Project Led by Indian-American Gets $2.8M Grant in Kansas

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Kansas State University electrical and computer engineering faculty who received $2.8 million U.S. Department of Energy research award, standing from left: Mohammad Shadmand, Bala Natarajan and Hongyu Wu; seated from left: Behrooz Mirafzal and Anil Pahwa. (Photo Courtesy: k-state.edu)

Kansas State University announced in early August that its research team led by an Indian-American, received a three-year, $2.8 million research award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. The grant is meant to advance solar energy’s role in strengthening electricity grids.

The KSU team’s project led by Bala Natarajan, the Clair N. Palmer and Sara M. Palmer professor, for which the grant is meant, is expected to enhance utility operators’ awareness of and resilience to cyberattacks, a press release from the University said.

The project is one of 10 selected nationwide in the Advanced Systems Integration for Solar Technologies program to develop grid management tools and models that show how solar situational awareness will enhance power system resilience, especially at critical infrastructure sites, the University said.

The existing U.S. power grid was designed to deliver power to customers from a central generator. As more solar and other distributed energy resources are added to the grid, operators need new tools to deal with keeping the systems stable and meet threats. The need for data sharing between the photovoltaic system, operational tools and the electric grid has led to increased vulnerability to cyberattack, the press release noted.

Natarajan, who is in the Mike Wiegers Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his team will develop cyber-smart photovoltaic inverter technologies, system-level coordinated cyberattack detection methods, robust state estimation strategies, and unique modeling and control capabilities, according to KSU.

“Taken together, these technologies combine to enable measurements from solar inverters and grid sensors to be gathered and processed into actionable and visualized status updates for grid operators,” Natarajan is quoted saying in the press release. “These tools and algorithms will enable utilities to better manage and use data from distributed energy devices and enhance operations,” he added.

The research team includes co-investigators Anil Pahwa, university distinguished professor; Hongyu Wu and Mohammad Shadmand, both assistant professors; Behrooz Mirafzal, associate professor.

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