EPRI to Lead Solar Training and Education Collaborative

May 17, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will lead a three-year collaboration to update, develop, and implement college-level curricula that focuses on power systems engineering with distributed energy resources and new grid modernization technologies. The purpose of this initiative is to prepare the next generation of electric power engineers to integrate renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, and micro-grids into the electric grid. Once the curricula are developed, they will be added to college engineering course offerings.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative announced a $1 million cooperative research award to support the collaborative. EPRI, Arizona State University, Portland State University, and the University of California, Riverside will raise at least another $250,000 to support the initiative. EPRI will also seek the participation of utilities, other electric industry companies, and other universities to facilitate use of the curricula.

The funding was awarded under the Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program, which awards funding to further develop skills of the utility workforce and inspire future power systems engineers.

"As more solar and distributed generation and 'smart' enabling technologies like smart inverters come online, it's critical for students to learn about these new technologies and the most optimal, state-of-the-art ways to integrate them into the power system," said Tom Reddoch, EPRI senior technical executive.

As a member of the U.S. Department of Energy's Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment or GEARED program, EPRI will combine its knowledge from utility research and development with the power engineering expertise of the universities to expand the curricula and geographic reach of the existing Center for Grid Engineering Education (GridEd) project.

The goals of the team are to: Identify areas in which to consolidate and improve existing educational curricula and associated materials. Develop new and revised courses related to distributed energy resource generation and integration for undergraduate and graduate students. Develop short courses, workshops, and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and existing industry professionals seeking to advance their career and maintain professional development credits. Stimulate student interest in electric power engineering through more connection with student organizations in the power and energy fields, by establishing new activities at universities in support of power engineering. And facilitate student internships, rotations and fellowships at utilities, and promote regular employment opportunities.

This project is similar to another EPRI GridEd project, which is focused on the East Coast and includes Clarkson University, University of North Carolina-Charlotte, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.