Engineering Sustainable Cities

By Amber Aumiller, graduate assistant, Sustainability Office

More and more we are recognizing that everything in our world is interconnected.  Even our cities are increasingly managed as a network of interdependent systems that can be optimized to waste fewer of our world’s valuable resources.  Considering the prediction that places 70% of the world’s population – an estimate of around 6.7 billion people[1] –  in urban areas by 2050, making our cities more efficient and thus environmentally sustainable has never been more crucial.

Dr. Masood Parvania has spent much of his career researching electricity innovation, using mathematical optimization, calculus of variations, and scientific computing to create and enhance smart grid integrations. On Tuesday, September 17 at 4-5 p.m. in ASB 210, join him for a talk on “Sustainability at the Intersection of Power and Water Infrastructure: An Engineering Perspective” as part of the GCSC seminar lecture series where he will be exploring these themes. 

His lecture will examine how cities are moving away from designing and operating water and power infrastructure as separate systems and are acknowledging that electricity is a critical component of water treatment and distribution. Cities are recognizing that the power grid relies on water for things like mining, fuel production, hydropower and power-plant cooling, so it makes sense to begin connecting the infrastructure in order to conserve water and use energy efficiently.  By connecting cyber-technology to the infrastructure we are able to gather and translate data from these integrated systems for real-time adjustments in dispatching just the right amount of whatever resource is needed at any given moment in time. Eventually the algorithms can begin to learn and self-adjust through feedback loops, which is the basis for designing what we now call “smart cities.” 

Creating and testing these cyber-physical models of unified power systems for their hardiness to cyber-attack and physical failures, as well as their overall efficacy, is at the heart of Dr. Parvania’s work.  His current research, funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, and power industry, looks at enhancing sustainability and cyber-physical resilience of power, water and electrified transportation infrastructure. The idea ultimately is that a more efficiently running city is a more sustainable city, and mathematical algorithms and cyber-technology can help get us there.

Assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, Dr. Parvania is also director of the Utah Smart Energy Lab (U-Smart) here at the University of Utah.  He received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Sharif University of Technology in Tehran and was a postdoctoral scholar at both the University of California Davis and Arizona State University. He serves as Associate Editor for the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers’ (IEEE) Transactions on Smart Grid, the IEEE Power Engineering Letters, the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s Renewable Power Generation, and is the Chair of the IEEE Utah Power and Energy Society Chapter. In 2018, he received the Engineering Educator of the Year Award from the Utah Engineers Council, and in 2019 the Faculty Recognition Award from the University of Utah.

If you are interested in learning how we can enhance our cities’ sustainability through interconnected power, water and electrified transportation systems, join us for Dr. Parvania’s talk “Sustainability at the Intersection of Power and Water Infrastructure: An Engineering Perspective” on Tuesday, September 17 at 4 p.m. in ASB 210.  As usual, there will be coffee and treats, so bring your own mug and enjoy!

[1] National Geographic, April 2019


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