BCoE partners with Entergy to develop new software

September 19, 2014

STARKVILLE, Miss. – A team of Bagley College engineers helped develop computer software that saves time, money and energy for a national utility company.

As part of its university research program, Entergy Corp. joined a team of Mississippi State students and researchers to develop the Relay Settings Automation (RSA) program. With this software, a process that takes four to six hours to complete manually can be performed electronically in less than a minute.

Before the creation of RSA, engineers would run hundreds of short circuit simulations and manually record the results, an error-prone process. Then, they would choose the best settings to solve the problems when they occurred.

By automating the process, RSA ensures the same relay-setting process is followed every time. The automated process also prevents human error, which leads to a more reliable electric grid, prevents power outages, and potentially saves Entergy millions of dollars. RSA also allows Entergy to document how the settings were chosen and which ones were used to provide accurate data for regulatory audits.

The team has worked on RSA for two years, progressing from idea and proof-of-concept to production and software release. Tommy Morris, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, served as principle investigator of the project.

“The students are directly interfacing with engineers at Entergy, so they’re getting real engineering experience right here at MSU,” Morris said. “On top of that, they experience real deliverables that take longer than a semester to complete.”

The software was released this summer and Entergy is using it to set relays to detect short circuits and protect electrical lines throughout its electric grid. Morris said the team will continue to add more features to cover every type of relay Entergy uses.

“Right now, we don’t support every use situation and relay they want, so we’ll continue to work on adding those,” Morris said. “As RSA grows, the relay process will become more efficient and more repeatable, leading to a more reliable electric grid.”

With funding provided by the Strengthening Mississippi Academic Research Through Business Act, Entergy is reimbursed for 25 percent of the research costs for RSA. With this funding and support from Entergy engineers, Morris said he looks forward to continuing this partnership for years to come.

“A lot of our students go work for Entergy. Now MSU students are designing new technologies for Entergy even before joining as employees,” Morris said. “We hope to continue this relationship for a long time.”

Founded in 1913 as the Arkansas Power Company, Entergy is one of the nation’s leading nuclear generators. Today, the utility company, which is headquartered in New Orleans, owns and operates power plants in four states, delivering electricity to 2.8 million customers.

RSA team members from Mississippi State include (by hometown):

GULFPORT – Travis Green, a senior in computer engineering

RALEIGH, N.C. – Srilalita Neti, a 2013 graduate student of electrical and computer engineering

SLIDELL, La. – Electrical and computer engineering graduate student, Jeff Hsu

STARKVILLE – Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems research associates Angie Card and Greg Henley; Quinton Grice, a graduate student in electrical and computer engineering; Joseph Johnson, a senior in electrical engineering; computer engineering senior Stefan Lewis; Mike Mazzola, professor and endowed chair of electrical and computer engineering; Tommy Morris, associate professor or electrical and computer engineering and associate director of the Distributed Analytics and Security Institute

For more information about Entergy, visit www.entergy.com.

Additional information about the Bagley College of Engineering can be found at www.bagley.msstate.edu.

By: Erin Boozer