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Dr. Kenan Hatipoglu selected for DOE research program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Dr. Kenan Hatipoglu

WVU Tech electrical engineering professor Dr. Kenan Hatipoglu has been selected to participate in the United States Department of Energy’s Visiting Faculty Program at the prestigious Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

He’ll spend the summer at the laboratory working on his project “Dynamic Voltage Stability Enhancement of a Distribution System with High Penetration of Distributed Energy Resources during Emergency, Hazard, and Disaster Events to Improve Grid Resiliency.”

“This projects aims to keep electrical energy running with minimum interruption to people experiencing extreme conditions. It is targeting for uninterrupted power to people when it is needed the most,” he said.   

It’s a field he’s passionate about.

Hatipoglu grew up in Bursa, Turkey, where he caught the proverbial lightning bug at an early age.

“I started learning about electricity when I was at high school where I was trained to be an electrical technician. That was the starting point, and I decided to teach it at college level. It is a vibrant, evolving field that impacts everybody’s life,” he said.

He moved to the U.S. to continue his studies, earning his Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a specialization in electrical energy and power systems from Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee.

As a graduate student, he was well aware of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, located just over an hour from the university. The lab is a bastion of research. It's where work began in earnest on the Manhattan Project. It’s where the first medical isotopes were created and where the first successful bone marrow transplant was performed. Today, it's home to one of the fastest super computers in the world and a myriad other projects aimed at changing the face of everything from energy and national security to advanced materials and neutron science.

Now he'll revisit the lab as a researcher.

Hatipoglu’s project has been in the works for five years. While it’s a complex idea, the goal is simple: use distributed energy resources (solar, wind, hydro, etc.) to create a more resilient power grid that minimizes power loss during an emergency.

Here’s how it works: imagine a downtown area with a conventional power plant (think coal or natural gas-fired) to the east and distributed energy resources (solar panels and wind turbines) to the west.

Now image that a tornado hits that downtown area and creates a fault in the power system. Typically, customers on the west side of town would experience a loss in voltage or a complete blackout while many of the customers in the east would still be receiving power from the plant. That’s because most of our current voltage-regulating solar or wind resources simply disconnect during emergency events.

Using Hatipoglu's system, these resources would instead support the grid during this disturbance and immediately begin to make up for the power loss in coordination with the conventional power plant. The customers on the west side of the fault would not experience the same loss of voltage because those wind or solar resources would be still continuing to generate power instead of going offline. 

“It's a coordination. We like to have each possible generation unit working together so the whole system can come back online in a shorter period of time,” he said.

That impact would not only help more customers stay connected, but it would help to keep the power loss localized. It may even help the power company more quickly determine where the impacted areas are.

“If you detect and clear a fault as soon as possible, the damage will be minimized. Lots of things are depending on electricity in the United States. Less people might suffer,” he said.

Hatipoglu will work on the project alongside ORNL faculty member Yaosuo “Sonny” Xue and present his research progress at the end of the ten-week program.

He said he's looking forward to the exchange of ideas and to making his research more competitive. He's also very interested in seeing ORNL’s state-of-the-art labs. 

“I am honored to be selected,” he said.

“This is a highly competitive program that will allow me to collaborate with some of the most talented scientists in the world. I hope to learn lots of things and bring them back here to share with my students and my colleagues, to get them excited and to accomplish even more.”