Program to advance electric power microgrid engineering curriculum
Katie Carr, CSL
- The MidAmerica Regional Microgrid Education and Training (MARMET) consortium will be developing a microgrid training program for traditional and non-traditional settings that combines cutting-edge research and advanced instructional methods.
- Several ECE faculty members will team up with other universities around the Midwest and industry advisers to update electric power microgrid engineering curricula.
- In addition to the educational focus, the MARMET researchers will also focus research efforts on topics such as operational optimization, modeling and analysis, system architecture development, and ac/dc hybrid distribution.
If Alexander Graham Bell came back today and saw the improvement technology has made on his first telephone, he would be astonished. But according to ECE Professor Peter W Sauer, if Thomas Edison came back, he wouldn’t be all that surprised at what has developed in the power industry.
That’s exactly what Sauer and fellow ECE faculty members Alejandro Dominguez-Garcia, Philip T Krein, George Gross, and Robert Pilawa-Podgurski will be doing with their new $880,000, five-year Department of Energy grant. Sauer, Dominguez-Garcia, and Krein are all affiliated with the Coordinated Science Lab (CSL) at Illinois. They're also work with Jana Sebestik of the Office of Math, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE).
The group, called the MidAmerica Regional Microgrid Education and Training (MARMET) consortium, will be developing a microgrid training program for traditional and non-traditional settings that combines cutting-edge research and advanced instructional methods.
“A significant opportunity exists to transform the electric power industry to be more reliable, more sustainable, and more customer-focused,” said Brian Bunte, chief operating officer of PPI and PPI representative in the MARMET consortium. “However, education of current and future industry stakeholders is essential for this opportunity to be realized. This education will provide leaders with the tools to implement strategies that overcome resistance to change and move the industry toward a Smart Grid future.”
The group will be trying to leverage the current popularity of online classes, webinars, and short courses, as well as working to develop a formal graduate curriculum. The classes could range from hour-long online seminars to semester-long courses for a degree.
PEER establishes much-needed performance criteria to define sustainable electricity and to empower customers, communities, utilities and regulators to dramatically improve the power system performance. The guide will also help industry stakeholders assess, design, operate and improve electricity systems based on issues that matter most to consumers. As a part of the PEER program, PPI offers educational services, including classroom and web-based courses at an associate or professional level. Participating in MARMET will help PPI ensure that the knowledge objectives for their courses are comprehensive and aligned with courses offered at universities and key industry groups like IEEE, as well as offer their professionals and smart grid engineers more educational tools.
In addition to the educational focus, the MARMET researchers will also focus research efforts on topics such as operational optimization, modeling and analysis, system architecture development, and ac/dc hybrid distribution.
Sauer, Dominguez-Garcia, Krein, and Gross will be studying the process of creating microgrids, switching distribution systems back and forth, and how to get the maximum use out of microgrids.
“The idea is that you can use all the generators to help all the people in the most economic and effective way,” Sauer said. “Microgrids are an opportunity to survive if you’re cut off from the big grid and there’s not a lot of them out there. There are lots of buildings with generators, but they’re all individual, so it’s a matter of hooking up a bunch of islands together to make a bigger island, which is more flexible and able to use all the power that’s generated."
“The content of what we already teach is going to change right away,” he said. “I’m already teaching things differently today than I was in December because of MARMET. That’s how it works. We begin including more content about our research into our classrooms when we start a new project.”