Four collaborative faculty projects win grants to advance renewable electricity
The Institute on the Environment’s (IonE) Renewable Electricity for Minnesota’s Future grant program has awarded $717,360 each to four collaborative research initiatives—three of which feature a member of the Aerospace Engineering faculty. Professors Richard James, Peter Seiler, and Joseph Nichols are involved with these award-winning projects that reach across disciplines at the University and include private sector partners. The grant program was established in 2015 with funds from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund and the University. A panel of 11 nationally recognized energy experts selected the projects that they believed would best accomplish the program’s goal of accelerating the transition to renewable energy.
“These projects show great promise to produce tangible, low-cost technologies to move Minnesota into the next generation of electricity generation,” said IonE managing director and COO Lewis Gilbert. “Involving businesses in the development of these technologies has the advantage of testing on-the-ground scenarios where they have a better chance of being more quickly adopted and used.”
Direct conversion of heat to electricity
The researchers will develop devices to convert waste heat to electricity. Their method uses thin crystalline films that can convert common natural and waste heat sources (such as air conditioning systems) to electricity.
Richard James, Distinguished McKnight University professor, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
Bharat Jalan, assistant professor, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science
Project Partner: Daikin Applied (formerly McQuay International)
Grid interface for renewables, storage and green micro-grids
The project team will develop a new electronics-based interface for connecting renewable electricity sources and battery storage with the utility grid. This novel interface will have the flexibility to operate at low voltages for community-scale plants but can be scaled up to accommodate higher voltage and power levels. The interface could also provide ancillary services and control flexibility to maintain grid stability as more wind and solar power join the mix.
Ned Mohan, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
William Robbins, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Murti Salapaka, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Peter Seiler, assistant professor, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics and IonE fellow
Sairaj Dhople, assistant professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Project Partners: Analog Power Devices, Inc.; Cummins Power Generation; U.S. Naval Academy
Controlling wind plant power
This project team aims to lower the variability in wind energy output and so improve the efficiency and reliability of wind plants using supercomputer-based simulations, laboratory and field measurements, and modeling. The project is the first of its kind to involve numerous turbines in a realistic setting.
Lian Shen, associate professor, St. Anthony Falls Laboratory
Michele Guala, assistant professor, SAFL
Jiarong Hong, assistant professor, SAFL
Jeffery Marr, associate director of engineering and facilities, SAFL
Joseph Nichols, assistant professor, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics
Peter Seiler, assistant professor, Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics, and IonE fellow
Project Partners: Sandia National Laboratories; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; WindLogics