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Future energy could flow both to and from consumers

power-line-gridResearch at Northumbria University could lead to a breakthrough in providing new and renewable energy direct to consumers and the National Grid.

Researchers at a new laboratory at Northumbria that’s directly linked to renewable energy at the University’s City Centre campus are using specialised equipment  to monitor not just the quantity of power generated from wind turbines and photovoltaic systems, but also its quality.

“We have installed new wind turbines and photovoltaic systems on campus and these are currently harnessing wind and solar energy which is being channelled directly into the national grid,” said Ghanim Putrus, a  reader in electrical power engineering. “They are providing the university with a valuable source of energy and we hope in the future to install further green systems to make a significant contribution towards the university’s own energy consumption.”

He added, “One of the most exciting aspects of our new laboratory is the opportunity for us to undertake groundbreaking research into new technologies for sustainable electrical power generation, including the quality and cost effectiveness of the power being generated, which could ultimately lead to solutions to the problems of harvesting energy in the future.”

Researchers at the university are working closely with companies and organisations in the region, including the New and Renewable Energy Centre (NaREC) in Blyth.  They believe their work will help inform energy policy makers, as well as having a direct benefit to the UK power industry in the future.

“We are currently looking at how we can make wind turbines and photovoltaic systems generate more power from the available wind and sun energy and how this can be harnessed for wider consumption,” Putrus said. “We have the necessary expertise to carry out advanced research into the electrical and mechanical aspects of wind turbines in addition to photovoltaic cell technology development and photovoltaic system analysis — including building-integrated systems.”

He continued, “At present the National Grid is designed in such a way that a core number of central power stations transmit power through the grid via a recognised distribution network.  This setup allows for a consistent industry quality but the energy flow is all in one direction — outwards to the consumer. One of the challenges facing the grid operators and the renewable energy industry is to look at how we can harness excess energy available from distributed energy generation systems and feed that back into the national grid, whilst still maintaining the highest quality of supply standards.”

With a recognised skills shortage in the area of new and renewable energy, Northumbria University’s New and Renewable Energy Laboratory will support both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and will help train students and researchers to feed into a growing industrial base.  It will also support the introduction of more renewable energy topics into the university’s teaching programmes, as well as enabling the development of industry-focussed short courses.

The laboratory’s official launch takes place as final-year students from the School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences (CEIS) launch their Graduate Show with a wide range of innovative projects on show to the public.

These include a Web-based automation system for language translation, a unique flexible luggage system, a new green shopping trolley, a wardrobe in a backpack and a “rent-a-tent” system for use at some of the UK’s major outdoor concerts and festivals.

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