Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Prof. Johanna Mathieu Working to Bring Power from Sustainable Sources to Your Home

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Johanna Mathieu

Prof. Johanna Mathieu, assistant professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, received a CyberSEES grant to pursue "Data-driven approaches to managing uncertain load control in sustainable power systems."

The grant is part of a new $12.5M initiative by the National Science Foundation to encourage computing innovations for a sustainable society [see the NSF press release]. The initiative is called CyberSEES, short for Cyber-Innovation for Sustainability Science and Engineering. The CyberSEES program aims to advance the science of sustainability in tandem with advances in computing and communication technologies.

Prof. Mathieu is working on the problem of how best to integrate wind and solar power into the nation's established electrical grid system. Wind and solar power is a great source of sustainable energy, yet by its very nature is highly variable. The public's use of energy is variable, yet there is little tolerance for a power supply that is not completely reliable throughout even extreme peaks in energy usage.

"For this project," explains Prof. Mathieu, "we will explore how electric loads, which are inherently uncertain, can be used to provide back-up capacity to electric power systems, helping balance electricity supply and demand. This is especially important in power systems with a lot of wind and solar power."

"We are applying novel stochastic optimization techniques, and will quantify trade-offs between uncertainty, profitability, and sustainability. Key challenges include characterizing load control uncertainty and formulating the stochastic optimization problems in computationally tractable ways. Our methods will form the basis for calculating the net environmental impact of load control."

The results of this research will guide load control program design as well as power system market design. More broadly, the research may one day impact the nation's energy policy as it attempts to balance the cost of energy with the environmental impact of generating that energy.

Prof. Mathieu is working with Ian Hiskens, Vennema Professor of Engineering, and Prof. Siqian Shen (Industrial and Operations Engineering).

Prof. Mathieu's research focuses on ways to reduce the environmental impact, cost, and inefficiency of electric power systems via new operational and control strategies. She is particularly interested in developing new methods to actively engage distributed flexible resources such as energy storage, electric loads, and distributed renewable resources in power system operation. This is especially important in power systems with high penetrations of wind and solar. She uses methods from a variety of fields including controls, optimization, and statistics. She is also interested in using engineering methods to inform energy policy and energy economics.

More about the grant

Posted October 22, 2014