To keep pace with the rapidly evolving technology of electric power systems, the University of Pittsburgh Energy GRID Institute and Duquesne Light Co. (DLC) are partnering to create a collaborative platform that will advance and implement innovative solutions in support of a more secure, resilient, and clean energy grid.
The current electricity delivery network has been primarily designed to flow in one direction, from bulk generation to distribution through several substations at varying voltage levels. As electric power systems evolve to include distributed energy resources, the mass-market adoption of electric vehicles, and broader customer engagement in generation utilization, new challenges continue to emerge – both technically and with workforce development.
This partnership will spur increased innovation, research, and create economic and workforce development opportunities for students, faculty, and engineers to build a smart, connected city.
“Before the 1990s, power engineers were either power system professionals or power conversion professionals, but now, both areas need to have an understanding of one another’s capacities for good engineering design,” said Energy GRID Institute Associate Director Brandon Grainger, who is also Eaton Faculty Fellow, assistant professor and associate director of the Electric Power Program at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “The evolution within the grid calls for students to be trained and equipped for the future of power engineering.”
A main component of the partnership is to develop electrical engineering students beyond the traditional bachelor’s degree. Three students, working in conjunction with ECE faculty, will be given the distinction of being named a Duquesne Light Company Electric Power Innovation Fellow.
In addition to workforce development, the partnership provides DLC with access to the University’s culture of innovation through collaboration with faculty and access to Pitt’s manufacturing network for future government proposals. They will also gain a physical footprint in the Energy Innovation Center and access to the medium voltage GRID laboratory space designed specifically for the power engineering community to test, evaluate and train personnel on power systems.
“When Pitt partners with industry leaders, it helps accelerate the advancement of research from a great idea to a commercial product that can impact the world. This five-year partnership with DLC is a great example of that,” said Joe Havrilla, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship at Pitt. “Working with DLC’s innovation team and sharing the resources in the Electric Power Technology Lab at the Energy Innovation Center will facilitate projects that will benefit students, the University, DLC and the surrounding community.”
Swanson School faculty members Brandon Grainger, Robert Kerestes, and Mai Abdelhakim will be among the first to participate in this new partnership. The collaboration will merge their work—in areas like solid state transformers, vehicle-to-grid interaction, and electric vehicle impacts on distribution grids—with DLC engineers’ ability to bring new technology to the market.
“This partnership is a step toward solidifying a long-term relationship with Pitt,” said Elizabeth Cook, general manager of advanced grid solutions at DLC. “DLC must innovate and embrace the recent surge of data availability, analytics, and insights that enables exploration of the new bulk clean generation sources and cutting-edge grid technologies. The partnership will enhance our experience and technical knowledge for the grid of tomorrow while also empowering the next generation of power system engineers.”