Ryan Li gets a major grant for smart grids

Your aging electrical grid is about to get a whole lot smarter.

Staff - 12 October 2017

(EDMONTON) Faculty of Engineering researcher Ryan Yunwei Li scored a major win today that will boost his team's work. The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has announced that Li has garnered an Infrastructure Fund award of more than $2.5 million.

Li, an electrical and computer engineering professor, is expert in integration of renewable energy and distributed generation, microgrid and active distribution systems, and more.

He spends a lot of time thinking about how we keep the lights on, literally and metaphorically.

Canada's electrical grid is critical to the smooth running of our society. The grid delivers electric power and integrates many energy sources for efficient energy production and transportation. But grid infrastructure built over the past century is aging fast. It's inundated with heavy new demands from and an increasingly digital and environmentally conscious economy. Some experts say that, in this country, we will need an estimated $300 billion over the next two decades to upgrade the grid and create next generation smart grids.

Smart grids enable use of renewable energy, more efficient loads, high efficiency grid structure, and more reliable operations. But there are technical challenges, including energy management, hybrid AC-DC grid structure, cyber security and power electronics.

Li's answer to the challenges starts with the Future Smart Grid Technologies Lab, which will undertake the development and integration of smart grid technologies. The research enabled by the lab will develop key technologies for utility companies and manufacturers of renewable energy and power electronics and could bring long term economic benefits. And it will lower the cost of providing electricity to remote communities, easing the addition of renewable energy sources into the grids. New technologies and trends, coupled with the need to upgrade aging grids means the time to innovate is now. This CFI program proposes to capitalize on this opportunity by focusing on research and development of key smart grid technologies.

The grant from the CFI will provide approximately 40 per cent of the $6.27-million Future Smart Grid Technologies Lab.