Libmonster ID: KZ-1531
Author(s) of the publication: Nikolai VOROPAI

by Nikolai VOROPAI, RAS Corresponding Member, Director of the Melentyev Institute of Power Engineering Systems, RAS Siberian Branch, Irkutsk, Russia

The date is August 19, 1960. On that day the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR passed a decision on a Siberian Power Institute to be set up in the city of Irkutsk, Eastern Siberia. In 1997 it changed its name, and since then it has been known as the Melentyev Institute of Power Engineering Systems working under the auspices of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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There were objective conditions for the setting up of our research institution half a century ago. By the mid-1950s an essentially new situation had obtained in the economy of the USSR and in other industrialized countries. Large territorial systems of electric power, gas, oil and heat supply were taking body and form. In time they merged into a single fuel-and-power complex, the backbone of the national economy. It was high time for fundamental interdisciplinary studies to cope with the inevitable systemic problems.

Meanwhile the first electronic computers entered the stage, and computing mathematics was developing apace. All that opened up broad opportunities for addressing multiple tasks related to power supply systems with their nonlinear multifactorial and dynamic characteristics.

There were also other objective causes why the new research center was established in Irkutsk particularly. From the mid-1950s on a major part of this country's power industry was being relocated to eastern regions. The oil and gas mining industries of Western Siberia were making rapid progress, and so were the power-generating stations of Eastern Siberia, including those within the Kansk-Achinsk fuel-and-power complex, and large hydraulic power stations along the Angara and Yenisei.

Lev Alexandrovich Melentyev (1908-1986), the founder and the first director of our research institute, outlined three basic principles for its work. First, the systemics principle, when every phenomenon should be viewed as a sum total of interacting component parts. The second principle is predicated on a compre-hensive approach conceptualized back in the 1920s and 1930s by Acad. Krzhizhanovsky and his school that reared Acad. Melentyev, too. And the third principle provides for the need of approaching power engineering as a totality of continuously developing systems in the process of their ongoing complexification.

Acad. Melentyev, a brilliant scientist and organizer, enlisted the best college graduates of Moscow, Leningrad, Novosibirsk and Irkutsk, the core of his research collective. The first stretch of its activity in the 1960s dealt with mathematical modeling methods as the main tool of research. Young scientists (their age averaged 26 to 28 years) were all set to revolutionize the power industry, its planning, designing and operation through the active use of new approaches. However, as the experience of subsequent decades showed, those hopes happened to be all too bold and could not materialize in full. But thanks to its high results our institute soon became one of the leaders among this country's research bodies tackling all-out problems of power engineering, as it became obvious at the first All-Union conferences held in Irkutsk in 1963 and 1966.

Apart from mathematical modelling, Acad. Melentyev kept a close eye on innovative methods in physical research. As early as the 1960s his institute designed and built a high-temperature setup for studying nonstationary processes in steam lines of steam generators and nuclear reactors at electric power stations. This pioneering technique was adopted both in the USSR (Russia) and worldwide; upgraded, it is still in active use. Another experimental setup—the electro-dynamic model subsequently converted to a digital analog complex used for studying emergency events in

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power systems—helped solve a number of important tasks, in particular, related to the adjustment of automatic regulators of synchronous generators excitation (1960s and 1970s). Towards the 1990s, however, the demand for this setup fell, and it was dismantled. Another task came up at the end of the 1990s—it became necessary to develop an experimental setup for solid fuel gasification; it has produced tangible results in these last few years. But electronic computers are still in the focus of the institute's activities.

Back in the 1970s we had to rethink the possibilities of mathematical modeling, namely in controlling power systems and their modification. At that time Melentyev published a book on this subject, Systemic Studies in Power Engineering: Elements of the Theory, Development Trends (M., Nauka, 1979), in which he validated this area as an independent research discipline. The author's fundamental theoretical principles defined priorities of basic and applied research for many years ahead.

Acad. Melentyev's successor as head of our research center was Yuri Rudenko (1931-1994), a corresponding member and then full member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. The comprehensive approach, much in the focus throughout the 1980s, extended to state programs and strategies for the development of this country's power industry. New research lines were conceptualized, such as the theory of reliability and viability of power systems, the territorial pattern of power industry enterprises, world power industry development trends...

In those days our institute published a monograph in three volumes that summed up its work record; it won a prize of the RAS Siberian Branch in a competition. In 1986 our four researchers were awarded a State Prize of the USSR in science and engineering. Between the years 1960 and 1990 our scientists merited another top award—a Krzhizhanovsky Prize of the USSR Academy of Sciences—for good results in power industry problem solving.

The dramatic change of the economic and sociopolitical situation of this country in the early 1990s—in the power industry, too—could not but impact our research work which had to be streamlined. But it was not a painful readjustment process for our collective, for the theoretical fundamentals of systemic studies formulated by Acad. Melentyev still held. However, the power industry's structure became different, and so new avenues had to be explored to keep in well on track. Our collective was ready to embrace change. As early as 1993 its members headed by Anatoly Merenkov (1936-1997), RAS Corresponding Member, joined in the work on this country's new power strategy, the first project of this kind in Russia's recent history.

Big changes were taking place in the activities of our institute as of the mid-1990s and in the 2000s. The globalization trend was instrumental in tightening Russia's ties with other countries. New problems cropped up, namely those bearing on the place and role of the power industry in the interstate and global infrastructure. Accordingly, cooperation with other countries had to be stepped up. In 1998 the first international conference "Energy Cooperation in Asia" took place (now a regular biannual event). In 2002 by decision of the Presidium of the RAS Siberian Branch

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an international research center ("Asia-Energy") was set up at our institute to coordinate international projects. Our scientists are working in such organizations as, for example, the Tokyo-based Asia Pacific Energy Research Center.

