Current research projects

The following projects are already underway with students on the CDT programme.

Click on the project title for a brief description. 

Advanced Protection and control of future power systems to avoid blackouts
Alternative Structures for OHL Transmission Towers
Control and stability of future power systems with up to 100% renewable generation
Decision Modelling and Analysis of Decentralised Green Energy Systems and Their Impact
Exploring Governance Models of Power Network Systems
HV and LV Representative Networks: A Realistic Large-Scale Assessment of LCT Impacts and Smart Grid Solutions in the UK
Impact of smart grids on power system protection
Intelligent central management of demand side heat storage in buildings
Investigation of alternative paper ageing indicators for power transformers
Mapping Vulnerability to Fuel Poverty in the UK: Implications for Future Energy Demand and Sector Governance
Network Automation for Non-Deterministic Network Planning
Novel Composite Materials for Electricity Distribution
Optimal Predictive Control of Modern Power Networks
Power Generation from Large-Scale Tidal Stream Turbine Arrays
Risk-based System Planning and Operation
Security and Reliability Studies for Smart Power Networks
Smart Districts and Urban Energy Innovation
The Dynamics and Future-Proofing of Heat Network Governance - in the Context of Decarbonisation and Infrastructure Innovation
The impact of managing electricity consumption on consumers
The Performance Parameters Needed for Systems to Optimally Store, Smooth and Trade Wind Power: Assessment of Performance Achievements so far and the Value of Future Performance Improvements
Thermal capacity of distribution transformers affected by the impact of low carbon technologies

Advanced Protection and control of future power systems to avoid blackouts

This multi-disciplinary project aims to provide a vision and strategic direction for the prevention of blackouts and instabilities of future electricity networks. It is inspired by both, the limitations of current operation and control practices, and unprecedented opportunities opened by advanced communication and information technologies to massively improve system dynamic state estimation and control. This would spur new developments and transformation across the ICT-Energy interface by bringing together experts in information and communications technologies, control systems, and power systems protection and networks specialists. The proposed research would not only benefit from the input of a wide range of disciplines but it also has the potential to move each of these disciplines forward as scientific breakthroughs are made in the energy context. The results of this project will definitely contribute to the Smart Grid agenda, which is one of key drivers and vehicles of modern societies. Last but not least, the project is about electrical power systems, which are one of the key critical infrastructures, ensuring the progress of every prosperous society.

Alternative Structures for OHL Transmission Towers

This project will develop alternative methods of construction of OHL transmission towers, principally exploring the use of concrete filled tubes as the tower structure. This type of support structure has many benefits including much reduced footprint, enhanced visual appearance, improved structural resistance, reduced construction and maintenance costs, flexibility to be used with different types of foundation including screw and driven piles. This type of construction has already been used in China. The aim of this project is to develop design, construction and installation methods to suit the UK construction and power networks industries. This project will mainly be carried out using numerical simulations, but some experimental testing may be required to provide data for validation of the simulations. The key outputs of this project will be proposals of a number of specifications for OHL transmission tower system under different structural loading and UK ground conditions, based on technical feasibility, cost-effective analysis taking into consideration maintenance, and environmental impact assessment. 

Control and stability of future power systems with up to 100% renewable generation

Traditional electricity generation uses fuels like coal and gas to make large turbines spin. These systems have large amounts of mechanical inertia which helps to keep the electrical system frequency stable and the system secure and operational. As power systems integrate larger amounts of renewable energy, these power plants are being replaced by low (or no) inertia systems (there is no inertia in a solar cell). This means that maintain a constant steady frequency (which is vital) requires fast active control. As the number of renewable energy sources increases (potentially up to 100%), we will need to completely rethink the way system frequency is regulated and controlled. This project will identify the problems that will occur and develop mitigation strategies to enable secure and safe system operation – ensuring maximum possible renewable energy usage and informing national policy decisions about the future design of the electricity network.

