Meeting energy challenges on an industrial secondment
7 February 2017
Dr Liana Cipcigan, whose research is funded by the National Research Network (NRN) in Advanced Engineering and Materials (AEM), has collaborated with the National Grid to overcome challenges in the emerging energy sector during an industrial secondment, gained through the competitive Royal Academy of Engineering scheme.
The Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Secondment is a sought-after scheme, with only 11 academics from UK universities being successful last year. The award bridges the gap between two powerhouses of ingenuity for the future of energy solutions in the UK and comes at a time when collaboration between academia and industry is crucial in creating jobs and improving the competiveness of the UK industry.
The transfer of knowledge between establishments such as Cardiff University and the National Grid is essential to raising public awareness of commercial products and services within one of the three scientific fields that the Welsh Government is keen to enhance as part of the ‘Science for Wales’ initiative, namely, Advanced Engineering and Materials.
Based at the National Grid’s operational headquarters, in Warwick, Dr Cipcigan focussed on future energy scenarios such as the 2020 to 2035 demand scenarios for extreme conditions. Having considered low summer demand and a significant increase in the level of ‘embedded generation’ that is connected, particularly in terms of solar energy, Dr Cipcigan studied the challenges the System Operator faces when managing such a complex situation when extreme conditions occur.
Managing the low demand of energy during the summer periods is as important as managing the high demand during winter. With the project also looking at proposed balancing services within the National Grid, managing the network in terms of a ‘Demand Side Response’, as well as the coordination of energy storage, will ensure that both business and consumers have a sustainable and affordable energy future.
Working with a variety of departments and groups from Energy Insights, SMARTer System Performance, to System Operability, Dr. Cipcigan established a common area of interest within these departments. This common core led to contribution to the Network Innovation allowance project “Frequency Sensitive Electric Vehicle and Heat Pump Power Consumption”
Dr Cipcigan said: “Working in a multi-disciplinary department enabled me to understand the policy and economic drivers for shaping the electricity landscape along with the regulatory and commercial aspects of addressing the new balancing services.”
The main focus of this collaboration was to improve the forecast of the future energy landscape in Great Britain. Working in partnership with a body such as the National Grid will aid in developing real commercial solutions to assist network operators at a time of important changes in the electricity networks.
Dr Cipcigan commented: “Establishing these links with such an important industrial partner will help us be more responsive to the real demand in the job market and develop future specialists to address this demand (for energy solutions) by increasing the flow of students and graduates.
I received a fresh perspective from the National Grid on current challenges in the electricity sector. This is helping me develop cross-sector competences and open new research areas which will be of great benefit in supporting local industry through research collaborations.”
Dr Cipcigan, whose current research focuses on power systems analysis and control within the UK, used this opportunity to broaden the understanding of what is needed from industry in terms of academic research.
She said: “It is well known that the strength of a university is ‘blue-sky’ research and ‘proof-of-concept’ innovation but I have learned that academia needs to support industries to solve short-term problems along with having a more long-term vision. This award helped me to receive valuable insights into current industrial issues and thereby improve my teaching through knowledge of industrial challenges.”
The National Research Network in Advanced Engineering and Materials is successfully achieving its targets in promoting industrial engagement across a wide spectrum of engineering challenges in Wales with a further three NRN AEM academics, whose research is based at Swansea University, achieving Royal Academy of Engineering secondments at world leading manufacturers, Polycast Ltd, Airbus and the Costain Group PLC.
“A representative from the NRN provided great support and guidance in preparing and reviewing the proposal for the Royal Academy of Engineering, which proved successful. In addition NRN AEM provided additional funding to the RAE to support two additional awards for academics from Welsh Universities and one of these awards funded me,” Dr Cipcigan said.
As population figures rise and energy usage increases throughout the UK, industrial secondment schemes, such as the Royal Academy of Engineering, are vital in strengthening the research capabilities, to enhance the exchange of knowledge between academia and its industrial partners for the future supply of energy.
Dr Cipcigan said: “My secondment at the National Grid consolidated my belief that links to industry are essential to science. The secondment will help me further to establish myself as a leading researcher in the area of power systems. High quality research has produced high quality outputs and this will support pushing Wales to be at the forefront of the research excellence.”
Based on the strong review received by the Royal Academy of Engineering Steering Group members, Dr Cipcigan will be delivering a presentation as guest speaker along with a representative from the National Grid at the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Collaborative Research Symposium on the 2nd February in London.