The Sustainable Systems Design Lab (SSDL), directed by Dr. Curran Crawford, is part of the Institute for Integrated Energy Systems (IESVic) and the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC, Canada.
The fundamental motivation for the activities of the SSDL derive from a desire to enable a societal transition to a sustainable future. A sustainable society in this context may be defined as one that “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, as classically phrased in the UN Brundtland Report of 1987. Multiple issues, from climate change to resource extraction, suggest that the status-quo is by definition not sustainable.
The SSDL applies advanced modelling tools to simulate energy systems, from coupled aerodynamic-structural wind turbine models, to tidal turbines individual devices and arrays, and hybrid vehicle drivetrains to probabilistic models of complete electrical grid systems with interconnected loads and generation. The expertise of the lab revolves around developing models that are relevant in the design-cycle of the systems, including applying efficient multidisciplinary optimization techniques and quantifying performance of the systems in a probabilistic sense to account for the stochastic behaviour of renewable energy systems and model uncertainty. The modelling tools and novel designs are validated with in-house experimental testing programs and external collaborations.
Issues surrounding energy provision and use are of primary interest to the engineers in the SSDL, as they are fundamental to most other areas of human endeavor. These technical activities, however, are formulated with reference to their societal and political context. They must also have the potential for practical application outside of the lab when deployed on a wider scale, if they are to be ultimately successful. This is particularly true for energy-related technologies, and keeps the focus of the SSDL endeavors directed towards investigating viable solutions to the challenges posed in moving towards a sustainable energy system.