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NSF, Energy Dept to Fund Power Grid Research Center

PowerLines at sunset (Brookhaven National Lab)

(Brookhaven National Lab)

National Science Foundation and Department of Energy awarded a grant to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and its partners to establish a new Engineering Research Center for research and education on the nation’s electrical grid infrastructure. The two agencies will invest $18.5 million in the research center over five years.

The facility, known as the Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Network (CURENT), will address the backbone of the electrical infrastructure that powers the country’s businesses and homes. The aging system faces challenges responding to growing electricity demand, renewable electricity sources such as wind and sunlight, and unanticipated events.

CURENT is expected to conduct R&D that leads to a more reliable, secure, and efficient operation of the power grid, and one that can accept more renewable energy sources.  The center will carry out projects such as computer simulations, research on advances in  measurement and communications, and studies of control strategies.

CURENT will be based at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and have three university partners in the U.S.:  Northeastern University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Tuskegee University.  Researchers at international institutions including the National Technical University of Athens in Greece, Tsinghua University in China, and the University of Waterloo in Canada are expected to contribute additional expertise.

The center says it has more than 40 industry partners, from small start-up firms to manufacturers and utility companies, that will help guide planning, encourage innovation, and provide university students with first-hand experience in entrepreneurship.  CURENT also plans to work with three regional organizations — Southwest Research Institute, Technology 2020, and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation — to stimulate technology transfer.

Read more: New Math Tools Developed to Monitor Power Grid

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