CLEMSON — The historic eclipse that cut across the nation on Aug. 21 gave Clemson University researchers and industry collaborators a chance to study what happens when solar panels suddenly quit generating energy.

The research underscores one of the challenges that utilities face as they incorporate more renewable energy into the electrical grid.

Kumar Venayagamoorthy and his team will be doing "smart grid" research Aug. 21 in the Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory.

Kumar Venayagamoorthy and his team performed “smart grid” research in the Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory during the eclipse.

The grid relies on a steady flow of power and what experts call “balance of energy” to run smoothly. Too much or too little could trigger rolling blackouts that leave thousands in the dark.

Utilities have well-established technologies and decades of experience in maintaining the flow of power when using coal, nuclear energy, natural gas or some other source under their control. But as they bring in more solar and wind power, the flow is less predictable.

Clemson researchers are taking on the challenge by working with industry in world-class labs to develop “smart grid” technologies. Those researchers include:

Kumar Venayagamoorthy, Duke Energy Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. On the day of the eclipse, his research group held a simulation of solar-power generation at utility scale. They captured the effects of the solar eclipse on real-time power system operations with and without smart grid technologies. Their test included one of their patent-pending technologies, which was recently approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The simulation took place in the Real-Time Power and Intelligent Systems Laboratory, where Venayagamoorthy is founder and director. Visit the lab’s website at http://rtpis.org.

Johan Enslin, Duke Energy Endowed Chair in Smart Grid Technology and executive director of the energy systems program. He leads graduate education and the development and growth of research initiatives in emerging electric-grid technologies at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston. The research program builds upon Clemson’s world-class research facilities. They include a wind-turbine drivetrain testing and research facility and the Duke Energy eGRID, which can emulate any grid. These two projects form the cornerstone of the SCE&G Energy Innovation Center and are the largest such facilities in the world. The facilities represent more than $110 million in public and private investment.

Rajendra Singh, D. Houser Banks Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the director of the Center for Silicon Nanoelectronics. The White House honored Singh in 2014 as a Champion of Change for his more than 40 years of working to promote and expand solar deployment in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

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