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Vicky Wallace and Ben Long
09/04/2019
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Grants will aid transition to smarter energy future

UOW research projects awarded $1.6M through Global Innovation Linkages Program

Two University of Wollongong-led projects have been awarded $1.6 million in grants through the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Global Innovation Linkages Program.

One of the projects aims to ensure the quality of power supply as new solar and wind power energy sources are added to the electricity grid. The other project will develop a battery-powered vehicle for use in underground mining.

The Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon. Karen Andrews MP, announced the grants today (Monday 8 April).

The successful projects, led by Professor Sarath Perera (from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences) and Dr Khay See (from the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials) will allow UOW researchers to collaborate with global partners on strategically focused, leading-edge research and development projects.

A particular focus of the grant program is on developing high quality products, services or processes that respond to industry challenges.

Professor Perera’s project, investigating ‘Power Quality of Future Electricity Networks’ with UOW researchers Associate Professor Duane Robinson and Mr Sean Elphick, involves a consortium of universities and international partners and was awarded $720,000 over three years.

As new energy sources, including solar and wind power, are connected to electricity grids, they can affect the quality of the power supply and the connected equipment causing problems for network operators as well as consumers.

One such issue is harmonics, which can impact the purity of the supply. Under ideal conditions, our electricity supply is a 50 Hz sinusoidal voltage waveform; harmonics in broad terms are repetitive or non-repetitive distortion of that waveform caused by the complex interaction of the above power electronic interfaces with the grid impedance and/or interaction between the current drawn by customer loads and the impedance of the electricity supply network.

Harmonics can cause some power system devices (including the high capacity power electronic interfaces of wind and solar energy sources) to not to not operate correctly and in some cases can cause damage or in extreme cases catastrophic failure. They also lead to additional losses (generally manifesting as increased heat) in electricity networks and certain types of equipment and therefore their levels need to be limited and managed.

Measurement and assessment of harmonics, their impact on the connected grid and overall power system security will the basis of the work by Professor Perera and his team.

“We expect to make a significant contribution to both national and international economies by ensuring that future electricity supply systems will be of high quality while facilitating the integration of renewable energy sources,” Professor Perera said.

“Our team at UOW’s Australian Power Quality and Reliability Centre consider this grant as a significant recognition of the long-standing engagement with the Australian electricity industry and other sectors on the subject of power quality.”

The other project, ‘IoT-Battery Electric Transporter for Underground Coal Mining’, has been granted $913,000 over three years and will further UOW’s reputation in smart batteries research by building the first battery-powered personnel transporter vehicle for underground mining.

The diesel commonly used by mining machinery and transportation vehicles generates diesel particulate matter (DPM). When inhaled, DPM can cause of health problems, including skin irritation, asthma and other respiratory complaints, as well as lung cancer. Another common complaint is hearing damage, which can be attributed to noise pollution from loud diesel-powered machines. The confined spaces with minimal ventilation exacerbate the problem.

Dr See and Distinguished Professor Shi Xue Dou will work with Australia’s National Personnel Group (NPG) and the Shanghai Shechuan Electric (SSE) company to build a diesel-free heavy-duty underground vehicle powered by a smart battery.

“With the completion of this grant we hope to have a battery operated vehicle in coal mines across Australia, particularly underground coal mines in both New South Wales and Queensland, providing better control of underground emissions and a safer working environment for miners,” Dr See said.

“The local and global industries demand for fully battery-powered vehicles for underground coal mining applications is very highly anticipated in the coming years as mining organisations are working towards environmentally friendly and efficient machinery in their workplace.

“The complexity of developing a new underground coal mining vehicle that is certified and approved in accordance to legislation requires a mutual understanding and commitment from each project partner.

“Our research with the support of our partners will provide an opportunity to help Australia compete internationally in the highly challenging field of harvesting an alternative, clean and reliable power source.”

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