Expanding Renewable Energy With Solar Storage And Electric Vehicle Chargers — Dr. Ahmed Mohamed

by Lylia Saurel

CCNY associate professor of electrical engineering Ahmed Mohamed collaborates with Con Edison to increase renewable energy by deploying a hybrid system integrating a canopy photovoltaic system, an energy storage system, and a direct-current fast charging station for electric vehicles.

Mohamed’s personal research interests include critical infrastructure interdependencies, smart grid resilience, microgrids, and transportation electrification. He is also the director of the CUNY Smart Grid Interdependencies Laboratory, or SGIL, which is composed of Ph.D. candidates, graduate students, and undergraduate students.

The lab assists in the collaboration with Con Edison. Con Edison’s collaboration with the SGIL comes as an opportunity to abide by its mission to transition away from fossil fuels to a net-zero economy by 2050 and to “build on existing efforts to invest in green job training, STEM programs, and workforce development initiatives.”

In 2021, the company implemented five pillars to meet its objective to deliver clean energy to its customers. Each pillar possesses various supporting initiatives to build the grid of the future, empower customers to meet their climate goals, reimagine the gas system, reduce the company’s carbon footprint, and enhance collaboration with customers and stakeholders.

Despite the benefits that solar panels bring to the expansion of renewable energy, there remain financial and technical barriers to their deployment. With this project, Mohamed and Con Edison are studying solutions that would integrate energy storage on solar systems and electric vehicle chargers to save energy in the conversion stage.

The study has two parts. The first part is based on detailed simulation modeling of the distributed energy resources, the direct current bus, and the grid. The second part will be conducted by using real-time load data, forecasted solar penetration in the network, and simulated electric vehicle loads.

The SGIL has been assisting ConEdison with the first phase of the project — expected to run until March — through detailed modeling, design, analysis, and the initial search for and communication with potential vendors. The overall project, which began in January 2022, is expected to be commissioned by the end of 2023.

photovoltaic panels

The project is based in ConEdison’s Cedar Street Substation in upstate New York’s New Rochelle. While few families in the area currently own solar panels, New Rochelle’s position along Interstate Highway 95 and the high concentration of single-family homes make it an interesting case study for the collaborative team.

If the project succeeds at increasing renewable energy, Con Edison could adopt it on a wide scale to facilitate the integration of energy storage, solar panels, and electric vehicle chargers.

“The findings of this study can be easily transferable and scalable to other systems, so Con Edison is very interested in this project, not because of this particular system, application, or deployment, but because the lessons learned from this pilot can be transferred to other sites as well,” Mohamed said.

The outcomes of the project will provide various information regarding design around energy storage and solar energy production. It would primarily help determine the common design of buses’ control, protection, and stability, as well as the appropriate energy storage system size.

The project would also shed light on the potential for pairing solar photovoltaic canopy production, which consists of assembling photovoltaic panels on parking lots to provide shelter from the heat to parked vehicles while generating solar energy.

“It will make the deployment of renewable energy and energy storage projects easier to implement, more energy efficient, and less costly,” Mohamed said.

The Electric Power Research Institute also supports the project through financial analysis of system deployment. Overall, Mohamed, who has worked with Con Edison for several years on various projects, said that direct collaboration with industries best supports students to prepare for their professional life after college.

“I like to work with the industry a lot because it’s an important experience for our Ph.D. students and usually it helps them later on the job market,” he said.

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