Aranya Chakrabortty Receives NSF CAREER Award

February 22, 2011

Dr. Aranya Chakrabortty, assistant professor of Electrical Engineering at North Carolina State University, has received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), effective March 1, 2011. The award is one of the highest honors given by the NSF to young university faculty in science and engineering.

Dr. Chakrabortty working in his research lab 
Dr. Chakrabortty working in his research lab

The NSF will provide $400,000 in funding over a five-year period to support Dr. Chakrabortty's research on using Synchronized Phasor Measurements for controlling the dynamic responses of power grids, and thereby, preventing catastrophes such as blackouts and voltage collapse. The title of the project is - 'Wide-area Control of Large Power Systems using Distributed Synchrophasors: Where Network Theory Meets Power System Dynamics'.

Following the US Northeast blackout of 2003, tremendous research efforts have been devoted to the visualization and postmortem analyses of Synchrophasors, leading to a formative understanding of how the Wide-area Measurement System (WAMS) technology may be used for dynamic health monitoring of complex power system networks. However, owing partly to the inherent difficulty of the problem, and partly to a shortage of control engineers in the WAMS community, no rigorous research has yet been done to transition from monitoring to the next phase - namely, feedback control. With over 132 Phasor Measurement Units (PMU) currently operating in the US West Coast power system, and nearly 80 PMUs in the Eastern Interconnect, producing over 2 billion data samples per day, control by human operators is obviously not sustainable. An autonomous, highly distributed, bandwidth-efficient, real-time control system is needed. This project will make a step towards building such control systems, using concepts of nonlinear circuit theory, fundamental physics, and graph theory. At the core of this proposed study is a novel control inversion framework, wherein:

  • Synchrophasors from selected nodes in a power network are first used to construct (i.e, identify) the dynamic electromechanical models of the dominant areas of the network,
  • A distributed, nonlinear, multivariable control design is done for this reduced-order network model using PMU measurement feedback, and
  • Finally algorithms are developed to invert and distribute this global design to realistic local controllers in each area by optimizing the controller parameters until the interarea response of the actual network replicates the closed-loop response achieved in the second step.

Power system operators will benefit tremendously from these designs by the ability to regulate the dynamic stability margins of their systems over neighboring interconnections. The results will be validated via extensive emulations in a Real-Time Digital Simulation (RTDS) environment, as well as with actual phasor data provided by several utility companies from the US Eastern Interconnect.

The program will involve dissemination of research through educational field trips, conference tutorials and on-campus workshops with invited speakers from the Research Triangle Park. Dr. Chakrabortty will promote undergraduate research for minority engineering students via the FREEDM Systems Center. He will also organize summer sessions to enthuse middle/high-school students about power systems in collaboration with the NCSU Science House program and the KidWind Project Team.

Aranya Chakrabortty received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY in 2008, where his research on power system modeling and control earned him the Alan B. Dumont Prize for the best PhD dissertation of the year.