Integrating Renewable Energy into the Grid: Columbia

Written by: Danielle Tessier, 4th Year Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering Student, Carleton

I recently returned from a 3-month internship in Pereira, Colombia and can’t help but reflect on this incredible experience.

This internship was made possible (and generously funded) by Global Skills Opportunity and Mitacs. As a first-generation student from a low-income family, I would not have been able to participate in such an amazing program without the support these organizations provided.

While in Colombia, I studied how to integrate renewable energy into the electricity grid at the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira under the supervision of Alejandro Garcés Ruiz. Climate change is one of the most pressing problems humanity has ever faced. In order to combat the impacts of climate change it is necessary to move away from fossil fuel-based energy sources to renewable energy. However, this transition comes with its own set of challenges. Renewable energy such as wind and solar are intermittent in nature which can cause issues with grid stability and reliability. Therefore, it is necessary to develop inverter controls that help regulate the output of these renewable energy sources to improve frequency and voltage regulation along with increasing the inertia of the system. I was tasked with simulating the results of a study that developed a unified multi-input-multi-output grid-forming controller using SIMULINK to ensure that these results were reproducible – an invaluable part of the scientific method. Although the main findings of the article were reproduced successfully, there was missing or incorrect information provided for some of the comparison controllers which shows the importance of publishing all assumptions and data so studies can be reproduced within the scientific community.

“The biggest benefit for conducting research in a different country has been the ability to connect with students and professors on a global level. Seeing differences in what problems are being researched and how they are approached has been eye-opening.”

Danielle Tessier

4th Year Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering Student, Carleton University

Throughout this experience I worked closely with master’s and PhD students in the lab while also attending classes in dynamics of electrical systems, optimization, and technical writing. Everyone was very welcoming and extremely helpful. It was fascinating to see the different focus of another university. The lab I was working in studies large scale renewables, transmission, and distribution while Carleton seems to have a bigger focus on hardware. I was introduced to many mathematical concepts I had not seen during my undergrad which I think has really diversified my knowledge base. Having the chance to learn some Spanish was also an amazing opportunity!

While I was in Colombia, I made the most of the weekends and holidays, traveling throughout the country. It is a very beautiful place, with many varied landscapes and people who are so kind and generous. I visited a family-run coffee farm, snorkeled with colorful tropical fish, hiked in the red desert, and danced salsa in Cali.

There were so many types of delicious (and sometimes strange!) fruit and the coffee was amazing. Unfortunately, Colombia is still often known for its history of drugs and violence. Now, it is so much more than its checkered past, and locals are working very hard to overcome its bad reputation. Colombia is much safer than it used to be, although it is still recommended to “no dar papaya”, meaning to not make yourself an easy target by wearing expensive jewelry or walking around with your phone in your hand. That being said I felt very safe during my entire stay and definitely had my friends looking out for me.  I would highly recommend visiting this wonderful country if you ever get the chance!

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