student smiling near bus
Electrical engineering graduate student Kaitlyn Sitch is researching microgrids and their impact on energy consumption.
Photo: Charlie Dawes

After leaving Wilkes University with a degree in electrical engineering, Kaitlyn Sitch passed on job offers from Fiat Chrysler and two other companies to pursue graduate studies at Temple Engineering. And though she's still settling on a specific research area—power electronics or power systems lead the list—one thing is certain; her current work is related to transportation. Just not cars.

Working with faculty advisor Dr. Liang Du, Kaitlyn is researching the viability of microgrid support for electric buses.

"Right now, some cities have electric buses that only charge for two to three minutes while waiting for people to get on and off the buses at the bus stop. That creates like a lot of spikes on the grid, which isn't the best," Sitch said.

An "Energy Action Plan" for SEPTA, the region's public transit authority, calls for hybrid-electric buses to comprise 90 percent of the agency's fleet by 2021, making this work all the more important. Sitch leveraged data on bus routes in Philadelphia from SEPTA to do preliminary feasibility research around load impact on the current grid.

"My research focuses on implementing a microgrid to help make that spike more constant over time," Sitch added. 

According to the Department of Energy, microgrids support a "more flexible and efficient electric grid by enabling the integration of growing deployments of distributed energy resources such as renewables like solar energy. In addition, if a primary energy grid were to go down, microgrids can help mitigate grid disturbances as well as function as a grid resource for faster system response and recovery.

Kaitlyn's next stop is presenting her research at the upcoming IEEE Transportation and Electrification Conference and Expo in June.

Contributing to sustainability and renewable energy research is one way Sitch has been adjusting to life in her new home city. Another has been spending time with brother Mark, an undergraduate electrical engineering student at Temple, and their sister Krystle, a College of Liberal Arts alumna who works for the city.

Like any Philadelphian, Kaitlyn gets around on the Broad Street Line quite a bit and the occasional Regional Rail...and she's working on catching that first bus.