Spotlight on a student: Chelsea Christy
Generating ideas for industry
Until recently, Chelsea Christy had never considered how her love of maths could help a major company make the transition to renewables.
Through the Zero Emission Energy Laboratory (ZEE Lab) internship program, Chelsea – a final-year Electrical Engineering Masters student with a background in Applied Mathematics – was placed with Energy Power Systems Australia (EPSA) to work on their new hybrid microgrid systems.
While there, she helped develop an algorithm that could simulate microgrid operation, optimising the use of solar over diesel power. EPSA liked her work so much they’re keeping her on part-time while she finishes her studies.
We asked Chelsea to tell us more about her experience with EPSA and ZEE Lab, and where she sees her future in the energy transition.
Can you tell us about your ZEE Lab internship project and your role in it?
For my ZEE Lab internship, I was placed with EPSA, Energy Power Systems Australia. Caterpillar, the world’s leading earthmoving and construction equipment company, supplies all its engines, generators, power stations, and other related products through EPSA in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.
From a focus on diesel and gas engines, EPSA has expanded into renewable energy, now supplying hybrid microgrids for industry sites and other remote areas, like small villages and islands. Their hybrid microgrids combine typical generator sets with wind and solar power input, as well as various types of energy storage technologies, such as batteries, to ensure power reliability and grid stability.
Through my internship, my task was to research the required safety labelling for a small battery energy storage system (BESS) they are designing, as well as safe storage requirements for their lithium ion batteries, both of which are to be used in solar hybrid microgrids. I also worked on the design of the charge controller, which is part of the BESS package. The charge controller regulates power flows and delivers any excess power to batteries, keeping them charged at the right level.
I helped to develop a charge controller algorithm that will be used when modelling small hybrid systems in the program HOMER – Hybrid Optimization Model for Multiple Energy Resources – to determine its viability and cost for clients. The program simulates operation of a hybrid microgrid and identifies options that will incur the least cost, while maximising the use of renewables.
After my internship, EPSA hired me on a part-time contract to stay on and complete work on the algorithm, which tailors the simulation to their specific equipment among other variables.
Why did you want to be part of ZEE Lab? What have you learned from the experience?
I have always had an interest in sustainability, and it is my goal to work in clean energy. The ZEE Lab Internship Program allowed me to explore this interest and gain experience in the industry.
My internship was my first experience working as an engineer, and it taught me a lot about how to work in a corporate environment. I also gained a deeper understanding of microgrids and the role they will play in the transition to clean energy in the future.
What’s the bigger picture? How will your work contribute to the transition to a clean energy system?
The battery energy storage system being designed by EPSA will reduce reliance on generators with high carbon emissions for off-grid power generation. The integration of the BESS with the smart charge controller into the microgrid increases the amount of useable renewable power, further reducing operating costs and emissions, contributing to global goals on climate change.
What did you study to land in this area of research?
I have a Bachelor of Science majoring in Applied Mathematics, and I am currently completing a Master of Electrical Engineering with a focus on power systems while continuing my work at EPSA.
What do you want to do next?
After I finish my degree at the end of this year, I aim to work in the energy sector and become part of Australia’s transition to renewable energy.
Chelsea is happy to answer questions related to her experience with ZEE Lab, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.