Case Study 5: Electrical Designers for a Low Carbon Future

Bachelor of Applied Technology & Bachelor of Engineering Technology

1.Zero Carbob

Who was Involved?

A predictive controller designed to make zero emission homes a reality is the result of Aziz Ahmad’s most recent research. The controller predicts solar energy generation and manages appliance energy consumption towards achieving a net zero energy balance. Aziz holds a Masters of Science in Electronics and Telecommunications and has just submitted the PhD research which led to this development. Aziz says: “The move to predictive controllers, from simple switch controllers, is really going to be the next significant innovation for the sector.”

As a lecturer in the Department of Electrotechnology, Aziz teaches Sustainable Energy and Power Electronics [ENGGMGG 6118], an elective within both the Bachelor of Applied Technology and the Bachelor of Engineering Technology. Students within these programmes go on to become the electrical or electronic systems designers, technologists and engineers able to develop design, engineer and service electrical and electronics equipment.

What Happened?

The ability to design renewable energy systems is a fundamental requirement for creating a low carbon future. With energy efficiency and renewable energies integrated across the Bachelor of Applied Technology and Engineering Technology programmes this elective gives students an opportunity to focus on the specific knowledge required to integrate renewables into a design.

Students within both these programmes can focus on either power electronics (looking at power generation, distribution, transmission) or machine electronics (troubleshooting and redesign). Students first examine why renewable energy systems are needed, the context of climate change and diminishing oil stocks and then examine the renewable options including wind, solar and geothermal.  Then in labs students begin to put their knowledge of renewable energy sources into practice, designing electrical circuits using renewable energy sources. They then run digital simulations with these to test and provide practical insight into their designs and troubleshoot any issues.

The toughest part of this course? The power mathematics – students tend to love it or hate it – with lots of calculations and conversions required to create successful renewable energy electrical circuit designs. The course covers all of the pragmatic elements of power electronics including basic converter types and applications involving small scale renewable energy systems. Things like power switching devices characteristics, ratings, safe operating areas, methods of protection and applications in power electronics, power conversion systems and methods, the impact and measurement of harmonics in conversion systems, operational features of DC to AC and DC to DC converters, operation of DC to AC square-wave and sine-wave power converters and
small and medium scale renewable energy systems covering for example typical systems for PV, mini or micro hydro, tidal, wave, wind and biomass, and grid tied inverter systems, energy storage devices and their control systems and standalone energy systems and generation plants.

What was the Outcome?

This course leaves students with the practical skills and know-how to design electrical circuits and systems using renewable energies. The ability to convert solar energy from DC to AC and DC to DC suitable for use within existing circuitry being one fundamental element of this. Students also gain an understanding of the broader context of renewable energies, sustainability, energy efficiency and the importance of their role as future electronics and electrical designers, technologists and engineers in minimising climate change

Links to related Sustainability Approaches and Resources:

Energy Managers Association of New Zealand

Energy Efficiency Conservation Authority

Sustainable Electricity Association of New Zealand

Auckland’s Low Carbon Action Plan

Ministry for the Environment – Climate Change Resources