Since 2008 we have been the Russian coordinator of a major international project on upgrading control systems in large power networks—the project launched in compliance with the 7th framework program of cooperation between the European Union and Russia. Since 2001 leading scientists and power engineering experts have been involved in active discussions initiated by our research institute within the framework of the international conference on liberalization and modernization of power supply systems. Getting together, they review the results of the work done. We are also taking an active part in other major international forums by presenting our results, on a par and often above the state-of-the-art world level.

The liberalization of power industry branches has wrought radical changes in their organizational structure and in relationships among suppliers and consumers. Accordingly, the control and management methods had to be overhauled on the basis of the rational combination of market mechanisms and state regulation, all that against the background of further uncertainty of conditions in the performance and, in particular, in the development of power networks. The significance of external ties has increased simultaneously, along with the greater role of economic, political, legal and other factors. All that has midwifed the birth of a new research line, the power engineering safety.

Power supply lines—also extended ones, like this country's unified power grid—are the object of our close attention. These networks are not uniform in structure: on some stretches all their elements are closely interconnected, while on others such links are rather loose, a factor reducing the throughput capacities and increasing the risk of emergencies. Low-power generators (those operating on renewable sources, too) are another concern of ours.*

Not technologies alone are the objects of our research—we are also involved with systems of electricity, fuel, gas and coal supply, along with power complexes all over the place, from regional, interregional and national to international ones. Ultimately we are concerned with the systems of production, transportation and distribution of fuel and energy as an infrastructure providing for the efficiency, reliability and quality of supply. We are addressing applied problems in cooperation with the national Ministry of the Power Industry, industrial companies of the federal and regional levels, and local administrative bodies; we are cooperating with other countries and international research centers.

Involved with prognostication research, our institute has a clear idea about further development prospects for Russia and her constituent regions as an integral part of the global power industry. All the more so as this industry is now at the transition stage in many countries, and its future is characterized by four objective tendencies.

See: P. Bezrukikh, "Prospects of Renewable Energetics", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2003.-Ed.

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First, fossil resources will continue for a long time as the main fuel and power supply base of the economy and population. However, the consumption of petroleum and associated products will be going down, they will be replaced with gas and synthetic liquid or gaseous fuel obtained from coal. As far as natural gas is concerned, it will have the same and even greater role if adequate industrial technologies are developed for extracting and reprocessing gas hydrate deposits found in great abundance in the World Ocean. Biogas*, too, will also have a part to play (here in Russia, obtained from wood waste), on a smaller scale, though.

As to renewable energy sources (wind, solar energy), their large-scale use in this country is still hampered by the high cost of respective technologies and by the overreliance on huge deposits of natural gas. Given state support, these sources will in time carve out a niche in the nation's fuel-and-energy budget.

Nuclear** and hydraulic power engineering will endure even longer than that. Novel technologies are in the offing, too—including those based on thermonuclear fusion***. Hydrogen power engineering will also move ahead, especially if fuel elements are improved-elements capable of transforming fuel into electricity chemically. It is important to bring down the costs involved, too.

Second, boosting the efficiency of the extraction, transportation and consumption of fuel resources. The same is true of electric power and heat generation, transmission, and consumption. All that should involve innovative technologies. If fuel power, we should work to increase the yield of oil-and-gas deposits, and develop new materials for pipeline transportation and distribution networks. Furthermore, we should obtain more efficient techniques of oil refining and output of petroleum products. In electric and fuel power engineering, these will be high-efficiency gas turbine and steam-and-gas plants, ecologically friendly and effective coal technologies operating on supercritical steam parameters. Integrated plants producing several kinds of energy resources like, for example, liquid fuel and electricity through coal reprocessing will be gaining broader ground. Innovative technologies based on flexible alternating current transmission, energy accumulators and other facilities will boost the reliability and controllability of electric power network and systems.

The third tendency lies in the active development of alternative power generation with the use of renewable energy sources, wind-power stations in the first place.**** Good prospects are in store here in Russia for small gas-turbine plants making up miniature high-efficiency thermoelectric stations to replace the old low-efficiency boiler units in urban communities. Given favorable economic conditions, they will account for as much as 15 to 30 percent of the overall potential of electric power stations countrywide. Small hydro-power stations will also be there. More incentives will be available for the fuel sector in tapping small oil and gas deposits and building small-scale oil-processing enterprises.

And last, the fourth tendency. The tempestuous development of information technologies and artificial intelligence expands greatly the possibilities of effective power industry control. "Smart" power generation systems and "smart" heat, gas and petroleum supply lines are conceptualized. These approaches, if realized, will be imparting more and more infrastructural functions to the power industry. Like the telephone and Internet, it will provide quality services to the consumer—reliable and where needed.

Our institute has an active and workable collective, with young research scientists making up a third of its numbers. As like-minded, highly motivated individuals, we are able to come on top of any problem, no matter how difficult.

See: A. Sinitsyn, "Versatile Enzymes", Science in Russia, No. 4, 2007. —Ed.

** See: A. Gagarinsky, V. Tsibulsky, "Nuclear Power Engineering: Big Expectations", Science in Russia, No. 5, 2008.—Ed.

*** See: V. Glukhikh, A. Mineev et al., "On the Brink of Thermonuclear Era", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2003.-Ed.

****See: Ya. Ulanovsky, Yu. Kashfraziyev, "Wind Will Provide Energy", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2007.-Ed.


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