Meet Mathieu: PhD candidate in Earth Sciences and Mechanical Engineering

Mathieu Pichault is a PhD student passionate about sustainability and climate change whose research looks at integrating wind farms into the grid.  Mathieu says what is exciting about working in the renewable energy space is that you really have the chance to have an impact.

What is your research about?

One of the main challenges preventing greater integration of wind energy into the power grids is the occurrence of large changes in wind power generation over a short amount of time, also called 'ramp events'. These large power fluctuations are often associated with sudden changes in wind speed and wind direction which can risk causing power blackouts. Accurate and timely short-term forecasts are crucial to predict these ramps and to balance the power on the grid.

My research aims at characterising, detecting and forecasting these wind power ramps to help integrate wind farms onto the power grid. We need to understand the engineering and meteorological processes that cause wind power ramps so we can learn to predict them.

I’ve also been able to research the development of a short-term wind power forecasting model based on LiDAR technology. This kind of technology involves remote sensing instruments measuring wind conditions ahead of the wind farm, with high spatial resolution. Accurate short-term forecasting would support market operators and wind farm owners in maintaining a reliable power grid and reduce costs.

Working with Meridian Energy Australia, we know that if we find any way to improve the short-term forecasting algorithm or any scientific advancements, that those changes will be implemented straight away.

Overall, my research is part of a broader initiative aiming at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions by making wind energy a more controllable resource.

Mathieu’s journey to the University of Melbourne

I have always been passionate about sustainability and climate change issues so I studied environmental engineering at Liege University in Belgium. This allowed me to be a part of an exchange program at Lund University in Sweden where I focused on atmospheric science and greenhouse gases.

Coming to Melbourne, I worked as an environmental engineer but wanted to focus more on renewable energy. A PhD at the University of Melbourne felt like my chance to make pursue a career geared towards building a more sustainable future.

I have the chance to work with very knowledgeable and expert supervisors at the university that really support me and give me good feedback.”

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