Energy and Environment

As the largest centre solely dedicated to control and systems engineering in Europe, we are uniquely placed to undertake research seeking to improve the efficiency, autonomy and security of energy generation and distribution, understand and manage the risks associated with climate change, protect human health and natural environment, and reduce carbon footprint.

We aim to do this through the development of key enabling control technologies for smart grids, energy saving solutions, better models of the terrestrial climate, chemical and radiation pollution, and through the development of advanced technological solutions to monitor environment and identify precursors for natural disasters.

Case Study:

Proposed Architecture for Next Generation Smart Grid

Image: Power Station

Professor Qing-Chang Zhong and his team's proposed architecture for the next-generation of smart grids, based on the award-winning synchronverter technology, will allow all power systems to grow organically and to be operated autonomously. The number of energy suppliers will grow as our reliance on alternative energy increases. It will be very difficult to regulate all the different suppliers, unless next-generation smart grid technology is widely adopted. This research has shown that If all the power supplied to the grid can be synchronised at the bottom level, as the power is fed into the grid, then all suppliers can work together in a stable, completely autonomous manner. The secret to this system lies in inverters – the devices that change a DC current to an AC current, that all renewable power generators need in order to be able to feed power into the grid.

With the synchronverter technology, these inverters can be controlled to have the internal dynamics and external functions of conventional synchronous generators – the mechanism needed by all generators to convert mechanical power into electrical power. The research team believe they can produce a self-regulating power system by enabling the energy suppliers to synchronise their outputs through the power network itself. A number of blue-chip companies have already expressed great interest in this architecture.

For more information email: q.zhong@sheffield.ac.uk