Nayara Aguiar (Gupta Group)

A Flexibility Market-Based Approach to Increase Penetration of Renewables in the Power Grid

October 16, 2019

Nayara Aguiar 600

Nayara Aguiar is a fourth-year graduate student with Prof. Vijay Gupta’s lab in the Department of Electrical Engineering. She presented "A Flexibility Market-Based Approach to Increase Penetration of Renewables in the Power Grid" at the ND Energy PD&GS Luncheon in October 2019.

Aguiar is a recipient of a 2019 Patrick and Jana Eilers Graduate Student Fellowship for Energy Related Research. Her focus is designing and analyzing ways to make the electric grid more flexible to accommodate an increasing amount of renewable energy.

Because renewable sources are inherently intermittent, it is difficult to provide reliable, on-demand electricity at a high level of renewable penetration. Aguiar’s aim is to design new structures for electricity markets that promote collaboration among different energy sources. She has explored how natural gas power plants and energy storage systems can contribute for a more flexible grid.

“For this we leverage tools from power systems and economics,” Aguiar said of the interdisciplinary nature of the work. Among these tools are power flow analysis, game theory and mechanism design to evaluate the impacts of renewable uncertainty on the participation of different generators in the electricity market.

Despite having no formal background in economics when she started her research, Aguiar began studying potential relevant topics in the field. She was able to gain a better understanding on many of these economic theories once she began collaborating with Prof. Michèle Muller-Itten, assistant professor of economics at Notre Dame.

Renewable energy interested Aguiar while she was an undergraduate researcher at Federal University of Campina Grande in Brazil.  Her research project investigated solar radiation data and analyzed various mathematical models to predict how much energy could be produced by a solar panel based on factors such as location and orientation. This experience provided a good match for working with Prof. Gupta.

Aguiar credits Gupta with providing connections for collaboration with researchers from other institutions, who contribute not only technical expertise but also broader perspectives. She highlights Prof. Pramod Khargonekar at the University of California, Irvine as someone who frequently raises questions to give Aguiar another viewpoint to consider.

“When you focus on just the technicalities, you can miss the bigger picture,” Aguiar said. “So having all of these mentors that I’ve met through my advisor has really helped me shape all of the aspects of my work and how it can influence society.”

Aguiar makes it a priority to attend many of the seminars and events sponsored by ND Energy throughout the year, such as the Energy Week discussion featuring Timothy Keller, mayor of Albuquerque, and Khalil Shalabi, executive vice president with the Lower Colorado River Authority, on solutions for renewable energy integration.

“Those types of talks give you a wider perspective about not only what people are doing in academia, but also what people are doing in the public sector and industry level,” Aguiar said.

Besides doing research, Aguiar is also very active in the Notre Dame community. In the past, she has volunteered with the Graduate Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the STEMentorship Program through the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). Currently, she serves as the chair of the Book Club and as a graduate student liaison for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Student Branch.