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Research themes

Renewable Energy Systems (RESs) integration, both large and small scale, are on the increase globally, and this trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. The challenges of renewable integration span several disciplines related to aerodynamics, forecasting (e.g. wind and solar), data analytics, mapping of potential locations, RESs technology development, control, power plant design, power plant controllers (centralized and decentralized), grid integration schemes and studies. Small-scale RES can also be used as standalone systems with some changes in the RES controllers.

Environmental concerns have brought global pressures to replace conventional generation with RE power plants and distributed generation in both transmission and distribution networks, respectively. Therefore, the key question raised by all power utilities and market operator is “Can RE sources behave like Conventional Generation?” The ultimate goal in some countries is to achieve 100% renewable energy sources operating in conjunction with several means of energy storage systems (ESS) (e.g. electrical, mechanical, thermal and hydro) to address the vulnerabilities posed to the grid resulting from the intermittent nature of these RE resources. This has drawn the interest of utilities and researchers towards developing state of the art forecasting techniques to enable dispatching RES along with energy storage systems. Key projects within this theme will deal with number of important factors: (i) the plan for high penetration of PV power generation into UAE grid and GCC countries, (ii) the uncertainty of PV power generation on grid flexibility and stability and (ii) the requirement of dispatching the PV plant with ESS and achieving efficient ancillary services.


Project T1-P1: PV Power Plant Design and Control with Dispatching Capability

This project aims to develop a standard design for large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plant at transmission level interconnection with dispatching capability. The PV plant architecture including hybrid AC/DC grid, advanced AC/DC protection schemes, centralized and decentralized controllers and communication infrastructure will be developed. An advanced SCADA power plant controller will be structured modularly to integrate Hybrid Energy Storage Systems (HESS) and other types of renewable power generation for future expansion. The PV Power plant controllers aim to smooth output power generation, ensure dispatching capability and achieve efficient ancillary services to comply with grid code requirement. The project introduces a novel Renewable Energy Management System (REMS) to facilitate increased penetration of PV Power Plant. The REMS will determine the dispatch of energy and ancillary services for a PV Power Plant and HESS to mitigate the associated variability and intermittency of PV power generation. The PV Power Plant augmented with REMS tool will have promising potential for cost reduction by lowering the required primary and secondary spinning reserve for transmission system operation along with achieving efficient ancillary services for grid support.


Power electronic systems play a major role in efficient energy management and utilization of renewable energy sources. In fact, today, power electronic systems are an integral part of almost all power system applications and energy systems in general. Further, with the advancement in semiconductor technology and availability of high voltage high power semiconductor devices, power electronics-based equipment are available over wide power ranges, from watts to megawatts.

It is, therefore, becoming increasingly important that these systems are efficient, compact and reliable. Applications of power electronics include  switched mode power supplies, battery chargers, all modern consumer electronics, renewable energy system integration, industrial drive systems (VFD/ASD), active power filtering, FATCS devices, electric vehicles, more electric aircraft, ship propulsion systems, navigation system, monitoring and protection system, HVDC transmission, electrical locomotives, and satellites.



Project T2-P1: Advanced Power Conversion Architecture for Electric Vehicles

The goal of this project is to design and develop power electronics architectures for electric propulsion systems. A new converter topology is intended to develop for charging the energy storage system (ESS) of electric vehicles (EVs). Generally, the EVs are charged through AC main supply and in some cases, on-site photovoltaic (PV) generation is available. In the future, it is expected that these charging facilities will have the option for both AC and DC powers. The proposed topology will have the flexibility to charge ESS either through AC or DC supply using same power electronic interface. Further, the proposed work also deals with design and development of a new optimal energy management architecture based on modular converter approach.



Generated power, whether from large centralized plant remote from utilization centers, or from embedded plants within the distribution system, requires both transmission and distribution systems to be dispatched to customers. The research work conducted in this theme will address three distinct sub-systems, namely transmission, distribution and microgrid (either interconnected or autonomous) systems.

On the transmission level, the system operator applies conservative operational practices to ensure that the objectives of stability, security, reliability and economical operation of the transmission network are met. Considerable attention has been given to these objectives with the aim of increasing the proportion of generation obtained from renewable sources to meet demand and to determine the extent to which this will stress the transmission network. The short-term reinforcement of existing networks as well as the long-term planning of future transmission networks require the utilization of advanced technologies. FACTs technologies, hybrid AC/DC transmission grids, efficient grounding systems, modern protection schemes, PMUs placement, SCADA development, advanced communication infrastructure, data analytics, robust control strategies, transmission interconnections, cybersecurity, accurate load and renewable generation forecasting, advanced power system modeling, unit commitment and energy management system are examples of issues that have to be investigated. The vision of this research theme extends beyond the initial 3-year duration of this center proposal, as it is anticipated to build up capacity for a larger and sustainable center in the long term. Accordingly, the research direction in this theme targets both short (current project) and long-term objectives.