Decision Modelling and Analysis of Decentralised Green Energy Systems and Their Impact

Decentralised Green Energy (DGE) is regarded to be central to the world’s future energy and economic strategies. It is estimated that the increased use of DGE in the UK could reduce CO2 emissions associated with heat and power generation by as much as 30%. It is hoped that the severe pollution of cities in China mainly caused by the use of fossil fuel for heating and transportation could be reduced by the widespread deployment of DGE systems. However, DGE systems and their potential impact on world economy have not been studied systematically. This project is proposed to fill the gap by investigating important issues about DGE systems and their contributions to green economy, which are of common and widespread interests to many countries. It is expected that many people in both public and private sectors can directly benefit from this project, such as policy makers, energy suppliers and consumers, energy network owners, and DGE investors and stakeholders in local communities, who have direct interests in the generation, transition and consumption of renewable energies.

Exploring Governance Models of Power Network Systems

The aim of this research project is to further our understanding as to how democratic societies produce power networks, and whether there are particular organizational and governance structures producing superior results, assuming we can unambiguously define performance. This is a fundamental research question that has potential to help us further our understanding of the link between structure and performance in the context of public-private partnerships created to produce infrastructure. Crucially, these partnerships are instrumental to succeed in meeting major societal challenges ranging from poverty relief, climate change, population growth, energy crisis, scarcity of potable water, rises of sea water levels, and migration to cities. More broadly, these partnerships are empirical realizations of distributed communities of production known to be central to understand the development of new business ecosystems (social networks like Facebook and Linkedin, open source communities), new scientific breakthroughs, and broadly the development of large infrastructure assets. To achieve their superordinate goals, these interorganizational collaborations must unify partners who belong to different communities of practice, and thus overcome acute epistemic gaps and resolve differences in beliefs, interests, and priorities.

HV and LV Representative Networks: A Realistic Large-Scale Assessment of LCT Impacts and Smart Grid Solutions in the UK

The objective of this project is to develop, for the first time in the UK, representative networks based on a thorough clustering analysis of a large population of real low voltage (LV) and high voltage (HV) distribution networks to ensure their representativeness and validity. These representative networks will be used to truly characterise the effects of the adoption of low carbon technologies (LCTs) and to support the development of a realistic suite of mitigation measures to best address the emerging challenges of low carbon economies and the changing demands of customers. As both design and operation have a direct effect on end customers, there is a case for appropriate simulation and testing of new designs and changed operating practices before using such new approaches for real. Therefore, impact analysis of LCT as well as the application of Smart Grid solutions will be carried out on these representative networks to characterise their hosting capabilities and the extent to which certain solutions bring benefits.

Impact of smart grids on power system protection

Project will investigate the impact of smart grids, non-synchronous generation, intermittent energy sources and HVDC on AC transmission network protection systems; and involve the use of the DigSILENT off-line simulator and the RTDS real time simulator, now available in the protection and control “in-the-loop” demo-laboratory. The outcome will be increased understanding of how existing protection and control systems will be affected by future Power Network changes and how system designs and setting strategies can evolve to cope with the changes. The researcher will also enhance the capabilities of the demo-laboratory and develop a robust and flexible communication and time synchronisation architecture to support investigations into new and existing protection, measurement and control systems.

Intelligent central management of demand side heat storage in buildings

This project will take a rapidly expanding new optimisation technique into new applications within the power system. What is presently a major problem (the effect of lumpy demand from big buildings, on noisy, intermittent or inflexible generation systems) can in principle be turned into an opportunity. A dynamically optimal balance between all the interacting capital and operating costs of spare generation capacity, energy storage, demand smoothing and power shedding, has become possible in principle.

The project will also break new ground, by addressing two new practical challenges: firstly, how is it possible to synthesise a smooth total generation load by making minor adjustments to the time patterns of heat gain or loss in each one of a large number of individual heat-using systems; secondly, how in principle can the required interventions be both calculated and implemented by using only signal strength flows between each individual building space and system management.

Investigation of alternative paper ageing indicators for power transformers 

Power transformers play an important role in a power system network, and they are also one of the most expensive equipment in substations in terms of capital cost. Nowadays, a large proportion of transformers in operation are in the age beyond their designed lifetime, and this requires better ageing assessment of the transformer in order to maintain the equipment and system reliability.

