MBIE funds $13m UC research to future-proof NZ electrical grid

University of Canterbury Engineering Professor Neville Watson is leading a seven-year project to ensure modern renewable energy can be integrated into the country’s century-old electrical grid to future-proof the power supply and benefit every New Zealander.

Neville Watson

“This is no simple task; the electrical grid is humanity’s largest ‘machine’.” UC Engineering Professor Neville Watson will lead research into how high levels of direct current from renewable electricity technologies, like solar and wind power, electric vehicles and battery storage, can be efficiently integrated into the alternating current electrical grid.

His research project, titled ‘Architecture of the Future Low Carbon, Resilient, Electrical Power System’, has been funded $13,297,322.50 (excl. GST) over seven years by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as part of the Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) Advanced Energy Technology Platform Research Programmes. It is one of only three proposals MBIE is funding under this investment, announce today by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods.

Professor Watson’s programme will research how high levels of direct current from renewable electricity technologies, like solar and wind power, electric vehicles and battery storage, can be efficiently integrated into the alternating current electrical grid as well as which parts of the electrical grid would be better served by using direct current for conveyance.

Professor Neville Watson, of UC’s Electrical and Computer Engineering department, says:

“The goal of the project is to develop a more efficient and sustainable electrical grid that can easily accommodate new renewable technologies which will benefit future generations. The electrical grid is a critical player in reducing emissions of both greenhouse gases that lead to climate change, and other pollutants. We need to quickly adapt how we produce, use, transport and manage energy, to minimise the impact we have on the environment. Changes have begun worldwide with initiatives to increase renewable and sustainable electricity generation, uptake of electric vehicles, and electrification of industrial processes. All these reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. However, these do not go far enough and we must implement further initiatives to drastically address the impact we have on the environment. Many of these initiatives will require hybrid grid — a system that integrates direct current (DC) conveyance with the existing alternating current (AC) electrical network.



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