Nathan Johnson’s research is playing a significant role in the quest to overcome energy poverty throughout the world.
As many as 1.3 billion people lack access to electrical power, said Johnson, who directs the Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions, called LEAPS, at Arizona State University.
The primary focus of his lab’s research and industry collaborations is advancing technologies for electrical-grid modernization and off-grid electrification.
One of his solutions is microgrids, which provide independent power generation and storage systems capable of operating as mobile or standalone systems or as a supplemental part of larger conventional power grids.
“Advances in microgrid technology can bring stable power resources to even the most remote and poor communities,” said Johnson, an assistant professor in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s Polytechnic School and senior sustainability scientist with ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.
Better microgrid technology would also vastly improve energy-supply scenarios for military and disaster-relief operations, hospitals and data centers, as well as for industries such as mining or oil exploration and drilling that often need mobile, off-grid power generation. Large public infrastructure operations, critical emergency services and aviation operations would also benefit.
Reducing time for microgrid design
Johnson and his LEAPS team — currently 20 students and four staff members — are at work making those off-grid power systems a more technically and economically viable option.
One of the lab’s strategic partners is XENDEE, a California-based company that develops cloud-computing solutions for microgrid and smart-grid project management and power-system analysis.
LEAPS and XENDEE have together taken on the challenge of figuring out how to create simulation technologies that will integrate myriad technical, financial, public policy and regulatory factors into a methodology for designing and building customized microgrids much faster than is feasible at present.
Their approach and their tools make it possible for users to design a microgrid in days rather than weeks.
That feat was recognized recently when XENDEE’s computer-simulation software and Johnson’s approach to military microgrids won a TechConnect Defense Innovation Award at the Defense Innovation Technology Acceleration Challenges Summit — a conference of leaders in defense, security and technology industries, along with U.S. government and military officials.
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