimization of stochastic (randomly determined) processes, will develop inputs and scheduling problem formulations to incorporate power grid uncertainties. Aliprantis and Tesfatsion will work with Ryan and other participants to develop and test the new stochastic formulation using an integrated retail and wholesale power system test bed they have constructed. Alstom is expected to conduct intensive development and testing of the formulation, with the goal of applying it more broadly in the commercial market.

“We are building information about the uncertainty of demand and renewable generation into optimization methods that can use that information,” says Ryan, who also believes the use of more renewable power sources can lead to broader economic benefits. “Once we create an integrated power grid that makes the best use of alternative energy sources,” she adds, “I think you’ll see jobs and industries grow as a result.”

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2 comments to Grant to Fund Electric Power Market Optimization Research

  • Hello Alan,
    Maybe a little off topic, however, Every day the cable news network’s run news stories on the state of the environment. It seems that each time we turn on the television set we are confronted by spectacles of a natural world gone wild. Hurricanes, Tsunami’s and floods all seem to be increasing in frequency and ferocity. The effects on global warming seem to be placing communities across the globe in harms way. The aftermath of these disasters always has one thing in common, a lack of basic services, including electricity supply. In these cases an electric power generator can mean the difference between life and death.

  • Thanks Chris. Even with impending climate change, hurricanes and tsunamis are still rather infrequent events. Optimizing the electrical grid, the focus of the research described in this post, and help strengthen and improve the reliability of electric power under more routine conditions, as well as better handle the intermittent supply of power from renewable sources. – AK