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NDSU assistant professor gets grant to study wind energy


Wind energy potential is stunted by a few factors, including uncertainty in wind availability and the obstacle in transmitting that energy to the grid and to the end users once it’s generated. But North Dakota State University assistant professor Nilanjan Ray Chaudhuri has a proposal to solve those issues, along with a $502,810 grant award to flesh out his plans.

The grant comes from the National Science Foundation and is presented as an award to recognize junior faculty members for outstanding research, excellent teaching and the ability to combine education and research to further the mission of their universities, according to NDSU, based in Fargo.

The Midwest represents the greatest potential for wind energy, Ray Chaudhuri says, particularly North Dakota. “North Dakota has the capacity to replace the fossil fuel-fired power plants in the entire U.S.,” he says.

His proposal to solve the issues in transmitting that energy over a large distance from North Dakota to dense population centers in the U.S. has multiple facets. First, the U.S. needs to use more direct current (DC) transmission than alternating current (AC) transmission. The U.S. does have a few DC transmission lines, but uses mostly AC, he says, unlike Europe, which uses more DC transmission. Ray Chaudhuri’s proposal is to convert AC current to DC, transmit it through DC lines and then convert it back to AC when it gets to the users, he says. He is careful to point out that his plan will not replace AC transmission, but will add more DC infrastructure. “It turns out, if distance of transmission is longer than a certain limit, DC transmission becomes more efficient than AC transmission.” Interestingly, North Dakota is home to a few of the country’s DC lines, two of which actually cross. “That’s a very unique thing that we have in North Dakota,” he says. The end result would be a meshed system with multiple point-to-point DC transmission lines.

Another key factor in his proposal is to create multiple areas of wind energy generation across a large geographical region in the state. That solves the issue of fluctuating wind availability, as different areas will see unique fluctuations. “They don’t fluctuate the same time in the same way,” he says. “At no place will wind fluctuate the same.” Ray Chaudhuri notes the importance of off-shore wind energy in his plan, particularly in the Atlantic, where wind is almost constant.

The project also will include summer research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, a curriculum that sets NDSU apart from other universities in the country, Ray Chaudhuri says. He also will lead science, technology, engineering and math workshops at West Fargo Public Schools and a summer camp at NDSU for elementary students.

“North Dakota is uniquely positioned to lead the wind energy integration efforts in the nation,” he says in a statement. “The proposed research is very timely and has the potential to act as a game changer in solving different energy challenges, not only in the U.S., but the rest of the world.”

Story written by Lisa Gibson and published by Prairie Business Magazine

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