Center for Advanced Power Systems becomes first Navy-accredited university test site

Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS) has become the first university test site accredited by the U.S. Navy to perform high-powered simulations as the center develops next-generation shipboard power technology.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Center for Advanced Power Systems and Florida State University,” said Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander. “CAPS has long led the way in pioneering power systems testing, and to be recognized by the Navy not only shows how valued they are as a research partner, but also the high quality of work they deliver on a daily basis.”

Specifically, the Navy accreditation recognizes a process pioneered at CAPS called “power hardware in the loop” simulation. It is essentially a method that allows researchers to test power equipment in real-life conditions with minimal risk or damage to equipment while retaining a high level of flexibility. For instance, a new power converter could be taken through a power surge or overload scenario to see how it responds in a highly controlled lab environment.

“Having worked at the Naval Sea Systems Command for five years, I can attest to the incredible work that the CAPS Power Systems Group has put into the power hardware in the loop simulation validation,” said CAPS Director Roger McGinnis. “It is an extremely important and challenging decision for a government organization to make when they certify a simulation tool for modeling and prototype testing.”

It’s also much cheaper to use this simulation than running a test on the actual power equipment.

The power hardware in the loop process has been replicated in the United States at both Clemson University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, as well as at several sites internationally.

“From the beginning, our mission was to create something unique to combine theoretical and real-life simulations,” said Ferenc Bogdan, senior engineer and research associate at CAPS. “To establish a research center where theoretical and practical real-life works are intertwined at the megawatt level is unique.”

The Navy’s Electric Ships Office, after collaborating with CAPS for several years, worked closely with James Langston, senior researcher for CAPS, to develop the accreditation process. Langston worked with teams at CAPS and at a Navy-operated electrical test site in Philadelphia to test a representative piece of equipment.

“This process was intended to assess and validate the capabilities of a power hardware in the loop simulation to emulate the salient characteristics of a shipboard power system through comparison with results obtained from an established land-based test site,” Langston said.

Founded in 2000, CAPS is a multidisciplinary research center that performs basic and applied research on modeling and simulation of electric power systems, advanced controls, power conversion equipment and high-temperature superconducting devices. It has long partnered with the Office of Naval Research in developing the technology that will ultimately support future all-electric ship architectures.

“This process has really validated our approach, and we’re looking forward to continuing our research partnership with the Navy in the coming years,” said Michael “Mischa” Steurer, research faculty and leader of the Power Systems Research Group at CAPS. “We’re very honored that they would choose to make us the first university-accredited test site.”