‘Efficient Harvesting of Solar Energy Will Be as Dramatic as the Discovery of Extra-Terrestrial Life’
On April 3, 2013, Panos M. Pardalos, Academic Supervisor of the HSE Laboratory of Algorithms and Technologies for Networks Analysis in Nizhny Novgorod, Professor at the University of Florida, USA, gave an honorary lecture on ‘Optimization and Modeling in Energy Networks’ as part of the XIV HSE April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development.
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Panos M. Pardalos is Distinguished Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida. He is a leading world expert in global and combinatorial optimization, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Global Optimization, managing editor of several book series, and a member of the editorial board of twenty international journals. Author of seven books and editor of more than 50 books, Professor Pardalos has also developed several well-known software packages. His recent research interests include network design problems, biomedical applications, data mining, telecommunications optimization, e-commerce, and massive computing.
Professor Pardalos serves as Academic Supervisor at the HSE Laboratory of Algorithms and Technologies for Networks Analysis (LATNA) in Nizhny Novgorod. Valery Kalyagin, Head of the Laboratory, moderated the discussion.
Professor Pardalos started his presentation by defining the term ‘energy’, which derives from the Greek word energeia, meaning ‘activity’ or ‘operation’, and was first used by ancient Greek philosophers. Today, global energy systems are vital for the existence of humankind. The dynamics of these systems are determined by changes in oil and gas production and trade flows (shale gas and oil, new fields in the USA and Canada, oil production in Iraq, changes in the global economy, and the geopolitical balance); the development of renewable energy (solar, wind, biofuels, etc); and a growing focus on energy efficiency.
But despite all efforts and developments, CO2 emissions still remain at record high levels and over one billion people have no access to electricity. These issues, together with issues related to natural resources, water, and the environment, make energy network optimization a cutting-edge topic in modern science.
One way to optimize energy networks is with Smart Grid technology. Recently, the number of mass blackouts has increased. These can be caused by system limitations, deteriorating conditions, unexpected events, hidden flaws, human error, deliberate (terrorist) attacks, and natural disasters. Major blackouts affecting millions of people have occurred in New York City and Brazil. These blackouts turned into disasters; they even affected hospitals, which have generators but are not always prepared to use them since they rely on an energy system. Power grid security can be improved through ‘islanding’ – splitting a large power system into subsystems, where each grid island is a self-sufficient subnetwork. Islanding is useful both as a self-healing strategy for restoration after failures and disturbances, and for a distributed generation system, where renewable energy resources are connected to an existing system; centralized generation becomes distributed generation; and an islanding operation occurs when the distributed generation continues supplying power into the grid after power from the main utility is interrupted. The number and configuration of the islands needed are calculated using a mathematical model.
Professor Pardalos demonstrated how to analyze the reliability of energy systems utilizing methods such as contingency analysis, optimal power flow modeling, and worst-case scenario analysis. Conclusions show that there is no best reliability analysis technique: different models are applicable for different tasks. A key optimization problem in power system operations and control is unit commitment, and various approaches to handling this problem were presented.
Also presented by Professor Pardalos were some cases in which his team implemented energy network optimization projects in Panama, Costa Rica, and other countries, which led to significant cost savings.
Speaking about future research, Professor Pardalos emphasized that new emerging technologies, particularly in solar energy, can drastically change the dynamics of energy systems. ‘As efficient harvesting of solar energy is reached, the effect will be as dramatic as the discovery of extra-terrestrial life’, he said.
In conclusion, Professor Pardalos said that energy is one of the most topical fields of research since it not only has to do with the economy but also with ‘the world, the society, everything’.
Maria Pustovoyt, specially for the HSE News Service
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