The lifetime of a transformer depends on the mechanical strength of paper insulation, which is normally measured through Tensile Strength (TS) or Degree of Polymerization (DP). These measurements require the paper sample itself, which is impossible to be sampled for an in-service transformer. Therefore it was proposed to seek for paper indicators in oil. Measurement of Furanic compounds is one of the established methods.

This project is aimed to investigate alternative paper ageing indicators like low molecular weight acid and methanol in oils. The research output will contribute to transformer ageing assessment and asset management field.

Mapping Vulnerability to Fuel Poverty in the UK: Implications for Future Energy Demand and Sector Governance 

This research will aim to map vulnerability to fuel poverty (understood as a household’s propensity to experience inadequate energy services in the home) and forecast future energy demand on this basis. The mapping will include qualitative and quantitative dimensions, and will address the complex spatial, social and political dimensions associated with a possible future decrease or expansion of fuel poverty in the UK. Consequently it will aim to inform the development of network infrastructure within the UK, so as to allow future policy to both evolve with, and adapt to, the multiple uncertainties surrounding energy demand.

Network Automation for Non-Deterministic Network Planning

When a disturbance occurs on a distribution network, travelling waves are initiated that can be used to locate the point of the disturbance and the immediate topology of the network. In the case of a fault on a radial 11kV network, the travelling wave pattern initiated by the fault can be analysed and used to determine on which branch the fault is located and if the fault is permanent.  The knowledge can be used to isolate the faulted branch or section and rapidly restore supply to all consumers, except those electrically close to the permanent fault. This approach assumes the network includes multiple remotely controlled isolating switches, and only the consumers located between the switches closest to the fault will lose supply. In addition, the automation control system will accurately pin-point the location of the fault and help the DNO deliver the repair crew to the point of damage, hence ensuring customer minutes lost due to permanent faults are minimised.

Novel Composite Materials for Electricity Distribution

A range of new materials are under development that could offer considerable benefits to the design of electricity network assets. These include nano engineered materials, graphene, carbon nanotubes and their composites. This project will initially examine the availability and applicability of these materials to application in electricity transmission and distribution. This will be done by bringing together materials scientists and equipment designers and developers both in industry and academia. One key area will be identified for deeper study, which will include design, process and development of materials for one application. Examples of this might be hydrophobic coatings, or non-linear nano-structured insulation systems for high voltage and high temperature application.

Optimal Predictive Control of Modern Power Networks

This project will focus on the modelling and control of electrical power networks that comprise of electrical loads as well as renewable energy sources and energy storage elements. The project will aim to consider a more general framework of modelling power networks that is not focused on specific renewable energy and energy storage technologies in order to address the fundamental controllability challenges imposed on the modern power networks. The issues regarding the appropriate coordination of the renewable energy sources and energy storage elements under various operating conditions will be firstly identified and then addressed by considering various control strategies. One of these control techniques that is likely to be considered is model predictive control (MPC) that allows hard as well as soft constraints, which are likely to be imposed on various system variables, to be managed whilst ensuring stability, robustness and appropriate level of operational performance.

Power Generation from Large-Scale Tidal Stream Turbine Arrays

Tidal stream turbines are now being successfully deployed at an individual level, typically with a 1MW capacity. Scaling up has many challenges, in terms of resource reduction, increased loading due to wake turbulence, support structure costs. This project would investigate large scale array interactions accounting for flows at basin scale, local effects of array turbulence on power and loading, and optimisation of support structure (fixed, floating and materials). Sites around the UK would be assessed.

Risk-based System Planning and Operation

Review our Risk Appetite around transmitting energy. Challenge the key tenets which underpin the SQSS. End user criticality, asset importance, transmission function. Look into a move towards probability based network design and operation. Understand the role that dynamic and probabilistic ratings will have. Examine higher appetite for risk on some assets and different planning and operational regimes around overload management (securing for N-1 and N-2). Look into the concepts of procuring capacity or services from third parties. Factor HILP events into this design and operation regime.

