PGR Profile – Raul De La Fuente

Name: Raul De La Fuente Pinto

Discipline: Renewable energy/electrical Engineering

Location: Falmouth

What is the working title for your research project?

Development of a reliable active network management system

Can you describe your research project in more detail?

I am researching the main technical issues of integrating renewable energies in rural areas, especially in South Africa, where the main power grid is unreliable; thus, the communities are frequently experiencing power cuts and blackouts. The project is in partnership with South African companies and the council of a small village called Doornkop, 100 miles northeast of Johannesburg, and the aim is to develop an actual microgrid. The village will be fed by the main grid when available and by a PV solar plant and batteries otherwise.

The main task of the research is to find a novel solution to tackle the challenges that power electronics devices face, such as voltage sags, inrush currents, the transition between grid-connected and standalone working modes. The solution will protect the electronic components of the device and provide electricity without interruptions.

I research the current solutions available in the literature to inspire myself and develop a holistic solution applied to an industrial inverter to achieve the goal.  I carry out the research using analytic and numerical methods through simulations models in MATLAB/SIMULINK. In subsequent years, I will test the solutions in an experimental prototype to finally go to the village in South Africa to make the actual micro-grid.

… and can you explain it in a single sentence?

Develop a universal inverter controller to seamlessly supply a South African village with electricity, preferably from renewable energy sources under any possible perturbance.

What is a typical day like?

I start my day generally at 7 in the morning, I meditate and go for a  run. After that, every other day, I practice yoga. After the exercise, I take a shower and I have breakfast.

Then I start my computer and start planning the day. I used to attend the SUAW group two times a day because I found it very helpful to make progress in my daily tasks. I have a break for lunch, and sometimes I like having a “siesta”. Then I continue working until I get tired. I usually spend the evening doing gardening or DIY projects, for example, converting an old bike into an e-bike, doing projects with the Raspberry Pi, building a greenhouse,etc.

We make dinner about 1900h and watch Netflix. When I am in bed, I like reading any book to feel sleepy.

What would you say is your proudest moment during your research journey so far?

When I did the mid-year presentation because I had the opportunity to explain the research and plans. I was pleased with the presentation and the feedback was excellent.

What do you like to do when you are not researching?

I like to try new things to do and discover new places to go. Maybe that’s why I do many different things when I am not researching. For example, I do taekwondo twice a week because, like all martial arts, you do physical exercise, but at the same time, you have to keep your mind alert to remember the attack defence patterns.

Depending on whether the activity is different, I like going to the beach or going for a stroll to the woods on sunny days, but I prefer to stay at home playing some board games or watching a film or reading a book with a cup of tea on the rainy days.

If you could start again, what would be your advice to yourself as a new postgraduate researcher?

Well, it is only 11 months since I started, and at the moment, I wouldn’t do anything differently. My advice for a new postgraduate researcher would be to trust 100% in your supervisor and always be honest with them. They are not there to judge you but to give the best guidance for your success. I would recommend at the beginning to try to have as many meetings with them as you can to keep committed to your research.

And finally- can you explain your research project in 5 emojis?

 South Africa – it is the country where the project is going to be implemented

Handshake – It is an international cooperation project between different parties

Battery – is a part of an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) important component within a microgrid

☀️Sun – The photovoltaic panels extract the solar irradiance to generate electricity

Electric plug – At the end of the project, the dwellings of Doornkop will have electric power 24/7 to improve their quality of life.