Anna Stuhlmacher awarded Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship for her research that could help integrate renewable energy sources into the power grid

Stuhlmacher is working to optimize the interaction between the power distribution network and the drinking water distribution network to improve the sustainability, flexibility, and resiliency of both systems.
Anna Stuhlmacher headshot

ECE PhD student, Anna Stuhlmacher, has been awarded a Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship to support her research that aims to optimize flexible loads in the electric power grid, allowing for greater integration of renewable energy into the power grid.

Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy is a crucial strategy to mitigate climate change. However, renewable energy sources are fairly variable. As more renewable energy sources are integrated into the power grid, greater flexibility in managing the grid is needed to ensure reliable operation. The water network and power network are interdependent, so Stuhlmacher leverages drinking water distribution networks as flexible loads to provide multiple services for the power network.

“We can use the water distribution network to provide the services that fast-ramping power plants – such as natural gas units – and voltage control devices would normally provide to the power network,” Stuhlmacher said.

For example, supply pumps in the water distribution network consume power in the power distribution network. Water distribution networks are also capable of shifting their power consumption in time by storing water in elevated storage tanks. Real-time control of water networks can provide flexibility to the power grid through demand response or market services, such as voltage and frequency regulation.

“The water distribution network can effectively be treated like a big battery,” Stuhlmacher said.

Stuhlmacher’s work could help improve the reliability of the power network and, in turn, improve the reliability of the water distribution network. In addition, the water distribution network can provide added flexibility to the power grid, which will allow larger levels of renewable energy sources to be safely integrated.

Stuhlmacher’s proposed dissertation is titled, “Optimal Scheduling and Control of Uncertain Coupled Power-Water Distribution Networks.” She is advised by Prof. Johanna Mathieu. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Boston University and her master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from U-M.

In addition to her research, Stuhlmacher is a dedicated graduate student instructor and undergraduate research mentor. She serves as a graduate student mentor through the ECE PhD Peer Mentoring Program, BuddEEs.

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