Project T3-P1: Distribution System Planning with Random Installations of PV/Energy Storage Systems

There has been an ever increasing global interest in integrating renewable generation (such as wind, PV, and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)) into power systems to meet the continuously increasing demand for electrical energy. The U.A.E. has set a target of having 24% of its electrical energy production from clean sources by 2021 and to lead the region in renewable energy projects. Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 sets a target of having an energy mix of 61% from natural gas, 25% from solar energy, 7% from clean coal, and 7% from nuclear power by 2030. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is also supporting electricity produced from small and medium solar-energy systems which is achieved by installing PV panels on rooftops of buildings and connecting them to DEWA’s grid as part of its Shams Dubai initiative

Although the connection of renewable energy resources (RESs) into a power system reduces the environmental hazards associated, however, increasing the penetration levels of renewables in power systems, especially for intermittent non-dispatchable renewable resources, presents a number of significant technical challenges for power system operators mainly due to the variability and uncertainty associated with them. The integration of distributed generation introduces bi-directional power flows in distribution feeders and this consequently affects power quality in distribution systems. The variability of wind and PV delivered power systems can result in voltage flicker, while high penetration levels of roof-top PV on secondary distribution networks can cause voltage rise problems. Recently, there has been an increasing interest in integrating energy storage systems (ESSs), and particularly battery-based systems (BESS), in distribution networks to improve system reliability. Such systems provide an alternative to active load management and a solution to defer bulk system expansions and maximize overall system benefits, while facilitating high penetrations levels of RESs.

Available planning algorithms optimize the maximum DG capacity to be installed considering candidate locations and specific active network management (ANM) techniques. This could be applicable for utility-owned DGs and feasible only for a specific configuration. However, customer-owned PV installations are characterized by their randomness in location, size and installation time. Moreover, planning decisions for optimum allocation of ESS, to improve system performance and maximize renewable penetration levels are based on previously identified DG capacity and location and consequently such decisions might not be optimum for future random installations. Therefore, there is a need to develop new probabilistic planning algorithms to maximize the penetration levels of PVs and optimally allocate and size ESSs to improve overall system performance while considering uncertainty in customer-owned PV locations, sizes, and installation sequence and different ANM techniques.


Under Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030, one of the key targets is to ‘develop a sufficient and resilient infrastructure capable of supporting the anticipated economic growth’ and to achieve this target, it is identified in the document that energy security should be enhanced to meet future demand. The Government’s environmental vision also points to the need to control domestic electricity consumption and there is a need to improve the UAE’s ranking in the Energy Trilemma Index with commensurate improvements in energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability. With the planned diversification of electricity energy production sources, and the required maintenance and future adaptation of the electricity grid network infrastructure to accommodate such renewables, fundamental and applied research in this area is essential.

In line with this vision, the high voltage and dielectric materials (HVDM) area is recognized as a fundamental research theme within the proposed RCII APEC to ensure that high voltage electrical energy systems are protected from disruptions and blackouts while ensuring safety and maximum efficiency; with millions of homes, business and industry relying on the high voltage grid. The high voltage grid comprises high-cost equipment such as transformers, cables, insulators, bushings, surge arresters, and circuit breakers and these operate under increasingly challenging and variable electrical and environmental stress conditions. The challenge is, therefore, to provide a reliable power supply at high efficiency to a wide variety of industrial, commercial and domestic loads. Additional environmental stresses, particularly in the Gulf region, require the system to perform more efficiently under diverse operating conditions and climatic environments.

The scope of research in the group includes (i) the monitoring of existing high voltage systems components such as lines, cables, transformers, grounding systems etc., (ii) determination of the fast transient performance of the system as a whole and its overvoltage protection, (iii) development of new insulation materials for future plant and (iv) development of new high voltage transmission and distribution media to meet future electrical power system formats such a gas insulated lines (GIL) and new forms of high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission etc.

