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Smart grids, Smart buildings and Smart sensors using dedicated microelectronic ICs and real time ICT


The emerging concept of Smart grid is to be realized by renovating the existing power systems in a way that introduces intelligence in different levels of it. Part of this intelligence has to deal with a large demand for real-time and best decision-making.  In order to keep the reliability of the power system and to improve its efficiency, the decision-making is essentially tied to the optimization of such system at different levels. Additionally, a solution to the optimization problem is of interest only if it meets stringent time frame demands dictated by the need of real-time operation of the smart-grid. A distributed intelligence system can cope with all these requirements: It is able to compute at each level of the hierarchy of the smart grid, from the large-scale bulk grid down to each individual building. 

Nowadays, smart sensing is well integrated into power grids. However, the mass of data that need to be exchanged and managed is impressive. The amount of information to be processed grows due to the increasing number of controlled devices inserted into the grid. A large amount of data needs to be collected, analyzed simultaneously and results must be provided with strict time constraints. 

These considerations lead to the idea that some of the major operation problems of distribution networks, such as voltage and power flow controls, can be solved in a distributed manner that helps to relieve the information-processing burden and enhance the system security while preventing critical events. In particular, new electronic integrated circuits can be used to run an emulation of a power system faster than real-time in a distributed configuration. The capability of evaluating different scenarios instantaneously enables a modification of the paradigm of the power system control and optimization. The additional analysis speed gained allows dealing with the growing needs for flexibility in greenenergy oriented grids.

In the frame of this project, it is proposed to create a new environment for an optimized and secure management of electricity distribution using dedicated mixed-mode microelectronic Integrated Circuits (ICs) and a real-time layer of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

This new concept will make uses of the power systems (both medium- and low-voltage levels) of the EPFL campus as a test platform where the different research groups integrate their competences, cross-interact and deploy the technologies they developed. Indeed, the EPFL power system, characterized by a total number of 40 medium-to-low voltage substations, a maximum absorbed power of 30 MW, the presence of active power injections composed by 2MW photovoltaic panels installation integrated with a 6 MW combined heat and power generation units, represents a realistic 1:1 scale infrastructure with the strategic advantages of being framed within a research environment.