FIU to play key role in India’s energy evolution

FIU delegation in India.

In developing countries, there is a growing need for electricity and generating it in creative ways. India is addressing this problem by giving power to the people and turning them into prosumers. A prosumer is someone who not only consumes electricity, but also produces it, usually through solar panels, and can then sell or trade it back to the power grid.

As part of India’s Smart Grids Innovation Challenge, FIU, in partnership with the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has been awarded a $400,000 grant for two years to develop algorithms and software-driven infrastructure to help develop India’s peer-to-peer energy transferring platform. The School of Computing & Information Sciences (SCIS), housed in the College of Engineering & Computing, is spearheading the project with school director, S.S. Iyengar overseeing the school’s role.

“We see significant opportunities in India and are actively building partnerships to expand FIU’s impact globally,” said Provost & Executive Vice President Kenneth G. Furton. “This collaboration with IIMA recognizes FIU’s forward-thinking approach to research, particularly in the areas of energy innovation and protecting the smart grid. The latter falls under cybersecurity, one of the university’s emerging preeminent programs.”

Last month, Furton led a delegation to India. The FIU Global Position Showcase (GPS) was a multi-city outreach to celebrate the university’s successes with current partners and build upon those partnerships, including this new relationship with IIMA.

The project with IIMA first arose when India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) – similar to the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the U.S. – asked the question, how far can $5 million go to dramatically accelerate global clean energy innovation? As a result, the DST received 115 notifications of intent – 112 of them in India and another 45 from institutions in four countries. FIU was among them in partnership with IIMA. From that initial list, 28 institutions were shortlisted, and nine projects were awarded in collaboration with foreign institutions. FIU is the only U.S. partner selected to participate.

SCIS students, under the direction of Iyengar, will help develop software for peer-to-peer power trading at the granular level with end prosumers who have various forms of load (which refers to energy) and power generation systems. Besides solar power, energy can be generated in a variety of ways, from hydroelectric to nuclear and thermal coal.

“Our students are first-class researchers and this is a tremendous opportunity for them. They will be helping to shape the future of clean global energy, and setting the gold standard for what it will look like in the future – how it’s generated, stored, delivered, traded and protected,” said Iyengar.

Researchers will use computer science to recommend a framework and develop protocols for distributed power management. They will look at the overall power grid to determine how many different people are producing energy and how it can be collectively integrated and stored into the power grid efficiently. They will also examine how it can be traded, including pricing, and serviced so it is not wasted and provide only what’s needed. Students also will make suggestions for a business model that integrates analytics, communications and cybersecurity – how do you protect the grid and how do you make it smart; if there is excess power in one place, how do you put it somewhere else? Yet another component they will study is a charging infrastructure for electrical vehicles.

“The College of Engineering & Computing is devoted to educating seasoned engineers committed to improving communities at all levels and finding innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, including clean energy,” said Dean John L. Volakis.

The project encompasses a number of partners, including academic and industry collaborators. There is the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, as the lead institute, with Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IIT), Ramaiah Institute of Technology and Florida International University acting as academic partners. Industry collaborators include Amplus Solar, BSES Yamuna Power Ltd., and RenaultNissan Technology and Business Centre.