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Student power line research takes second place at international conference

Zhuoqun Shi poses with a plaque

MU engineering graduate student Zhuoqun Shi (pictured) and former MU student Xiaowen Xu earned second place honors at the Power and Energy Conference at Illinois, hosted by the University of Illinois, for their undergraduate poster paper titled “PowerWorld Study of Voltage and Power Losses in Distribution Systems with Distributed Generation.” Photo courtesy of Zhuoqun Shi.

Two students from the MU College of Engineering won second place for their study on power distribution at the annual Power and Energy Conference at Illinois (PECI) on Feb. 19-20.

MU engineering graduate student Zhuoqun Shi and former MU student Xiaowen Xu finished second in the competition, hosted by the University of Illinois, for their undergraduate poster paper titled “PowerWorld Study of Voltage and Power Losses in Distribution Systems with Distributed Generation.”

They were one of three MU College of Engineering teams that presented at the conference. MU electrical and computer engineering Professor Robert O’Connell took five students in all to PECI.

Shi and Xu’s study looked at the electricity distribution system that provides power to the United States. Large power distributing systems can run into problems with stability and an increased risk of blackouts.

“There’s a lot of unstable places in the distribution system,” Shi said. “What we’re trying to do is to make the whole system stable enough to sustain the power delivery to the whole area.”

The study analyzed the influence and effectiveness of placing distributed generator (DG) units into a system to help with load stabilization. For optimal planning, they looked at three criteria: the most effective number of DG’s; the optimal point in the system to place the DG’s; and the best size for the DG’s, which they looked at by varying the unit’s size from zero to 15.

The project took roughly one year, Shi said. The first half-semester was spent getting everyone up-to-date on the background knowledge, and then the rest of the time was spent actually trying to run the system.

“I’m currently a master’s student, so I kind of helped [Xu] through with the project, give her information about the database and stuff like that,” Shi said.

Shi said she was excited to go to the conference, but also a bit nervous about her presentation skills. But it all worked out in the end.

“I’m probably the only foreigner who got a prize that day,” Shi said with a laugh. She accepted the award alone, as Xu has since graduated and is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Southern California.

Though it may have won an award, Shi said the research still isn’t complete.

“The project is still going on — this is just a startup.”