NMSU researcher receives wind-energy funding

By Linda Fresques

Dr. Sukumar Brahma

Assistant Professor Sukumar Brahma will receive federal funding for wind energy research.

Sukumar Brahma, assistant professor in the Klipsch School of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Electric Utility Management Program at NMSU, is among 28 research groups receiving federal funding for new wind energy projects. The projects will be receiving up to $13.8 million in funding—including $12.8 million in Recovery Act funds announced by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The Electric Utility Management Program at NMSU is one of only ten or so power engineering programs in the nation and plays and is actively involved in ongoing research being conducted nationwide to address the growing demand for reliable renewable energy resources.

“New Mexico State University is proud to be among a handful of universities in the country to be part of this grant,” said Manuel T. Pacheco, interim president of New Mexico State University. “The funding provided will support the NMSU researchers’ continuing efforts to build the viability of alternative energy resources in the state of New Mexico.”

Brahma has been awarded $273,000 to investigate short circuit models for wind turbine generators. His research is one of nine projects that were awarded to universities nationwide. Brahma will be investigating how wind farms respond to severe electrical disturbances in the power system caused by lightening, birds, trees, etc.

“Nationally, the penetration of wind- generated power is relatively low, so this issue has not been well-researched. The President’s plans call for 20 percent of power generated by 2030 to be generated by wind.  At that level, this problem needs serious consideration,” said Brahma.

In partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, Brahma will create simulation-based mathematical models to test different scenarios.
“I’ve been working on this problem for a while to determine the impact of various renewable sources of power connected to a grid when disturbances occur. This project will be specific to wind-generated power,” said Brahma.

There is already significant wind-generated energy produced in New Mexico.  In 2003, the New Mexico Wind Energy Center went online. The center is the seventh-largest wind generation project in the United States and is located 170 miles southeast of Albuquerque and 20 miles northeast of Fort Sumner. The facility can produce up to 200 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power 94,000 average-sized New Mexico homes. Florida-based FPL Energy owns and manages the facility, while PNM purchases all of its output.

The new DOE-funded projects will help address market and deployment challenges including wind turbine research and testing and transmission analysis, planning, and assessments. Along with the new awards, Secretary Chu announced the release of DOE’s 2008 Wind Technologies Market Report, detailing $16 billion in investment in wind projects made in the U.S. in 2008—making the United States the leader in annual wind energy capacity growth, as well as cumulative wind energy capacity.

“Wind energy will be a critical factor in achieving the President’s goals for clean energy, while supporting news jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “While the United States leads the world in wind energy capacity, we have to continue to support research and development as we expand renewable energy deployment.”

DOE’s new report, a comprehensive overview of developments in the U.S. wind power market released today, found that wind power capacity increased by 8,558 megawatts (MW) in 2008. This $16 billion investment in wind projects made the United States the fastest-growing wind power market in the world for the fourth consecutive year. Wind power contributed 42 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2008; for the fourth consecutive year, wind power was the second-largest new resource added to the U.S. electrical grid in nameplate capacity.

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