The US Department of Energy awards project by USI researcher

Juraj Kardos, who recently earned his PhD at the USI Institute of Computational Science (ICS, Faculty of Informatics), is part of the winning team of the Grid Optimization (GO) Competition launched by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) of the US Department of Energy. This competition consists of a series of challenges to develop software management solutions for a reliable, resilient and secure electricity grid in the US. With the Gollnpl project , Juraj and his colleagues came in first place, with a shared prize of $3.4 million to be used to pursue their research in the field. We took the opportunity of this award to get to know Juraj and understand his field of study.

Juraj worked on the Gollnpl project with a research team during the past summer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, in the Silicon Valley area. The project was aimed at developing efficient solutions for the power grid optimisation problems. "These problems are inherently large-scale, since they have to consider many components in large power grid networks. At the same time, there are many scenarios that need to be considered, e.g. failure of various transmission lines or generators. This results in large but structured problems: our goal was to find a smart way to exploit this problem structure in order to obtain a solution much faster", explains Juraj. The main strength of the project was a novel computational approach of the problem, based on asynchronous parallel computing model to enable high parallel efficiency and robust computations.

The research does not apply only to the US power grid. "The algorithms are applicable also to the transmission infrastructure in Europe or Switzerland - explains Juraj - the Swiss grid is quite small compared to the US counterpart, but for efficient operations it needs to consider also the neighbouring states due to the imports and exports of energy. On top of this, the whole continental Europe grid is interconnected, thus significant changes in one region propagate all over the grid and appropriate corrective measures need to be implemented in order to prevent disruption in energy delivery service".

The team of young researchers was led by their respective faculty supervisors at various universities, including USI-ICS Professor Olaf Schenk. Juraj’s research was supported by the Swiss Competence Center for Energy Research on the Electrical Infrastructure (SCCER-FURIES), a national centre of expertise whose mandate is to develop, promote and deploy power grid-related innovative software solutions for the implementation of the Swiss Energy Strategy for 2050, which provides for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and an increase in the amount of energy from renewable sources. The ICS contributes its research in this area: "Grid operators require new approaches to the underlying modelling, optimization, and control methods that will ultimately increase grid flexibility, reliability, and resilience", explains Schenk. "In this regard, our team at the ICS is applying optimisation methods to enable more reliable grid planning, backed by 15 years of experience in mathematical optimisation, scientific computing, and power grid optimisation problems. We are thus able to face the challenges with a combination of state-of-the-art mathematical software and high-performance computing. Within the framework of various Innosuisse projects or those of Bachelor’s and Master’s students, we actively support the Swiss industry such as NEPLAN (Zurich) or DXT Commodities (Lugano) by transferring the science and software technology that allows a transition to sustainable use of energy", he concludes.

After this stimulating experience in a new cultural context, which allowed him to work closely with other researchers - among them project leader Cosmin Petra of LLNL - Juraj will continue his research at ICS in close connection with the regional context.