Simulating the grid is hard. So, when the National Renewable Energy Lab needed a new staff engineer, they came to FREEDM and hired one of the best. Dr. Rishabh Jain completed his degree requirements at NC State and successfully defended his dissertation in August 2018 on the topic: Distributed fault management for enhanced protection and resiliency of active distribution networks with nested microgrids. Essentially, he developed algorithms to detect faults in distribution systems, and reconfigure the system to mitigate contingencies. This utilized the microgrid characteristics combined with proactive load shedding. His expertise in real time digital simulation is exactly what NREL needed.
NREL knew about Rishabh’s skills from his multiple internships there. This past summer, he worked at NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) on two projects. The first involved using Power Hardware in the Loop (PHIL) to control hydrogen electrolyzers in the ESIF labs using simulated PV output with a goal of smoothing the PV voltage profile as seen by a connected electric utility. “It was some of the highest power equipment I’ve ever worked with,” said Rishabh.
His second project was similar: using connected electric vehicles to optimize operation of a microgrid. An example might be buildings with a fleet of electric vehicles, energy storage and/or renewable generation resources. By optimizing the energy management for the assets, an electrically stable and economically viable scenario of high renewable penetration can be realized for the said microgrid. This is the project he hopes to continue when he begins his new job at NREL.
From his experience at NREL and FREEDM, Rishabh noted a knowledge gap between power engineers concerned about system protection and power electronics engineers. “We assume simpler models for the parts of the power system not of our primary interest,” he said. “And this simplification needs to evolve as the overall system becomes more complex.” Rishabh’s advice is to form groups with a variety of expertise that work well together. He learned that lesson at FREEDM from his research team under Dr. Lukic. When his simulations didn’t behave as expected, he would seek the advice from colleagues specializing in power electronics design and microgrid control. Rishabh sees this same spirit of teamwork at NREL.
“Earning a PhD is not easy but I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Rishabh.