Researcher spotlight: Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian 

Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian is Lecturer/Assistant Professor (Ad Astra Fellow) in UCD’s School of Civil Engineering, and work package leader of WP3 of the NexSys Offshore Wind Strand, entitled “Monitoring”. We learn more about his research below.

What is your NexSys research about and what are you working on at the moment?

My research is about employing novel sensing systems and data analytic methods to reduce the cost of operation and maintenance and de-risking the wind energy sector.

What first got you interested in your research area?

The challenging and complex environment that offshore wind turbines are operating in and how we can use fundamental science to overcome these challenges.

What is one interesting fact about your research area people may not know about?

Data collected from cheap sensors installed on wind turbines can tell you many facts about their structural condition. We can detect structural anomalies at their early stage and extend the life-time of offshore wind turbines using these information.

What is the wider relevance of your research to the energy transition?

Considering the number of wind farms reaching their end-of-life, ensuring safe and profitable life extension will have great environmental impact by avoiding the need for new wind turbines. In addition, it is expected that, that up to 5% reduction in the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) can be achieved by extending a turbine’s lifetime by up to 15 years.

NexSys researchers take part in Wind Energy Trade Show 2023

NexSys attended the Wind Energy Trade Show 2023 from October 11 and 12 at the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown, Dublin. 

NexSys funded investigator Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian (pictured above).

NexSys researchers from the offshore wind strand were at the NexSys stand of the trade show (stand A23), and NexSys funded investigator Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian (pictured above), based in UCD, presented findings from the NexSys offshore wind strand on the Research and Innovation stage on Wednesday October 11 at 3pm. 

NexSys PhD researchers Behnam Mohseni-Gharyehsafa (right in the image above) and Amirhossein Taran (left).

Dr Vikram Pakrashi, Lead of the Offshore Wind strand of NexSys and also based at UCD, said: “interdisciplinary excellence couldn’t be more timely and relevant than offshore wind for Ireland, and for the world. This is a rapidly evolving sector and fundamental to Ireland’s aspirations around clean, consistent and competitive energy supply. There is a tangible need for academic excellence to go hand in hand with industrial relevance. In the NexSys Offshore Wind strand, we tackle some of the key challenges in an Interdisciplinary manner and in close collaboration with industrial partners, leading to safer lifetime performance, improved operations & maintenance and cutting-edge innovations by assimilating fundamental physics, advanced experimentation, sensor networks, high-end computing and data analytics/AI.”

PhD researcher Mohadeseh (Mahdis) Ashkarkalaei at the NexSys stand 

NexSys industry partners RWE and ESB were exhibitors at the event. 

Speaking of the collaboration between RWE and NexSys, Peter Leffroy, Director, RWE, said: “collaboration is going to be at the heart of the energy system being able to achieve the ambitious and challenging decarbonisation targets that have been set. The NexSys programme is a superb example of what such collaboration should look like. RWE is delighted to become a partner in this programme and we are looking forward to engaging in mapping out the evolution of the energy system into the next generation.” 

Marguerite Sayers, Deputy CEO, ESB, said: “ESB is a founding member of the original partnership with UCD and industry and we are very pleased to continue that partnership through NexSys. Over that time we have gained huge insights from our involvement with UCD Energy Institute on the many challenges of moving to a decarbonised energy system. We expect the NexSys programme to provide further learnings and opportunities for engagement with all of the stakeholders involved. Decarbonising our energy system is central to ESB Net-Zero by 2040 Strategy and we recognise the value of collaboration between industry and academia in meeting this challenge.”

NexSys funded investigator Dr Abdollah Malekjafarian (left) and PhD student Behnam Mohseni-Gharyehsafa (right).

About the Trade Show 

Wind Energy Ireland said the event would “bring together Ireland’s growing domestic supply chain, the key players in the global wind energy industry and cutting edge research from Ireland and internationally for the country’s first Wind Energy Trade Show. Already a leader in onshore wind energy, Ireland has the project pipeline and the determination to become a force in offshore renewables as well. The 2023 Trade Show will showcase the exciting potential for new entrants into the Irish market and introduce to the world Irish companies that are not just competing here but are ready to compete internationally.”

“This event will be a meeting place where the world’s major players and key industry leaders will chart a vision for Ireland’s energy future alongside a rapidly growing network of local and European suppliers all looking to invest in our energy revolution.”

“The Trade Show will showcase the exciting potential for new entrants into the Irish market and introduce to the world, Irish companies that are not only ready, but willing and able to compete internationally.”

