Tom Feehally

Experimental Officer for energy storage facilities, Power Conversion Research Group

This is an exciting time to be involved with electrical engineering; new technologies are providing advances in capability, offering a positive impact on society, as well as a growing commercial interest.

Background

The University of Manchester has a world-class reputation in electrical engineering. This led me to undertake a PhD with the Power Conversion Group, in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, having previously worked for Rolls-Royce plc. Since graduating I have worked at the University of Manchester and undertaken a number of commercial research projects considering the provision and management of electrical power, mainly for transport applications. These have many of the same requirements as land based power systems, such as reliability and efficiency, but must also be portable and self-sustaining.

Research

My research focuses on grid scale battery energy storage systems. Such systems incorporate many cutting edge technologies, for example the electro-chemical battery cells, grid-interfacing power converters, and control and communications systems. There is currently little energy storage interfaced with the grid, limiting our ability to make use of renewable power sources, and so these systems can offer great benefit to the power network if they are adequately incorporated and controlled. The grid scale energy storage facilities at the University of Manchester are being used to investigate a number of key challenges including: the impact of battery aging on electrical performance, allowing lifetime and financial return to be optimised, and novel control schemes which can support the grid in multiple ways simultaneously. These research projects aim to make grid scale battery energy storage viable, creating a ‘greener’ and more reliable power network.

Future

Future power networks will have a higher proportion of distributed generation; many of these will be low-carbon generators such as wind turbines and photovoltaics which provide intermittent output. Grid scale energy storage is therefore essential not only to meet the worlds growing thirst for electrical power, but also to ensure that this power can be supplied from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

While it may seem unbelievable to us, in some areas of the world people have never had access to a reliably electricity supply, here battery energy storage is a key component of small area ‘microgrids’. These independently operated grids provide electrical power to those who need it.
The latest battery energy storage technologies have demonstrated an ability to bridge the gap between intermittent generation and growing demand, however understanding the control and performance of these systems is a pressing concern. This is an exciting time to be involved with electrical engineering; new technologies are providing advances in capability, offering a positive impact on society, as well as a growing commercial interest.

 

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