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EEC Celebrates Undergraduate Research

The Microgrid Project

In the rural regions of Ethiopia, long periods of drought can have severe food security and economic consequences. A collaboration of UConn undergraduate students from various engineering disciplines and social sciences guided by faculty and graduate students at the Eversource Energy Center, sought to address this problem by designing a microgrid for rural Ethiopia, employing renewable energy sources (solar and hydropower) and taking into consideration the social needs of local farming communities that reside in the country’s smallest administrative units, or kebele. Overall, the study examined the sustainability of the microgrid as an energy source that supports farming activities by providing power for irrigation groundwater pumping, with the excess generated energy made available for community needs, such as heating, lighting, and cooking. In addition to enhancing food and health security, the system has the potential to improve the general quality of life in rural Ethiopia. Upon installation of such a microgrid, future studies may focus on the social dynamics and resulting new habits of local people, in order to optimize its performance and tailor its service to specific community needs. A paper on the project is currently under review for publication by the peer-reviewed journal, Sustainability.

Himaja Najireddy and Natalie Roach, from UConn’s Department of Sociology, initially collected important information and social data related to the study area in Ethiopia, such as individual and communal needs, as well as habits and activities of the local society, which were later employed in the design and optimization phases of the sustainable microgrid. Then, they conducted a thorough analysis on the potential social impact of the proposed system, while they provided recommendations on the necessity of educational activities that would ensure the sustainability of the endeavor. Sophie Macdonald, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, was part of the engineering group that designed and optimized the microgrid. She utilized multi-paradigm computer programming and advanced software to assist in all research phases, from the preparation and analysis of hydroclimatic data, to the scenario-based design process and evaluation of results.

Finally, all students aided in the preparation of a research article that is currently under review in the peer-reviewed journal Sustainability, by reviewing the current bibliography and writing sections related to their contribution.

Natalie Roach Himaja Najireddy Sophie Macdonald


Other examples of the excellent research our students have completed include those listed below:

 

 

Xinyu Lin

Xinyu’s work centers on applying the integrated groundwater footprint index (iGF) to Ethiopia. The groundwater footprint concept, originally introduced in 2012, is a measurement tool used to quantify and qualify how sustainably water resources are being used in a location. The iGF accounts for the annual abstraction rate, recharge rate, the groundwater contribution to environmental stream flow, and potential contaminants. This work will contribute to the currently limited knowledge on groundwater resources in Ethiopia and further the sustainable use of groundwater in irrigation practices.


 

Berk Alpay

“Thunderstorms are complex phenomena that cause substantial power outages in a short period. Predicting these outages is difficult using eventwise models, which summarize the weather dynamics over the entire course of the storm. Instead, we developed a framework designed for models to learn the dynamics of thunderstorm-caused outages directly from hourly weather forecasts. Our work was published in 2020 in the journal Forecasting.”

 

Sita Nyame

“I am combining large data (environmental, climate, anthropogenic) with state-of-the- art
machine-learning models to develop a Fire Ignition Model to predict the likelihood of wildfire
ignition in proximity to overhead electric distribution and transmission networks. I have been performing computational analysis using MATLAB to study the contributing factors to wildfire ignitions. I have also generated parameter files using R to use as training data for the Fire
Ignition Model. I am working on utilizing the Fire Ignition Model to generate preliminary results
using cross validation methods.”


 

William Hughes

“As an undergraduate, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with EverSource Energy Center in their cutting-edge research project on power grid resilience. Under the exceptional guidance of Professors Zhang and Bagtzoglou, in addition to a multitude of other professors and industry workers, I was able to gain practical research experience firsthand. The work is rewarding knowing the problems being tackled will lead to real-world impacts improving infrastructure reliability under extreme storms to
reduce power outages and improve daily well being. My experience as an undergraduate culminated in my honors thesis and later first publication while inspiring me to continue to graduate school, where I had a head start thanks to the skills I had gained.”

Aaron Spaulding

Aaron is currently studying mathematics and electrical engineering at the University of Connecticut and has been working at the UConn Eversource Energy Center to build and tune machine learning modules used to predict outages. His recent focus has been on predicting tree failure following extreme weather events in northern Italy and helping build and validate an extreme event model for the Eversource service territories.

Published: February 19, 2021

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