To provide a platform for the scientific research, the HVDM research group has recently brought to commission a new high voltage laboratory facility that will help establish it as the leading center of research in the region; the advanced monitoring and measurement systems and computational facilities provided in the laboratory provide the necessary tools for advanced modelling and diagnosis of high voltage plant and power system failure. In addition to its research function, it is planned that the laboratory will become accredited and be available as a regional hub for testing and certification and with potential for generating revenue through commercial testing for regional manufacturers and utilities. It will also be available as an advanced industrial training center, in line with the government’s economic vision for 2030 to increase expertise for its future workforce.


Project T4-P1: Condition Monitoring of Electrical Power Transformers

This project aims at increasing financial saving by ensuring integrity and durability of electrical power transformers, key infrastructure components in energy supply installations. The research involves electrical diagnostic testing of operational power transformers using new test techniques based on Frequency Response Analysis (FRA). Although frequency response analysis (FRA) is increasingly being accepted as an industry standard to diagnose transformer faults, there is yet no standard approach for interpretation of FRA to diagnose fault type. Under the proposed research, a bespoke measurement system developed by the investigators that offers more comprehensive testing than using standard commercial testers will be used to assess the condition of selected test transformers. In addition, the project will investigate application of a novel on-line FRA measurement using the transformer’s own tap-changer operation to provide the electrical system perturbation from which the FRA may be obtained.


Project T4-P2: Impact of Environmental Conditions on Polymeric Insulation in the Gulf Region

Outdoor high-voltage insulators installed in electric power networks experience considerable electrical, thermal and mechanical stresses due to highly variable environmental factors such as temperature, ultraviolet radiation, rain and humidity variations, which contribute to insulator degradation. In highly-polluted regions such as industrial and coastal sites, solid contaminant deposits combined with fog, mist, dew, or rain form a conductive layer on the surface causing leakage currents across and eventually flashover. Insulator flashover may result in costly outages for industry, and it constitutes the main factor threatening the power system insulation. This project will carry out a systematic assessment of the particular environmental conditions in the UAE/Gulf region and their impact on outdoor high voltage insulation. An important element of this work will be to gain knowledge of Abu Dhabi electricity utility experience on equipment failures that may be due to the effects of pollution and the companies’ current policies and practices for dealing with this problem; e.g. washing programs, use of coatings, and use of polymeric composite insulators on the system. The program would also seek to gather samples of aged units from the field for comparison with new units and carry out comparative assessment of samples including hydrophobicity tests, accelerated ageing tests and material surface condition assessment. The project will provide electric energy utilities and companies with a comprehensive database and knowledge base that will help them improve asset management, develop condition monitoring strategies based on actual field experience, extend the service life of the equipment and minimize expenditure and losses due to interruption of supply.


Industry engagement is a key part of the APEC mission and considered as one of the center’s strategic priorities. The APEC industry engagement strategy will support the mission of the center by ensuring regular, mutually beneficial communication between APEC and a broad range of relevant industrial (and other) stakeholders. Such interaction will also identify and prioritize current industrial needs leading to new research and development avenues. The generated research knowledge and technology will be transferred to industry through industry‐academia colloquia, training workshops and demonstrations of the developed methods and tools. As a group, there is already an active engagement with numerous industrial partners, as described in the project proposals described in this document. This theme will aim to build on this active industrial collaboration to engage and broaden industrial stakeholders, to boost the long‐term mutual activities focused on industry-based research, training workshops, testing and validations.

Industry-Based Research

APEC targets to be the university research centers with the highest number and value of industrial -financed research collaborations. With this purpose, APEC will actively searching for new and better ways to partner with industries from within UAE and around the world. APEC will market its capabilities in providing research facilities, expertise and resources and inform potential industrial partners with an in-depth view of the most current and groundbreaking developments in the power and energy industry. APEC is well positioned to serve the two major UAE government utilities: (i) ADWEA (TRANSCO, AMPC, ADWEC, ADDC, and AADC) and DEWA. Such collaboration between KUST and utilities in UAE could help in the delivery of reliable, efficient, and affordable power supply as well as fulfil KUST’s requirement to provide excellence in service of training and research. In the longer term, KUST-APEC can envision evolution into a regional power systems experimental and simulation research center to cater to the needs of neighboring countries in GCC, with funding from utilities like ADEWA, DEWA, ADNOC as well as utilities and organizations beyond the UAE. An example of highly likely APEC collaborator is Barakah One Company (BOC), a subsidiary of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), a company tasked with ensuring and enhancing the controllability, reliability and safety of nuclear power connected to the TRANSCO transmission network. A paradigm to be followed in APEC industrial engagement research activates and in addressing industrial projects will follow the stages shown in Fig.1: