Monograph Offers New Model to Enhance Use of Clean Resources

Engineering IT-Enabled Sustainable Electricity Services: The Tale of Two Low-Cost Green Azores Islands 

"Engineering IT-Enabled Sustainable Electricity Services: The Tale of Two Low-Cost Green Azores Islands” is a monograph on sustainable energy that introduces “a first-of-its-kind proof of concept that it is, indeed, possible to utilize very diverse resources in alignment with customers’ preferences while meeting pre-specified societal goals,” as stated by the co-authors Marija Ilic, Le Xie and Qixing Liu. This work provides an overview of the Green Islands(MIT Portugal) and DYMONDS(CMU Portugal) projects, and demonstrates its concepts by simulating electric power systems in two islands in the Azores archipelago, Flores and São Miguel, in Portugal.

Marija Ilic is deeply involved with Portugal and with the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, in particular. The idea of studying the Azores islands came from a suggestion given by the former Minister of Science, Technology, and Higher Education, José Mariano Gago, and the former Secretary of State of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Manuel Heitor, and after several conversations with José M.F. Moura, director of the CMU Portugal Program at CMU, and Ernest Moniz, the current United States Secretary of Energy. As a researcher, Marija Ilic works closely with João Peças Lopes, from Universidade do Porto, in the project Green Islands (, and with Luís Marcelino Ferreira and Pedro Carvalho, both from Instituto Superior Técnico of the Universidade Técnica de Lisboa (IST/UTL), in project DYMONDS (Toward Dynamic Monitoring and Decision-Based Smart Distribution Systems), carried out in the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, among others. In fact, the monograph received the collaboration of Masoud Nazari, dual degree Engineering and Public Policy alumnus, and from Luís Marcelino Ferreira, Pedro Carvalho, and Paulo Ferreira (IST/UTL).


According to the three authors, the book was motivated by the “growing challenges and opportunities on the path to sustainable energy services, and focuses on the importance of information technology to overcoming problems, such as those brought about by integrating clean and efficient resources and by the high cost of these technologies.” The biggest challenge faced during the simulations of electric power systems was designing the IT architectures.

The monograph presents methods for predicting variable resources, such as wind power generation, and analyzes the achievable accuracy of these predictions. Throughout this book, the authors show that the cost of serving customers in systems with highly uncertain generation will depend to a very large extent on how well the forecasts are made. Therefore, the supporting IT technologies based on predictive models are critical to avoid the need for fast-responding storage.

 With this manual, the authors hope to convince the reader that future green electrical systems cannot be determined by looking only at the common capacity estimates, and the characteristics of individual technologies. “Instead, a systems approach to enhancing today’s planning and operating practices is required in order to use the hidden potential of many distributed clean resources.” If done right, “this would lead to a much higher level of efficiency comparatively to that achieved currently in systems with conventional and fully controllable technologies,” the editors wrote.

According to José M.F. Moura, director of the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program at CMU, “the fundamentally distributed interactive approach offers the beginning of a framework that has the potential to scale to large power interconnected electric grids such as those of the U.S., China, Europe.” The Philip L. and Marsha Dowd University professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who is also member of the National Academy of Engineering, stresses the impact of the DYMONDS project which is a “first seed that explores the potential of making electricity services in the Azores Islands sustainable by means of flexible data-driven embedded IT,” adding that “the end-to-end models and data described in this book can be used by other researchers to enhance the IT and software infrastructures to further improve the performance of the electric grid.”

Marija Ilic is also a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and of Engineering and Public Policy at CMU and the director of the university's Electric Energy Systems Group, which is developing research programs, curricula and outreach initiatives to improve the electric power system in the United States.

The book will be published on August 31 2013, but it is already available for pre-order at Amazon.


July 2013