Security and Reliability Studies for Smart Power Networks

The aim of the proposed project is to develop a holistic real time thermal rating model for overhead lines (OHL) and underground cables (UGC) that considers the effects of the increasing uncertainty of weather and load data as the forecast moves into the future. Consequently, appropriate temporal and spatial weather forecasting methods will be implemented into a power network model that considers system-wide thermal ratings for the OHL and UC. The evaluation of this model will be performed on power flow network analyses that will consider demand side management, storage (and other Smart Grid) technologies to identify network’s security/reliability as a result of weather uncertainty and components (OHL, UGC) operational history. Results of the project will improve current power utility practices on operation, monitoring and maintenance of OHL and UGC assets.

Smart Districts and Urban Energy Innovation

The University of Manchester was recently awarded a Horizon 2020 grant to develop a low-carbon smart district on Oxford Road with partners including Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester City Council, and Siemens. The district will include renewable energy infrastructure, retrofitted buildings, and a low-carbon delivery vehicle programme. The project is part of a large European consortium that includes Eindhoven, Stavanger, Prague, Leipzig, and Sabadell where the smart cities agenda will be pioneered. The aim of this project is to provide insights on the implications of these smart districts on the governance of urban energy services. The introduction of ICT into infrastructure networks will have a significant influence on both the supply and demand for energy services. The research will build upon existing studies on the social and political implications of infrastructure innovation to understand how the smart cities agenda changes urban energy provision.

The Dynamics and Future-Proofing of Heat Network Governance - in the Context of Decarbonisation and Infrastructure Innovation

The UK Government is promoting distributed heat provision (district heat and combined heat & power) to realise significant carbon savings in the coming decades. Distributed heat provision provides opportunities for the efficient use of energy resources and allows for the adoption of renewable energy generation technologies. To date, the UK has been slow to adopt heat infrastructure networks due to political and financial barriers. However, multiple pilot projects have emerged in the last few years to demonstrate the efficacy of heat networks and the associated carbon savings. This project will study the rollout of distributed heat provision in the UK to understand its implications on other energy networks including gas, electricity, and renewable energy sources. The research will build upon existing studies on the social and political implications of infrastructure innovation to understand how distributed heat provision influences the design, planning, economics, and carbon savings of energy provision.

The impact of managing electricity consumption on consumers

The electricity network is evolving to respond to a more intermittent, and potentially more decentralised, pattern of supply and less predictable demand. End users may become more active in the operation of the network through the use of ‘demand response’, entailing more flexible management of their electricity consumption to respond to the needs of the network or through the use of demand side management for the provision of system balancing services in the event of unexpected events.

This project will work with consumers to consider the impact and feasibility of different approaches to demand response and their impact on end users and the electricity network.

The Performance Parameters Needed for Systems to Optimally Store, Smooth and Trade Wind Power: Assessment of Performance Achievements so far and the Value of Future Performance Improvements

Maths models exist to optimise dynamic storage systems under continuous time stochastic disturbances (developed under EPSRC grant). Present model use simple assumptions for the store’s performance dynamics. Many generalisations will be easy to model, but others not. The performance dynamics of new pilot storage systems (e.g. chemical systems among others) may well require different assumptions.

The project will study this problem from two ends: actual dynamics of the physical system(s) will set targets for improved optimisation models.

Conversely a sensitivity analysis of how the (realistic) optimised value of the practical system changes when its performance parameters change gives targets for improvements in those performance parameters. Similarly to detect the most sensitive assumptions about the likely economies of scale of the new technology.

Thermal capacity of distribution transformers affected by the impact of low carbon technologies

The project will investigate the impact of smart grids, new types of loads including heat pumps, electrical vehicles and other low carbon technologies on the thermal capacity of power transformers operating in distribution networks. The research methodology involves the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), in conjunction with the asset load and condition monitoring techniques, and the existing databases containing asset information. 

The outcome is expected to be increased understanding on thermal performance of different types of distribution transformer assets, and improved accuracy in their thermal capacity calculation. 

To manage the impacts of the uncertainty of loads on the future networks, prediction tools should be developed to aid the development of operational strategies suitable for the integration of smart grid solutions and the long-term asset replacement plan.

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