Associate professor Mooi Choo Chuah of computer science and engineering reviews a research project conducted by her student James Del Rossi '13 in "PV-enabled Electric Vehicle Charging Station." Del Rossi presented his work during the 2013 David and Lorraine Freed Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by Lehigh Engineering. Graduate student Sheng-Hsiu Lin '13G (r) describes his research in power network design to
ESEI project mentor Susan Koval of IEEE. Liang Cheng, associate professor of computer science and engineering, is an expert on networking systems. His research related to smart grid include distributed real-time and embedded systems, system management and security. Assistant professor Nader Motee of mechanical engineering studies spatially distributed systems. In one project, he and his students analyze the incorporation of flywheel storage systems into advanced power networks. Professors Doug Frey, Rick Blum, and Shalinee Kishore of electrical and computer engineering in discussion at Lehigh's recent workshop on challenges and opportunities in advanced electricity networks. Shalinee Kishore and her students explore several aspects of smart grid systems. Leveraging her expertise in communications and network engineering, Kishore's research group is designing communication and network protocols to facilitate smart grid objectives such as demand response, load shaping, real-time flow measurements, and grid visualization. Associate professor Eugenio Schuster of mechanical engineering and students tour the General Atomics DIII-D tokamak in San Diego. Schuster's lab maintains close ties with all three major U.S. fusion research centers -- General Atomics, the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center -- as well as the ITER project in France. Associate professor of industrial and systems engineering Ted Ralphs Dr. Ralphs is a co-founder and co-director of the Computational Optimization Research at Lehigh (COR@L) Laboratory and chairs Lehigh's High-Performance Computing Steering Committee. Parv Venkitasubramaniam, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, studies network security in hopes of protecting the identities of communicating parties. His work has application in securing the flow of information and financial data required for the wide-scale adoption of "smart grid" technologies. Kadeem Samuels '12 '13G presenting his research in renewable energy. Samuels, a mechanical engineer and standout Division I wrestler for Lehigh as an undergraduate, completed the one-year master's program in ESE as a fifth year of study at Lehigh. Martha Dodge, director of Lehigh's Energy Systems Engineering Institute, provides opening remarks at the the ESEI's annual student-research symposium. Previously, she served as senior director for PPL's Smart Grid program, leading strategy development and sponsorship of the firm's $38 million PPL Smart Distribution project.

ENGINEERING REDEFINED: CONNECT

Connecting smart to the grid.

We are more connected to each other than we’ve ever been. But the electricity we use to power our smart phones, laptops, and iPads -- not to mention to heat and run our households -- is expensive. Perhaps worse yet, at times, it is inefficient and insecure. One only needs a few frustrating hours without power, flashlight or candle in hand, to realize how important efficient electricity truly is.

Lehigh’s Integrated Networks for Electricity (INE) research group seeks to add a layer of intelligence to the grid of power plants and substations that generate electricity to more than 300 million Americans.

“The idea is to overlay an information network like the Internet on top of the power grid we’re familiar with,” says Rick Blum, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of INE. “This will allow us to create an exciting new environment with great potential for giving electricity providers and consumers a level of control that’s never existed before.”

UGS 2013

The goal of smart grid technology is to more closely align electricity supply with electricity demand and to facilitate the use of cleaner, alternate energy sources. The smart grid will inform consumers on real-time prices and availability of electricity and help power suppliers better determine consumers’ power needs.

Ultimately, researchers imagine a future where freak storms no longer bring homes and business to a halt. Instead, backup “micro-grids” will kick in and generate power until primary distribution can be restored.

It’s not a pipe dream: A total of $11 billion in smart-grid investments was allocated in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. By nearly all accounts, a massive upgrade of the U.S. electrical infrastructure is already overdue. Peak demand for power to feed energy hungry air conditioners, electronics and appliances has exceeded growth in transmission capacity by 25 percent a year since the early 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Making the smart grid a reality, says Blum, will require development of what some call the “Enernet.” This massive yet decentralized new system will allow the easy, reliable and simultaneous flow of three essential commodities -- electricity, information and money. “The core technologies that are needed to develop the smart grid include information technology, microelectronics and communication networking,” says Blum. “These intersecting areas fit precisely with Lehigh’s strengths and give us significant opportunities to collaborate with industry.

Lehigh’s INE research team surrounds these core technical areas with experts from an array of disciplines such as economics, computer science, mathematics, industrial engineers, and power system electronics. This diverse group shares a singular goal – to explore, and ultimately to manage and optimize, a much more intelligent way to power our lives.