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Challenges and opportunities

The Energy Sector

Mastering energy has been the main driver of modern growth and development. World economic development is probably more dependent than ever on energy, and face major energy challenges very closely interrelated: improve energy efficiency, cut down fossil energy consumption to reduce energy dependence and CO2 emissions, and developing alternative renewable energy sources.

The EU has adopted the ‘20-20-20' Climate and Energy strategy, setting three main goals for 2020: reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%; improving energy efficiency by 20%; and generating 20% of energy consumption from renewable energy, and a clear commitment to a 100% renewable energy future by 2050. This strategy has made the European region the leader recipient of clean energy finance, attracting a total of €65,000 million (from a total of €164,000 million) in 2010. This is far from USA, with a total of €45,000 million invested.

Renewable Energies and Power Systems

The energy sector is confronted to major technological and management challenges, one the reasons being the emergence of renewable energy sources. The development of renewable energies in Europe, with a share that is expected to rise from 18% to 46%, is still constrained by production, storing, transmission and distribution challenges, and needs new technology breakthroughs. Integration of renewable energy systems in the existing power systems is leading the electrical energy sector in the following areas:

  1. Generating. Efficiency and reliability are the key points receiving attention: Wind turbines, which are particularly interesting when they are installed offshore, which eliminate the need of mechanical gears by means of Multi-pole Permanent Magnet Machines (PMM) and full converter topologies, increase voltage at the machine terminals for reduction in losses during energy transmission, Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) by means of improved control algorithms, reduction in the shutdowns by improving the reliability and diagnostics techniques.
  2. Transmission. High Voltage Direct Link (HVDC) and Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) for improving the transmission energy efficiency of offshore energy generation, small isolated remote loads, power supply to islands, infeed to city centers and remote small-scale generation. A major challenge here is the development of medium-voltage inverters. Key technologies include the development of multilevel and multiterminal topologies, new power devices which can support higher voltages and to operate at higher switching frequencies with reduced losses and Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI).
  3. Distribution. Introduction of Renewable Energy Systems (RES) require new optimization methods for energy dispatch which take into consideration interconnection standards and operational constraints. The Smart Grids (SGs) paradigm is adequate for the integration of RES. This requires an electricity network that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected, including those generating and consumers, in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supply. These results can be achieved by the integration of many different technologies including intelligent control and supervision systems and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) necessary for making the energy demand and production more predictable and controllable.

Challenges in Sustainable Transportation

The reduction of CO2 emissions and of energy dependence of developed economies also calls for a significant action in reducing fossil fuel consumption in the transportation sector. The generalisation of full electric and hybrid electric vehicles will also require of substantial investments in research and development in the following areas:

  1. Energy storing. Augmented power density in the energy storage systems, including development of batteries and fuel cells. In addition, use of ultracapacitors and flywheels has been proposed to increase the dynamic response of the main storage system. The integration of all these elements will require the use of efficient power converters as well as of adequate energy control strategies.
  2. Energy conversion. Traction force is generated throughout several power conversion stages, from the main energy source (fossil fuel, fuel cells), to the auxiliary storing system (batteries, ultracapacitors, flywheels) and finally to the traction machine (engine/electric motor). More efficient power electronics by means of new passive and switching elements, reduced EMI, temperature effects and room constraints have to be understand and optimized.
  3. Traction machines. For full electric and hybrid vehicles, electrical machines design and control strategies for maximum torque per ampere production, increased reliability and robustness when a fault occurs are needed. Hybrid vehicles also required adequate integration and power split of the electric machine and the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) are of enormous importance.
  4. Grid integration. Significant improvements and changes in the power grid management, such as smartgrids, design of rapid charging stations and possible use of onboard vehicle energy storage systems as a backup of exceeding energy produced by renewable energies are receiving great research efforts.

New admission period self-financing students

In order to facilitate access to students who were not able to process their applications in the first phase of the selection process for the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degree (EMJMD), The University of Oviedo has announced a new admission period aimed at 8 self-financing students

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