Electricity distribution resilience research receives National Science Challenge funding

25 May 2017

Associate Professor Nirmal Nair from our department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has been awarded with a grant from the Resilience Challenge, one of New Zealand’s eleven National Science Challenges funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The Resilience Challenge has recently announced $900,000 in research funding across two years to contribute to our country’s ability to respond to natural disasters. Six new projects were selected around the country, of which Associate Professor Nair was the proud recipient of a grant valued at $200,000-235,000.

His project focuses on the development of an electricity distribution resilience framework, which will be distinct from existing reliability analysis – it aims to consider micro-grid restoration solutions and communication lifelines, informed by a significant Alpine Fault earthquake that caused limited electricity delivery to the West Coast of our South Island for 6-8 weeks.

This project is a natural progression from his early research work – with a PhD that focused on voltage instability in relation to global blackouts, Associate Professor Nair’s interests now include low-carbon energy systems, Smart Grid technologies, and the resilience of electricity networks.

His current research team additionally includes Dr Andrew Austin from the same department, who will lead the research on the value of communication lifeline for energy-communication interdependent networks. They are collaborating with Westpower, one of New Zealand’s 29 distribution utilities, and hope to share the future learnings and engagement models with all of our country’s networks so we can be prepared for future natural disasters.

Our faculty’s academic staff have fostered a strong culture of participation within the Resilience Challenge, though it is traditionally a realm for those in research fields such as infrastructure and disaster resilience. Associate Professor Nair’s recent success adds to the capacity that we are able to provide as an academic body with a diverse range of engineering expertise.