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Dr. Miroslav Begovic, Dr. Mladen Kezunovic and Dr. Chanan Singh
Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, Dr. Miroslav Begovic and Dr. Chanan Singh comprise the Texas A&M University research team for the U.S.-India CollAborative For Smart DiStribution System WIth Storage consortium. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, along with Dr. Miroslav Begovic, Dr. Chanan Singh and several students, have contributed to the U.S.-India CollAborative For Smart DiStribution System WIth Storage (UI-ASSIST) consortium, which is a six-year, $30 million project to help advance the development of the power grid.

As part of this project, Kezunovic, who serves as Regents Professor and the Eugene E. Webb Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, has focused on the next generation of household renewables known as nanogrids. Like microgrids, nanogrids are self-sufficient systems with power generation, controls and energy storage that can act as independent power grids for small areas such as homes or businesses.

Nanogrids have numerous benefits. They are small but quite literally mighty as they are easily deployed as a substitution for energy generation from the grid and can act alone to support the distribution grid feeder where they are connected or can be aggregated to create a coordinated response to support the overall electric grid during emergencies. As an example of local grid support, voltage issues often arise when there is a variation of power supply from distributed energy resources, and nanogrids can control that supply from their own resources, changing the feeder voltage profile, which is needed for many appliances to operate correctly in a home.

Kezunovic has also investigated the energy resource management of these nanogrids and how they can best be used to support the power grid in the wholesale electric market, which in the State of Texas is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. (ERCOT). A recent order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has mandated that distributed energy resources such as nanogrids and microgrids should be used to support the main grid through ancillary service products that can support the lack of generation, control frequency and offer power when renewable energy experiences vary due to weather conditions.

Over the course of the project, Kezunovic worked on these two elements of nanogrid flexibility and efficiency with doctoral students Mohammad Khoshjahan and Dr. Milad Soleimani, who has now graduated.

Energy storage is the holy grail of the future control of power systems that have a lot of renewables.

Dr. Mladen Kezunovic

During Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, gas generation in Texas dropped over 30% overnight and over 4 million electricity customers and consequently over 7 million water customers experienced a loss of potable water. Nanogrids could have been an invaluable resource for this event and can help ERCOT avoid similar problems in the future by providing a resource for power generation through its storage capabilities.

“Energy storage is the holy grail of the future control of power systems that have a lot of renewables,” Kezunovic said.

Singh, who serves as Regents Professor, the Irma Runyon Chair Professor and a University Distinguished Professor in the department, has focused on energy storage participation to control the reliability of the power grid. Begovic, who serves as Moore Professor in the department, has focused on the protection of microgrids, which are smaller grids generated at a commercial site and are a grid on their own — such as the power support for Texas A&M — and are then connected to the main grid.

Over the course of the project, Kezunovic and Soleimani developed an algorithm that can inform a customer of the optimal timing of when an electric vehicle should charge based on their individual schedule. For example, if the customer must pick their children up at an after-school event, the algorithm can use that in its equation for optimal charging. Kezunovic and Khoshjahan proposed a model to optimize the participation of nanogrids in the wholesale electricity market through aggregators to improve system-wide reliability of the grid.

Since 2017, UI-ASSIST has conducted cutting-edge collaborative research to allow a continued increase of renewable energy penetration into the electric distribution grid. A total of 30 academic institutes, research and development organizations, utilities, industries and policymakers from India and the United States have collaborated on basic research activities and laboratory and real-world demonstrations.

UI-ASSIST’s American team, led by Washington State University, is comprised of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas A&M, the University of Hawaii, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Snohomish County (Washington) Public Utility District, Avista, Burns and McDonnell, ETAP Operation Technology, ALSTOM Grid/GE Grid Solutions, Clean Energy Storage, ABB, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The India team is led by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur and is comprised of the partners IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, IIT Roorkee, IIT Bhubaneshwar and The Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi.