A peek into the AIR Microgrid and the stories that made this collaborative research possible, featuring Principal Investigator and Professor Arif Sarwat, students of EPSi and Dean of the College of Engineering and Computing John L. Volakis.
FIU and Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today unveiled an innovative energy microgrid– the latest project to emerge from a decades-long partnership between FPL and FIU.
The FIU-FPL microgrid is capable of supplying backup power to FIU’s engineering center – considered one of the most high-tech learning facilities in South Florida – for approximately 24 hours depending on electrical usage. The facility also gives students and researchers the ability to gain hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology and enables FPL to conduct further research to help advance renewable energy and make Florida’s energy infrastructure even smarter.
“When FIU and FPL unveiled our innovative solar canopy in 2016, solar was still a technology of the future. Today, solar is the ‘here and now’ for FPL. With this microgrid, FIU students have the opportunity to contribute to the future of energy yet again – gaining hands-on experience with an emerging technology and conducting research that will bring real-world benefits to Floridians.” said FIU President Mark B. Rosenberg “Our decade-long partnership with FPL demonstrates exactly how experimental projects like this microgrid can turn into world-changing developments practically overnight.”
Microgrid technology is uniquely capable of addressing customer needs for resiliency in the wake of extreme weather events such as wildfires and hurricanes. A smaller version of the main energy grid, microgrids can operate in both grid-connected and “island” mode – meaning when severe weather affects the main energy grid a microgrid can operate autonomously using its own local energy sources to power the buildings or facilities that the microgrid supports.
“At FPL, we are always eager to look over the horizon and disrupt the status quo to continue to deliver America’s best energy value – electricity that’s not just clean and reliable, but also affordable,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “This cutting-edge microgrid isn’t just an opportunity for FPL to help shape the next generation of America’s workforce, it’s an opportunity for FIU students and faculty to contribute directly to a brighter energy future for the Sunshine State – a future that includes more solar, more energy storage and hopefully more microgrid technology on a greater scale.”
Once fully operational later this year, the FIU-FPL microgrid will be powered by the existing FIU-FPL 1.4 megawatt (MW) solar array at the FPL-FIU Solar Research Center – which doubles as a parking canopy – and incorporates a large-scale 3 MW battery system. The microgrid is located on the Northwest corner of FIU’s Engineering Center. The system will have a 10-year lifespan, and when not in microgrid mode, the battery will smooth the solar canopy’s generation to minimize gaps caused by clouds and shading.
In addition to solar and battery storage, the microgrid leverages one of FIU’s state-of-the-art research facilities, the Proactive Analytics and Data Oriented Research on Availability and Security (PANDORAS) Lab, which will serve as a virtual control room. PANDORAS Lab is also interconnected to the Grid ENergy Intelligence Exploration (GENIE) real-time simulation lab capable of simulating Artificial Intelligence based Renewable (AIR) microgrid systems using real-world data. There, faculty and students in the Energy, Power and Sustainability Intelligence (EPSi) group use high-end computer systems to conduct research and simulations using smart grid, weather and telecommunications data.
“This transformative research can help pave the road for providing local and global communities with increased resiliency for riding through extreme weather and power grid events,” Dr. Sarwat said.
You can find more information from the project lead, Eminent Scholar Chaired Professor Arif Sarwat, at eps.fiu.edu.