23 Mar 2022

Our Changing World - Keeping the lights on

From Afternoons, 3:35 pm on 23 March 2022

A reliable electricity supply underpins modern life. In just a few minutes at home we might turn on lights, use a computer, cook something in the microwave, start the dishwasher, set a load of laundry in motion, plug in the electric car for a charge - and decide not to do the vacuuming after all.

Soheil Mohseni and Alan Brent work with sustainable energy systems. There are mini versions of a vertical wind turbine and a solar concentrator on the desk behind them.

Soheil Mohseni and Alan Brent work with sustainable energy systems. Photo: Alison Ballance

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All of that takes power. Most of us get that power from the national electricity grid, oblivious to the work that the power companies and Transpower do to balance the competing requirements of supply and demand – when power is produced versus when we want to use it.

But there is a growing interest in a growing suite of renewable energy systems, with electricity produced locally by various solar, micro-hydro, wave and biomass systems, and stored locally for later use. Coming up with the best ways of using these micro power grids is what interests Professor Alan Brent.

Alan heads Victoria University of Wellington’s Sustainable Energy Centre, and along with postdoc researcher Dr. Soheil Mohseni, Alan spends a lot of time thinking about the way electricity generation might look and work in the future.