At its heart, the smart grid entails a host of improvements to power system infrastructure made possible by new information technology. Advanced communication systems allow power companies to know in an instant not just that your power is out, but also who around you lost power and what is the source of the outage. New control systems for power transmission and distribution allow much greater use of distributed power from variable renewable resources, such as wind and solar. Data collection from smart meters will allow utilities to better understand the grids that they operate and better deal with power outages and increase efficiency of energy usage.
Students in the Smart Grid IGERT work with scientists and engineers at UVM and Sandia, as well as employees of energy utilities, to advance smart grid technology in numerous ways. Students are developing new models that can predict and mitigate cascading blackouts before they have a chance to cascade. Other students are developing improved control algorithms for wind farms that can integrate weather predictions and advanced computational techniques to decrease system intermittency and decrease turbine and gear box maintenance problems. Other students are developing unique management systems for charging plug-in electric vehicles in which threshold levels vary with weather conditions, as determined by thermal modeling for transformers and underground cables.
Research in advanced technology is facilitated by the massively parallel computer facilities at the Vermont Advanced Computer Core on the UVM campus, as well as by both physical and computational resources at Sandia and other partner laboratories. Other research facilities are available from our partner industrial corporations. For instance, a new DOE-funded Regional Testing Center for solar power is being constructed at IBM in Essex, Vermont, which will offer opportunities for studies with solar energy collection in northern climates.