The Future of Power EngineeringSeptember 23, 2020
The trend towards using renewable energy sources is gaining momentum across the world. They are needed to ease the negative impact on the environment caused by processed hydrocarbons. Solar and wind energy currently account for as much as 8 percent of global power consumption.
In 2014, Russia launched the Energy Development programme with long-term strategies relying on renewable sources. Plans are in place to build wind, solar and geothermal power plants and produce alternative energy equipment.
Research centres make a significant contribution to the development of breakthrough environmentally-friendly technologies in line with the Strategy for the Scientific and Technological Development of the Russian Federation.
Following is a digest of achievements by Project 5-100 universities that bring us a step closer to the alternative energy era.
Far Eastern Federal University correlated the shape of thermal batteries and their efficiency.
FEFU researchers and their colleagues from the Institute for Automation and Control Processes, Russian Academy of Sciences, Far-Eastern branch, ran a series of experiments to find a correlation between the form of thermal battery and its efficiency. New data will help modify energy storages for better capacity and cost efficiency.
The study was focused on thermal batteries used in progressive energy systems. Active agent granules melt when heated to store thermal energy. When cooled, they reverse to solid phase and release energy.
“Exploring the processes of charging and discharging thermal batteries of different forms we applied six different criteria of efficiency,” said Nikolai Lutsenko, FEFU Polytechnical Institute School of Engineering professor, head of the laboratory of the IAPU, Russian Academy of Sciences, Far Eastern branch. “Sometimes, the preferred battery is the one that can hold most of the energy that passes through. In another case, batteries with least charging time might be needed. Some might want a battery that can release most of the stored energy, while others select the type maintaining the proper temperature for as long as possible.
Researchers used a special programme to find out that due to constant heating and cooling cycles that consequently cause battery dimensional changes, cylindrical batteries with straight walls had more advantages. Other battery forms are preferable in certain cases and special conditions.
Thermal storages are part of batteries of various types. They are needed to store energy from conventional electric power generation plants at night or solar batteries or wind power generators at daytime, which will be released at a lower price during peak loads.
ITMO University researchers have also tackled the problem of getting cheaper energy with maximum efficiency. ITMO’s ‘Precision Electromechanics’ R&D center and the Laboratory of Hybrid Nanophotonics and Optoelectronics are implementing a joint project to create such a smart micro energy system.
Urbanisation and digitisation naturally increase the load on municipal power grids and makes them faulty. The failure of even one element might cause an extensive negative impact.
To prevent accidents and ease the load on municipal grids, specialists suggested smart power supply management as a possible solution.
“Every system has an energy consumption cyclogram,” said Nikolai Polyakov, an associate professor at ITMO Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics. “Let’s take an office building as an example: people come there at around the same time, turn on computers, and electric kettles - hence a boost in energy consumption. Soon, the load can decrease, as some will focus on work, some go to get coffee, some leave to have a meeting and so on. But still, when designing the system, it is the peak load that will be taken into account.”
This leads to extra expenses on the construction of power infrastructure. In theory, you can decrease the output of the city’s power plant at dinnertime, but in reality, you just can’t do things like that.
One of the possible steps towards changing the situation is to develop microenergy systems that make it possible to reduce the load on the electric network during the day by handling power consumption surges. Specialists are currently working on experimental samples of smart power conversion units for a 15 kW micro energy system; this consumption would be standard for the average household.
The system incorporates several smart controllers and converters power storages. It monitors energy consumption in a house throughout the day and operates at maximum efficiency during peak loads to implement the load reduction function for the municipal grid. In terms of impact on the environment and efficiency, the system is ideal if integrated with a wind generator and solar batteries which can release energy during peak loads.
Credits: Smart Window module/Nikolai Polyakov, ITMO University
Smart Window is another project of Hybrid Nanophotonics and Optoelectronics Laboratory. “This device has to perform three functions: permit light to go through it, just like a regular window, transform sunlight into electricity at daytime, and act as a light-emitting device with mild diffuse light in the evening and at night if the user wants it to,” said Nikolai Polyakov.
The key advantage of new generation hybrid systems is the high-end function to control and optimise energy flows in the mains and tap into alternative sources and private storages. If these systems are installed in residential areas in the future, they can store a power reserve large enough to cut local infrastructure energy consumption. For example, wind power generators can store energy at night at lower costs and spend it at daytime. Smart Window electricity can be fed to the power grid through solar inverter (designed by ITMO University engineers). By and large, smart systems are expected to improve power supply systems reliability.
LETI is a longtime designer of solar cells, drone and robot mini-power plants, and smart light systems. LETI Photonics Department looks into increasing the efficiency and reducing the production cost of various solar cells. LETI scientists suggest using hybrid or multi-cascade solar power plants at remote facilities and houses not connected to central grid.
On September 5, 2020, the Russian town of Gatchina hosted the All-Russian Festival of Energy Saving and Ecology "Together Is Brighter." It displayed the best domestic inventions, as well as prototypes produced by St Petersburg State Electrotechnical University.
“We’ve presented some of the most modern solar panels, made with the HJT technology, produced by the Russian company “Hevel”. Many employees of the company are ETU LETI graduates. Those panels can generate solar energy even in cloudy weather. We showed our most important achievement from a practical point of view: a mini-power plant based on solar cells, air and ground drones powered by solar panels, solar lights and other devices,” said Ivan Mikhailov, an assistant at LETI Department of Photonics.
Aside from developing state-of-the-art solar energy technology, Project 5-100 universities provide advanced training of personnel who work in this field. Far Eastern Federal University established Energy Efficiency Centre a long time ago; the university also runs master’s programmes “Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving in Electric Power Systems” and “Optimisation of Energy Systems,” ITMO University has courses in Industrial Ecology and Clean Production and Bioeconomics and Resource Management, and LETI Photonics Department launched the "Solar Heterostructure Photovoltaic Engineering” programme (MSc) in 2011 supported by the Runanotech state corporation.
These programmes will help achieve excellent results in implementing the federal project “Young Professionals (increasing the Competitiveness of Professional Education as part of the national project “Education”), and training skilled specialists for pro-active development of alternative environmentally-friendly power engineering.