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U.S. Dept. of Energy NETL-RUA Grid Technologies Collaborative seeks to advance energy needs and technologies for the 21st century

The five research university members of the  Grid Technologies Collaborative (GTC)  met in Arlington, Virginia to define a future research agenda and identify government and industry partners to address the needs of an aging and nearly century-old electric grid system. 

Representatives from Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia University, which form the  U. S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory  Regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA), along with the URS Corporation, were among more than 70 energy professionals in attendance at the Grid Technologies Collaborative 2013 National Conference on June 10. NETL-RUA established the GTC in 2012 to further research and development of advanced power electronics technologies, especially with utility-scale transmission and distribution. 

The University of Pittsburgh and its Swanson School of Engineering are key players in the GTC and believe its formation represents an academic and research powerhouse necessary to solve the myriad problems facing the nation's electric grid. 

Wayne Honath , Director of Program Development with the non-profit  University Energy Partnership , said "The first national conference of the Grid Technologies Collaborative brought together our research team with key representatives of the utility industry, manufacturers, and governmental bodies. This initial meeting will serve as the foundation for much of the future in power electronics research, and establishes important partnerships within the energy field. We were delighted to have a great turnout for our first conference, and will build on the knowledge and insight provided during the breakout sessions." 

Following a keynote address by  Patricia Hoffman , assistant secretary, U. S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, attendees participated in breakout sessions with three goals: to define a future research agenda based on the assessment of work on the next generation power converter project; to identify possible government and industry partners to provide advice and direction and sponsor research; and to ensure alignment of future research plans with government and industry needs.

"Improving and expanding the nation's electricity transmission and distribution system is not simply an infrastructure issue or a political issue, it's also an economic and national security issue," explains  Gregory Reed, PhD , the GTC's director and technical lead, and director of the Electric Power Initiative at Pitt's  Center for Energy , and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School. "The grid is such a critical part of everyday life, and most Americans don't even think about its existence until a natural disaster, a powerful storm or even a blown transformer disrupts their power supply. By leveraging the research abilities of the Regional University Alliance and NETL, we can further develop technologies that will improve power transmission and distribution."

According to the GTC, advanced power electronics technologies are at the core of improving the performance of the grid. Power electronics are devices and systems that more effectively facilitate the delivery of electricity from generators to end users. When deployed on the grid, as they have been for four decades in the form Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) and High Voltage DC Systems (HVDC), advanced power electronics systems provide four primary benefits:
• Enhancing existing grid performance to mitigate the need of building new transmission capacity
• Supporting liberalized electricity markets and better enabling consumer participation
• Integrating renewable and distributed generating resources and energy storage
• Increasing power system stability, security, and reliability
Dr. Reed also serves as the associate director of Pitt's Center for Energy, which is housed in the Swanson School of Engineering and dedicated to improving energy technology development and sustainability. More than 70 faculty members already working in energy research from the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Geology, and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science are able to leverage their work and expertise through the Center. Its five key research areas include Advanced Materials for Energy-Related Applications; Carbon Management & Utilization; Energy Delivery and Reliability; Direct Energy Conversion and Recovery; and Unconventional Gas Resources. Many of the faculty who collaborate through the Center for Energy potentially will also contribute to the GTC's success.
"Because of the size and scope and economics involved, government or industry alone can't begin to answer the challenges facing our electricity transmission system," Dr. Reed says. "But by collaborating with the University of Pittsburgh and our other RUA partners, and leveraging our collective capabilities, we're developing new advanced grid technologies for emerging AC and DC infrastructure and securing a more reliable power system for the U.S."

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of DOE's national laboratory system, is owned and operated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). NETL supports DOE's mission to advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States. 

The NETL Regional University Alliance (NETL-RUA) is an applied research collaboration that combines NETL's fossil energy expertise with the broad capabilities of URS Corporation--a leading provider of engineering, construction and technical services for public agencies and private sector companies around the world--and five nationally recognized, regional universities: Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), Pennsylvania State University (PSU), the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt), Virginia Tech (VT), and West Virginia University (WVU). 

This partnership leverages facilities, specialty equipment, professional staff, and other resources, which accelerates the development and deployment of innovative energy and environmental technology. The commercialization of these technologies will invigorate the economy with new high-tech and manufacturing jobs, jobs that will be well-suited for the skilled workforce that results from engagement in the cutting-edge, collaborative research of NETL-RUA. 

NETL-RUA strives to increase its impact on resolving the Nation's energy challenges and to provide more significant contributions to the economy, both regionally and nationally. The collaborative efforts of the Alliance produce greater results than what could have been achieved by any of the individual organizations acting alone.


Contact: Paul Kovach