Pirathayini Srikantha is a PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, working under the supervision of Professor Deepa Kundur. Before coming to the University of Toronto, Pirathayini completed her MASc degree at the University of Waterloo, where her thesis explored the impact of elasticity in domestic appliances on aggregate residential power demands.
Q: Your research looks at ways to improve the reliability of power systems with a high penetration of renewable and distributed sources. Can an increasingly diverse landscape of distributed and renewable generators coexist with conventional and large-scale power generation?
“Diversifying the generation mix in today’s power grid can result in significant long-term benefits such as sustainable and economical use of available natural resources and increased energy security. Despite these advantages, the widespread integration of distributed and renewable generation systems in today’s grid is not yet a reality mainly due to the inherent generation variability of these power sources. Fortunately, the traditional power grid is evolving and ubiquitous communication is rapidly becoming a reality in the grid.The research group led by Professor Deepa Kundur (which I am part of) and I strongly believe that this cyber-physical integration will pave way to designing many effective dispatch control schemes that will allow diverse generation systems to seamlessly co-exist with one another with the aid of advanced data acquisition, analytics (such as prediction), control and storage systems.”
Q: You are also a popular lecturer at the University of Toronto, instructing 300 undergraduate Engineering Science students. How will communications technology change approaches to power management for our next generation of engineers?
“With the communications technology revolution, cyber-physical systems will become highly pervasive in all tenets of our lives. Integrating communications technology into systems such as the power grid enables the widespread connectivity and unification of components that have traditionally been disparate. This connectivity allows for unprecedented access to and integration of many diverse systems. Equipping future engineers with a broad range of inter-disciplinary skills will undoubtedly be necessary as these are imperative for designing and managing these heterogeneous systems.”
Q: You are 1 of 20 recipients this year of the Hatch Graduate Scholarship for Sustainable Energy Research, recognizing an array of energy research across the Faculty. How has this scholarship enabled your work, and how does the diversity of energy research at the University of Toronto influence your research?
“The Hatch Graduate Scholarship for Sustainable Energy Research has been extremely influential and beneficial in allowing me to explore various open energy research problems that have practical implications and I am greatly appreciative of this support. These scholarships create students who could be future technical leaders in the field who may then play key roles in further stimulating the Canadian industry. The energy research community at the University of Toronto is exceptionally diverse with researchers from a wide range of disciplines. ISE through the generous donation of Hatch has been very effective in bringing together energy researchers and industrial partners. In my opinion, this synergy in our energy research community has been crucial in placing University of Toronto amongst the top energy research institutions in the world.”