Dr. Shahab Mehraeen of the Division of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has received a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support his research on advanced non-linear control of AC/DC microgrids. Mehraeen's project, which involves investigating ways to integrate renewable energies like solar and wind with more conventional energy sources, could have an enormous impact in the field of small scale power systems. Mehraeen's research could be beneficial to LSU and other schools in the region, which can be strapped for energy reserves during big events like the power outages that resulted when Hurricane Isaacs struck the Louisiana coast in late August. Mehraeen is quick to point out that renewable energies present many obstacles to overcome.
“They're unpredictable,” Mehraeen says. “We want pretty stable, and predictable, and dependable sources of energy.”
The trick, Mehraeen comments, is to build a sophisticated control system that can effectively manage the instabilities that naturally crop up with renewable energies.
“We have to design a good microgrid to be able to employ those sources,” Mehraeen says.
Less than five months into what will be a five-year project, Mehraeen and his team have begun to model how they will send power from renewable resources, which are primarily direct current sources of energy in nature, over grids based on alternating current technology.
“This is the first step. Then we can investigate what the problems are and what the solutions will be.”
Mehraeen gives a lot of credit to the university and to the energy companies in Louisiana for enabling him to do the kind of research he does. Mehraeen mentions, for instance, that the university is building a one-of-a-kind new lab that will not only enable his team to make a low power microgrid on campus but also enhance the power engineering curriculum at LSU. Mehraeen's grant from the NSF will cover some of the cost of the equipment for the lab. Entergy, a regional power company, has also donated money towards starting this new laboratory.
“There's a lot of great support of power engineering and a lot of great opportunities for working with the power industry in this state.”
Dr. Mehraeen joined the Division of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2010. He received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Missouri University of Science & Technology in 2009. Prior to his PhD, Mehraeen worked for four years in power plant retrofit projects and control systems in Iran. In addition to the NSF CAREER Award, Mehraeen received a patent on “System and Method for Harvesting Energy from Environmental Vibration” in March of 2012. He has also published several articles on control of power systems and energy harvesting.