Find our more about Wind Energy Ireland and the trade show here: 

Find out more about NexSys

Next Generation Energy Systems (NexSys) is an all-island multidisciplinary research programme, involving nine different research institutions, alongside industry partners from across the energy sector. The programme’s key aims include tackling the challenges of energy decarbonisation, and developing evidence-based pathways for a just, net-zero energy system.

NexSys is financially supported by Science Foundation Ireland under the SFI Strategic Partnership Programme (Grant Number 21/SPP/3756), industry co-funding partners, and a philanthropic donation by Mr David O’Reilly. NexSys’ nine industry co-funding partners are: EirGrid, ESB Group, Davy, Atlantic Hub, CIE, RWE, EPRI, Gas Networks Ireland and SSE Airtricity. In addition, NexSys has an extensive network of collaborating partners, which will be essential in providing an evidence base for policy and delivery of services.

Researcher spotlight: Alireza Etemad

In this Researcher Spotlight, we chat to NexSys PhD researcher Alireza Etemad, based in UCD’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and find out more about his work on district heating systems.

What is your NexSys research about and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m exploring how modern district heating systems can be more efficient and integrated with urban infrastructures. My current focus? Tapping into the potential of data centers—transforming their waste heat into a sustainable energy source for heating our buildings. My PhD research project is entitled: Integration of Supply, Demand, and Policy for Development of 5th Generation District Heating Systems.

How did you first become interested in research?
During my tenure as a mechanical engineer in large thermal plants in my home country of Iran, I observed significant energy wastage in industrial setups. Also, as a tech enthusiast, I always followed the AI development news, and I always had this curiosity of using AI in energy systems operation and optimization. These ignited a passion to research and develop more efficient energy systems, leading me to the academic world.

What is one interesting fact about your research area people may not know about?
Many urban establishments, like data centers and supermarkets, are potential goldmines of sustainable energy. With the right systems, we can harness this energy to heat our cities.

What is the wider relevance of your research to the energy transition?
Smart district heating systems are not just a technological upgrade—they’re a pathway to a sustainable future. By optimizing energy use and reducing waste, these systems support global climate goals and sustainable urban development.

What is something people may find surprising about you?
I’m deeply fascinated by history. Exploring ancient civilizations and their innovations gives me a fresh perspective on today’s challenges. For me, understanding the past is a way to navigate the present and shape a better future.

Learn more

To learn more about Alireza’s research, you can download a copy of his recent presentation at the EirGrid research forum which took place in Dublin in August 2023:

Blog post: Sun, science and science policy

Monika da Silva Pedroso (NexSys Postdoctoral researcher) and Orla Dingley (NexSys PhD student) attended the European Network for Social Policy Analysis (EspaNet) conference in Warsaw, Poland, from 7 to 9 September. While there, they presented a work-in-progress project that Monika is leading, which is investigating if energy poverty has an impact on educational and cognitive outcomes. Their research is part of a NexSys Work Package entitled ‘Energy Justice: addressing transport & residential energy deprivation’. A key component of their project is to identify and evaluate eco-social policies which address both the environmental and social challenges associated with energy and a just transition.

Monika and Orla write about their experience below.

Neither of us had been to an EspaNet conference before, so we were excited to learn about the social policy research being carried out across Europe, but we had also never been to Poland before so were determined to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing too.

The conference was held at the University of Warsaw, which was only a 15-minute walk from our hotel. Since the weather was so beautiful, we walked everywhere.

There were a few other researchers and lecturers from the UCD Department of Social Policy presenting at the conference – seeing some familiar faces before presenting our work helped to ease our nerves.

The work we were presenting is an investigation into the implications of energy poverty on educational achievement. Our presentation led to a lively discussion on the conceptual differences between poverty-in-general and energy poverty. It was fascinating to meet researchers from other countries who were studying similar topics to ourselves but were looking at it from a different perspective.

Chopin and Copernicus are both from Poland, so Warsaw is filled with references to both famous figures. We managed to visit the Copernicus Science Centre on Friday evening, before heading to a conference dinner at the Gardens of the Royal Castle. Although  we didn’t get a chance to visit the Chopin Museum, walking around the city we were often treated by the sound of Chopin being played by various street musicians.

We both loved our time in Warsaw, learning about the city and important aspects of Polish culture, as well as hearing many interesting and helpful comments on our research from fellow social policy researchers.

It was also great to have been able to experience it with a fellow member of the NexSys team!