Win-win when engineering students investigate energy systems

2021-06-29

Engineering students are carrying out real projects for companies and learning about different types of energy systems. Clients receive quality-assured calculations and ideas that provide food for thought. The Independent Project in Sociotechnical Systems Engineering – Energy Systems course generates positive results for everyone involved.

Joakim Widèn, Professor in Civil Engineering
and course director. Photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

The course is offered by the Division of Civil Engineering and Built Environment within the Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering, and is a much-appreciated feature of the third year of the Master’s Programme in Sociotechnical Systems Engineering. 

“We have run this course for around 10 years and the students have always been very satisfied. They usually appreciate the opportunity to work independently on a relevant project, not to mention the chance to cultivate new contacts outside of the University,” says Joakim Widén, course coordinator.

During the course, participants study part of an energy system and then carry out an analysis using an engineering method such as measurements, calculations and simulations. In order to ensure that the projects are both relevant and real, the clients are almost always external organisations and companies.

One recurring partner is STUNS Energi and their Energy Stories initiative, which functions as a link between industry and the university. STUNS formulates project proposals and helps the students to establish contacts with local companies and organisations in Uppsala.

Photo of the three project students.
From the left Vilma Grehn, Lovisa Stenhammar  andFredrik
Munters. Photo: Jacob Bengtsson

Vilma Grehn, Fredrik Munters and Lovisa Stenhammar are three of this year’s course participants. The STUNS Energy Stories initiative tasked them with identifying the best possible way to make use of hydrogen gas in the Uppsala region.

“The investigation needed to take into account both factors relating to engineering and benefits to society. Furthermore, we needed to find out how the waste products formed during the production of hydrogen could potentially be used. We thought this sounded really exciting,” says Vilma Grehn.
 

The proposal: a hydrogen refuelling station in Uppsala

Illustration of a hydrogen station.The students concluded that the best option would be to construct a hydrogen refuelling station in Uppsala. Waste heat from the hydrogen production could be utilised in the district heating network. The electrical energy required to produce the hydrogen gas would come from the Vasakronan solar farm at Kungsängen. Utilising waste heat and making use of solar energy would enhance both the economic and environmental performance of the hydrogen refuelling stations.

“In order to make it work economically, there would be a need for regular customers. For example, this might include a number of the region’s buses, as well as other vehicles that run on hydrogen. Hydrogen gas technology is currently in the starting blocks and it would be great if Uppsala were able to position itself at the forefront,” says Lovisa Stenhammar.

Vilma, Lovisa and Fredrik all agree that the course has been very rewarding. Being able to plan and execute a larger, independent project has been very educational and a lot of fun. They also appreciate the confidence shown in them and the encouragement provided by their contacts. 

“One result of the pandemic has been that we have spoken to contacts across Sweden in video meetings. Otherwise we would probably have confined ourselves mostly to Uppsala, which wouldn’t have given us as much information or inspiration. The project has left me really psyched to get out there into working life,” says Fredrik Munters.
 

“We will use the results within our organisation”

But what does the client get out of the students’ projects? We put that question to Marcus Nystrand, Energy Systems Engineer at Region Uppsala, and one of Vilma’s, Lovisa’s and Fredrik’s contacts.

“As a professional, and perhaps particularly as a public sector employee, I think we have a duty to usher the new generation into the labour market. What’s more, a partnership like this is really great fun! I get to bring my own expertise to the table while sometimes being asked tricky questions. Some proposals might seem crazy at first, but upon further reflection they often turn out to be sound. Sometimes it’s we who get trapped in silly structures, and it can be a good thing to gain that insight.”
 

What do you think about the execution of the project?

“I’m very satisfied. We received figures and calculations that had been worked through in full and were quality-assured, and we also received intelligent conclusions and ideas that provided us with food for thought. We will use the results within our organisation,” says Marcus Nystrand.
 


A few other examples of projects completed over the years:

  • Electricity production forecasting for solar cell systems, SunLabs
  • Life cycle assessment for food in public procurement, IVL
  • EV smart charging with solar power, Vattenfall
  • UPS systems for frequency control in the Swedish transmission system, Svenska kraftnät
  • System solution for a climate-smart residential area, Atkins
  • Tools for sustainable urban planning, Uppsala municipality and Atkins Sweden
  • Positioning of charging points in Uppsala, Solelia Greentech
  • Energy saving through minimising water use, Uppsalahem
  • Direct current system for more efficient utilisation of solar power, WSP Environmental
  • Power demand model for a new residential area in Knivsta, Knivsta municipality

Syllabus for Independent Project in Sociotechnical Systems Engineering – Energy Systems, 15 credits

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Last modified: 2021-10-12