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Summer 2020 REU Lecture Series Begins on Wed., June 3

Join us for a summer lecture series on all things CURENT. Zoom link is here and password is 298268. All interested students are welcome to attend. On Wednesday, June 3, CURENT Education and Dviersity Director Dr. Chien-fei Chen will kick off the series with a talk entitled Beyond Technology: Explaining the influence of Social-psychological and Demographics on Technology Adoption and Energy Usage. And on Thursday, June 4, Dr. Lin Zhi, EECS Research Assistant Professor, will present A Smart and Flexible Microgrid with Dynamic Boundary.  

For more information about the series and upcoming lectures, please visit the Summer 2020 REU page.

June 3, 2020 - Wednesday from 1:00 pm to 1:45 pm

Beyond Technology: Explaining the influence of Social-psychological and Demographics on Technology Adoption and Energy Usage 
Dr. Chien-fei Chen, CURENT Education and Diversity Director 

Abstract: This talk presents an transdisciplinary view of energy research between social-psychology, demand response and energy behaviors by adding the importance’s of social-psychological and demographic factors. During this talk, Dr. Chen will present the results of several large-scale of surveys and specific measures of social-psychological factors such as trust in utilities, social norms, behavioral control and so on in demand response, acceptance of home management system and electric vehicles. More importantly, this talk presents the critical issue of energy justice by examining the low-income households’ energy affordability and accessibility to energy appliances and smart grid technology. This talk provides important insights for engineers, policy makers and research community.

Bio: Dr. Chien-fei Chen is a research associate professor and director of education and diversity program at the National Science Foundation funded engineering research center, Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks (CURENT), Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). She is also an adjunct faculty in the department of sociology at the UTK.

Dr. Chen’s research centers in the areas of environmental sociology, pro-environmental behavior, renewable energy adoption, and energy justice. Specifically, her research goals are to: 1) foster interdisciplinary research and social-technological integration in the areas of power grid resilience, energy conservation behaviors, energy inequality among underserved communities, and barriers to alternative sources of energy supply; 2) integrate social-psychological theories and methodology, and human decision-making processes into engineering modeling to better understand power systems, and acceptance of renewable energy technology; 3) analyze human’s energy saving behaviors to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions; and 4) provide fundamental interdisciplinary knowledge to research community, utility companies, and policy makers. Dr. Chen recent publications appear in Building and Environment, Energy, Energy and Buildings, Energy Policy, Energy Research and Social Science (ERSS), Energy and Buildings, Journal of Environmental Psychology, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, Electric Power Systems Research, and so on.

Since 2018, Dr. Chen serves as an editorial board member of ERSS. Dr. Chen leads the research projects of public acceptance of power grid and renewable technologies and demand response at CURENT based on social-psychological theories and concepts. Dr. Chen has actively involved with several international and interdisciplinary networks including International Energy Agency (IEA), Energy in Buildings and Communities (EBC) Annex 66 and 79. She is also involved with the NSF-REC-SEES Network and serves as the workshop chair for the NSF-RCN SEES-SHBE program “Enhancing Interdisciplinary Education and Diversity in 2016 and “International Workshop on Putting Sustainability into Convergence: Connecting Data, People, and Systems” in 2019. She has received several research awards from NSF and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to conduct the interdisciplinary research regarding wireless communication technology and social-psychological factors as well as remand response, micro-grid resilience and grid technologies. In 2019, Dr. Chen received the Fulbright U.S. Global Scholar Award, her proposal title, “When East Meets West: An Interdisciplinary and Cross-cultural Research on Energy Justice and Renewable Technology Adoption for Future Smart Communities.”

June 4, 2020 - Thursday from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

A Smart and Flexible Microgrid with Dynamic Boundary 
Dr. Lin Zhu, Research Assistant Professor

Abstract: Microgrids (MGs), with their distributed energy resources (DER) and ability to operate both in grid-connected and islanded modes, can significantly improve reliability and resilience of the power grid. For example, when a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Sandy, caused millions of customers to be without electricity for weeks and billions of dollars of economic losses, MGs could have made an appreciable difference. A MG controller is essential to achieving smooth transition between the grid-connected and islanded operation modes, and also for optimal operation during both modes. While there have been dozens of MG systems developed around the nation since the concept was proposed a decade ago, almost all of them were deployed for serving special sites such as military bases, or university/ business campuses. MGs have not yet been commercially utilized for communities in the U.S due partly to the high cost of added energy resources such as battery energy storage systems, and also due to the high deployment cost of sensors, communication infrastructure, and proprietary controllers.

ARPA-E is funding CURENT UTK team to develop and demonstrate a community-based smart and flexible MG with an open source scalable MG controller for enhanced functionality and low cost. One end project objective is to have the controller developed, tested and ready for commercialization. Based on the smart distribution system of the CURENT member Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB), the MG and its controller will make use of the existing intelligent switches and fiber optics links for control and communications. Minimum number of new switches, sensors or communication links will be needed. In addition, flexible grid interface points will be featured in this project for better asset use, reliability, and economics. In addition to EPB, other industry partners on the project include CURENT industry members National Instruments (NI), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The Green Energy Corp (GEC) will work as the commercialization partner.

Bio: Lin Zhu is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Tennessee. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 2005 and 2011, respectively. His current research activities focus on large-scale power system dynamics, smart distribution grid, and microgrid. He is PI or Co-PI of 8 projects sponsored by NSF and industry.