John Diaz de Leon: Changing the World

Dec. 18, 2008
As the world heads toward the acceptance of renewable energy, John Diaz de Leon spends his time helping developers of wind farms and solar systems meet utility grid connections.

As the world heads toward the acceptance of renewable energy, John Diaz de Leon spends his time helping developers of wind farms and solar systems meet utility grid connections. Diaz de Leon is consulting transmission and distribution planning engineer at American Superconductor Power Systems. AMSC’s SVC and D-VAR STATCOM products can enable wind farms to safely connect to the grid and meet grid codes.

“The FACTS devices we manufacture and sell to meet utility grid connections are being placed in-service all over the world to support this new renewable power,” Diaz de Leon said. “It is fun knowing that your job is helping change the world and make it a better place to live.”

In the 30 years that Diaz de Leon has worked in this industry, he has seen dramatic change. He has seen times when load growth was 7% per year to none at all in hard economic times. He has seen the interest in nuclear power come full circle. Now, he said, we are in the renewable era.

“It actually may be the most challenging time because wind and solar generation are certainly not as dispatchable as conventional generation,” he said. “This creates problems, and problems are nice to have because that is what engineers and planners love to solve.”

Diaz de Leon is helping other engineers learn to solve these problems. He recently taught two courses at T&D World University in Dallas (Superconductor Cables, High Temperature Overhead Conductors, and the VAR Requirements to Make It All Happen; Wind Interconnection VAR Requirements and Mitigation Techniques).

He has also taught at all of the AMSC voltage stability seminars. His topics have been voltage stability, load modeling, and wind farm modeling. He has also made similar topical presentations at local chapter IEEE meetings in Madison and Milwaukee and over the internet for RMEL and AMSC.

Diaz de Leon will be co-presenting a three-day workshop in March on voltage stability and connecting renewable resources to the grid in Phoenix, Arizona.

“We have some excellent instructors from the WECC area planned for the workshop, and we will be discussing some exciting topics,” he said. “Exciting? Now remember, we are all engineers.”

Most of the courses that Diaz de Leon teaches are geared to utility transmission and distribution planners. He brings his 20 years of experience as a T&D planner at Alliant Energy/Wisconsin Power & Light to the classroom. He joined AMSC in 1999.

“I have a good understanding of what a planner knows and learns doing their normal day-to-day work. Much of the work we do at AMSC involves solving problems that utility planners often encounter,” he said.

For AMSC, he also performs planning studies to analyze transmission and distribution systems for voltage, capacity, stability, transfer capability, harmonic and power quality problems. He conducts studies to analyze wind farm interconnection requirements that include LVRT and HVRT capabilities, harmonic and power quality problems, voltage regulation, and power factor control.

He said he had really wanted to be a chemical engineer in college, but when he transferred to the University of Wisconsin, they put him in electrical engineering because he hadn’t declared the type of engineering yet. An upperclassman in his dormitory convinced him that he did not want to go into chemical engineering after all, and he started down the electrical path. He chose the electrical engineering emphasis that was the “largest and most mechanical,” which was power engineering opposed to dealing with antennas, computers, lasers, etc. He still enjoys using his degree in his career.

Diaz de Leon challenges students to think outside the box. “The world certainly seems to be headed in a new direction with all the potential renewable generation, new nuclear units, and possible reduction in coal units. To get all of this new power/energy from where it will be generated to the load will certainly require billions of dollars in new transmission facilities,” he said.

“Planners should try the new high-temperature low sag conductors that are available, FACTS devices to support system voltages and improve/control transmission line loadings, HTS cables in the crowed urban corridors, etc. These items along with the standard lines and transformers will certainly be needed to keep the lights on and the motors turning.”

His career certainly translates to what he does in his spare time. He said he likes to read about new technologies, world events and astronomy. “I keep adding pages to the novel I’m writing in my mind. One of these days, I need to begin writing it out.”

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