Turning CPUT into one smart University

HANDS-ON TRAINING: Students who study under the supervision of the Centre for Substation Automation and
Energy Management Systems have access to a state of the art substation automation laboratory.

From next year CPUT will offer a Masters of Engineering in Smart Grids, making us the first institution in the world to offer this IEC61850 standard-based Protection, Automation and Control (PAC) specialisation.

The Master in Electrical Engineering in Smart Grids qualification (level 9 on the NQF scale) will run concurrently with the regular Masters of Electrical Engineering programme at CPUT.
A Smart Grid is an electrical grid which incorporates a variety of operational and energy measures including smart meters, smart appliances, variable renewable energy resources, power substations and digital information and control systems.

Director of the Centre for Substation Automation and Energy Management Systems (CSAEMS), Prof Raynitchka Tzoneva, says this new Masters programme is a one of a kind.
“Our programme is unique in the world because it presents integrated knowledge for IEC61850 standard-based technologies for monitoring, protection, optimisation and control necessary for building Smart Grids and the education has a strong practical component for implementation of the considered solutions,” explained Tzoneva.

She says there are similar Masters programmes at universities in Europe, America, Africa and Asia. “But the content of their courses is limited to the technology of some elements of the Distributed Energy Resources as parts of the Smart Grid. There is one programme at Stellenbosch University called ‘Structural MEng. In Smart Grid Technology’ which is also part of the DAMOC project, but they teach mainly the technology of the renewable energy sources,” said Tzoneva. (DAMOC stands for the Development of a hArmonized MOdular Curriculum for the Smart Grid, an Erasmus+ project aimed at fostering capacity at African higher education institutions.)

A leading researcher in the field of industrial process controls and automation, Tzoneva helped to start the Centre in 2011. Equipped with a state of the art substation automation laboratory, the CSAEMS provides training for students, engineers and technicians employed in the energy sector. The need for the Centre goes back to 2004 when the International Electrical Commission (IEC) put into place the new IEC 61850 standards which governs the building, implementation and operations of Substation Automation Systems.

Whereas the university programmes elsewhere study the components of the smart grid, CPUT’s M Eng in Electrical Engineering in Smart Grids looks at the Smart Grid as a whole.
Smart Grids is still a new field “and it is difficult for narrow specialised electrical, IT, control or computer engineer to work in it because it requires interdisciplinary knowledge. The specialist in Smart Grids must know power systems, control systems, computers systems and communication systems,” said Tzoneva.

“The new qualification tries to prepare the students in the field of Smart Grids which is very new and difficult. First through the courses and parallel to that they will have research projects,” said Tzoneva.

Postgraduate Electrical Engineering students undergo a rigorous application process to the Centre before being accepted into the programme. Currently, the Centre is supervising 29 postgraduate students, which includes 9 on the doctoral level.

For the M ENG Electrical Engineering in Smart Grids qualification students have to study fulltime for two years, concentrating half of their time on attending classes, and the other half of their time working on a full thesis. This is different from the standard M ENG in Electrical Engineering which is a 100% thesis programme.

Early in next year the CSAEMS will host all members of the DAMOC project, three universities from Europe and South Africa each plus two from Tanzania – to demonstrate the laboratory and discuss the curriculum of the new programme.

Written by Theresa Smith

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