Innovative students win awards for renewable power systems engineering

Submitted by Interstate Renewable Energy Council

2015-11-11 17:34:03

Each with a passion for innovation in renewable energy, four engineering students recently took top honors at a student poster session hosted by GEARED (Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment). The award winners were student and faculty authors of three projects selected from 47 presented posters that represented preliminary or interim research studying power system engineering.

Why did these innovative students choose power engineering? First-year Ph.D. student Jose Cordova explains his interest: "With renewables, it's even more important to integrate them into the grid . . . to help the environment and become more efficient. I want to make a difference, and working in the power grid means making a big impact."

GEARED is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative. The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) is national administrator.

The poster session and awards were in conjunction with the North American Power Symposium (NAPS), October 4-6, hosted by the University of North Carolina - Charlotte. Awards were based on technical contributions, poster quality, and presenter's understanding of the research.

First prize: Residential Grid-tied Photovoltaic Energy System Design in Puerto Rico. Authors: Monica Mercado-Oliveras, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM); Dr. Agustin Irizarry-Rivera, UPRM Faculty. Second prize: Real-Time Fault Location Identification in Smart Distribution Networks with Distributed Generation. Authors: Jose Cordova, Florida State University (FSU); Dr. Omar Faruque, FSU Faculty. Third prize: An Integrated Optimization and Control Algorithm for Distributed Demand Responses in Smart Grid. Authors: Towfiq Rahman, University of Central Florida (UCF); Yun Liu, Zhejiang University - China; Dr. Zhihua Qu, and Dr. Marwan Simaan, UCF Faculty.

The GEARED program was created late in 2013 to build a training and education framework that grows the expertise and preparedness of current and future electric utility sector professionals - specifically to accommodate high penetrations of solar electricity and other distributed technologies. Equally important, the GEARED program fills an urgent need for increased power system research, development and analytical capacity, and for integrating these findings into education and training.

Ensuring quality training of the next generation of energy engineers, system operators and utility professionals will be a key factor to lower the cost of solar electricity, advance seamless grid integration, and support a growing U.S. solar workforce.

One of the benefits of the program is the opportunity for power system engineering students interested in renewable energy to interact with other students and professionals in the field, and the NAPS conference was a great venue for the GEARED initiative. Combining GEARED activities with NAPS proved to be a significant benefit for both, as the overall student attendance nearly doubled from similar NAPS conferences in the past.

Texas Instruments - a major sponsor of NAPS - is an industry partner of the FEEDER (Foundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resources) consortium, one of three regional consortiums that make up the GEARED team. Texas Instruments provided cash prizes for the poster session's top three winners.

"Texas Instruments is proud to be an active partner with GEARED and FEEDER. We are excited to see such important research coming out of this poster session but more importantly, we see the work of GEARED and FEEDER fueling the engineering workforce to better address the important area of power and energy," says Steve Lyle, director of TI's engineering workforce development and university marketing. "The mission of TI's University Program is to fuel the passions of students and educators by leveraging TI technology to create hands-on learning experiences in classrooms and labs around the world."

GEARED creates a network of professionals who come together to develop and widely disseminate content and curriculum for training and education programs that focus on system implications presented by distributed power technologies. Training and education best practices and programs are shared, as well as power system research and development.

"Industry support is critical to ensuring a robust talent pipeline," says Joseph Sarubbi, IREC project director for GEARED. "Partners such as Texas Instruments give students and professors confidence that their research efforts to support the utility industry are being noticed."

Other GEARED initiatives include a Student Innovation Board, through which a select group of students representing 20 U.S. engineering colleges and universities work to empower new and continuing education students to become competent and well-informed engineers - and to influence major technological, social and policy decisions that address critical global energy challenges.

About IREC
IREC is a nationally recognized thought leader, stakeholder coordinator, expert resource and facilitator of regulatory reform. Our work expands consumer access to clean energy; generates information and objective analysis grounded in best practices and standards; and leads national efforts to build a quality- trained clean energy workforce, including a unique credentialing program for training programs and instructors. IREC's programs and policies benefit consumers, policymakers, utilities and the clean energy industry.

IREC is an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that relies on the generosity of donors, sponsors and program funder support.

About the SunShot Initiative
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at

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