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Universities Unite To Batten The Energy Grid’s Hatches

Hope for the best: But prepare the national energy grid for the worst -- this is the focus of a $7.3 million federal grant, split between the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and Stony Brook University.

Source: InnovateLI

From the Department of Resiliency comes Yacov Shamash, the one-time Stony Brook University vice president for economic development who “retired” two years ago but remains very much on the grid, in more ways than one.

Shamash – also SBU’s former dean of engineering, now “just a simple professor of electrical and computer engineering” – has landed a two-year, $7.3 million grant from the Office of Naval Research, along with researchers at University of Massachusetts Lowell, earmarked for work that bolsters the resiliency of the national energy grid.

That’s a big topic, with lots of ideas and technologies to explore, and the two universities are really rolling up their sleeves. The grant, officially issued in December, covers 18 total projects, with cybersecurity, reinforced physical infrastructure and new clean-gen technologies all in the mix, and the universities splitting the workload equally.

Shamash – who stepped down in 2019 after 28 years as vice president for SBU economic development – said he’s thrilled to be back in the lecture hall and winning grants.

That especially includes the energy-resiliency grant, which is of great interest to the ONR and others.

“What happened in Texas, where the electricity grid collapsed – was that because the windmills didn’t work?” Shamash said. “Was there no sun, so the solar didn’t work? Were the gas pipes frozen?

“How do you make sure something like that doesn’t bring the national grid down?” he added. “How do you ensure the grid is resilient to all kinds of conditions, including cyberattack?”

Yacov Shamash: Built to last.

While the development of new grid-diagnostic and energy-storage technologies are a worthy (and welcome) challenge for the veteran engineer, Shamash – who led SBU through a two-decade innovation and commercialization renaissance, including the creation of two New York State Centers of Excellence – is keenly aware of the commercialization potential inherent in the comprehensive resiliency study.

Especially, the professor noted, with renewable energy gaining steam around the globe.

“Being able to utilize renewables in the grid is increasingly important,” he said. “We are considering how to introduce new fuels – what kind of renewable energies can we work into the various grids, and how do we control them?”

Next-generation controls and all-mighty carbon reductions both play large throughout the resiliency effort, with the universities exploring new technologies that both enhance security and “will work best when trying to reduce the carbon footprint,” according to Shamash.

“We’re also focusing on introducing new storage products to protect the grid,” the professor added. “And introducing new sensors that detect when there’s a problem somewhere, so you can isolate the fault.”

All of that next-level work is being bolstered by contributions from SBU’s world-class faculty – more than 20 Stony Brook professors are involved in some way with the grid-resiliency research, including experts in chemistry, electrical engineering, computer sciences and more.

Shamash, who is managing the SBU side of the two-university effort and personally contributing to multiple Stony Brook-based projects, tipped his cap specifically to Stony Brook’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center, where much of the local research is focused.

“If we didn’t have the Advanced Energy Center, we would not have this grant,” he said. “[It’s] a very powerful resource, in terms of having professors of all these different disciplines working together.

“This is a big award for the AERTC and the [Center for Advanced Sensor Technologies] and the [Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technologies],” Shamash added. “And all of these centers contributing to this work.”