$2.5 M Grant: Future Engineers Trained in Clean Energy, Smart Grid

PULLMAN – Working with the University of Washington and northwest power industry organizations, a group of WSU researchers received $2.5 million from the Department of Energy to develop a program to train engineers in clean energy and the smart electric power grid.

The program is one of 54 around the U.S. that is set to receive Recovery Act funds for smart grid workforce training projects. The three-year project will develop a set of courses in clean energy and smart grid engineering.

“WSU’s power engineering program has been a leader in developing a safer, more reliable electric power grid,’’ said Candis Claiborn, dean of the WSU College of Engineering and Architecture. “Now, this grant will help WSU to better prepare our students to address the grand challenge of safe, reliable and clean energy in the 21st century workplace.’’

The power industry is facing the challenge of an aging workforce, with one-third of its workforce eligible for retirement in the next 10 years. Furthermore, the number of programs educating power engineers has decreased. Many of the existing programs do not have the resources to incorporate rapid advances in technologies, both in clean energy and in the smart electric power grid, into their curriculum, said Anjan Bose, Regents professor in the school of electrical engineering and computer science.

While the WSU/UW project will strengthen existing degree programs in power engineering, it also allows for the development of an undergraduate certificate, graduate level certificates and a professional master’s degree in the area of clean energy and smart grid engineering.  Those who are working in the power industry currently will be able to take the courses online, so that technicians, for instance, will be able to receive an undergraduate certificate or those who have an engineering degree will be able to receive graduate training that will allow them to become involved in research and development.

“The project team proposed here is perfectly positioned to train and educate the engineering workforce needed to operate, maintain, deploy, design and innovate in the areas of clean energy and smart grid,’’  Bose said. “We recognize that it is not enough to train the engineering workforce needed to deploy new clean energy sources and operate the smart grid, but we also need to cultivate the engineering talent that will invent and design the next generation green technologies and information technologies for the power sector.’’

WSU and the University of Washington are the largest engineering colleges in the northwest. Both have a long history of cooperation with the power industry in the region. WSU received a gift in 2008 from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) for the development of a renewable energy course. Both universities are also part of a Department of Energy regional smart grid demonstration project throughout the northwest that is designed to expand upon existing electric infrastructure and test new smart grid technology.


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