Engineering faculty members working to radically improve power transmission, grid security

UIC Engineering faculty members Sudip K. Mazumder and Mohammad B. Shadmand were awarded a $2 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a resilient, next-generation solid-state power substation for use in power transmission.

The three-year project is part of a $12 million effort by the DOE to enhance cybersecurity of America’s energy systems. The agency is funding new research, development and demonstration projects from six universities.

According to the DOE, these projects are aimed at advancing anomaly detection, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and physics-based analytics to strengthen the security and resiliency of next-generation energy systems. These systems include components placed in substations to detect cyber intrusions quickly and automatically block access to control functions.

Mazumder and Shadmand’s project will have a direct impact on the U.S. power system, which includes over 55,000 transmission substations that are largely based on 60-Hz large power transformers, which are bulky, heavy, difficult to replace and transport, and poor at intelligently adapting to renewable energy sources.

The electric power grid was designed to work with traditional, dispatchable energy sources such as natural gas coal, and nuclear power. These fuels are turned into electricity at huge generation plants, and the power is transmitted long distances on high voltage lines, via alternating current. Renewable resources use power electronic converters to connect to the grid, changing the direct current to AC used in transmission, and managing the dynamic nature of renewable resources to be sure it is in sync with the grid. However, these power electronic converters can endanger power grid security and operation.

This project is based on a radically new power-electronic wide-bandgap solid-state transformer patent-pending technology, which was developed by Mazumder. It provides flexibility, adaptability, security, resilience, self-reliance and accelerated installation that isn’t possible with traditional large power transformers.

“The new SST technology that I developed demonstrated several breakthrough features compared to conventional 60-Hz passive transformers, said Mazumder, professor of electrical and computer engineering. “It is apparent that the U.S. Department of Energy sees the value in the technology for power grid flexibility and resilience and recognizes the additional need for ensuring its resilience to cyber threats My team at UIC will be working closely with other leading U.S. universities and industries in realizing that vision.”

The project will integrate Mazumder and Shadmand’s ongoing work on the physical solid-state power systems with their research in the areas of anomaly detection, multi-agent distributed networked control, and machine learning, toward more secure transformers, and power grids.

“Cyberattacks may be introduced to the solid-state power substation through the coordination control layer,”  said Shadmand, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “The goal is to develop a cyber-resilient aggregate coordination control layer that can minimize the cyberattack surface, detect and classify the anomalies in real-time, and mitigate human performance as part of the problem, via autonomous resilient control schemes.”

Mazumder and Shadmand’s technology will be validated using testbed platforms at UIC, and with their partners at Iowa State University, University of Arkansas and Illinois Institute of Technology. The impact of the proposed resilient solid-state power system on utility control centers will be studied using a real-time utility scale software toolset developed with the utility ComEd. The co-PIs will also work with industry partners Electric Power Research Institute, NextWatt LLC, Eaton and ENER-I on experimental data, and the technology-to-market transition.

“The overall project has significant promise since there is limited work on cyber resilience of SST-based SSPS,” Mazumder said. “I expect this landmark project to provide insights into how this advanced power-electronic technology can ensure cyber-resilience while delivering on its promise for the next-generation U.S. power grid.”

 – Written by Andrea Poet

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