Energy@Rensselaer: Researchers Secure $2 Million Award To Boost Reliability, Sustainability of Power Grids

August 18, 2011

Energy@Rensselaer: Researchers Secure $2 Million Award To Boost Reliability, Sustainability of Power Grids

Rensselaer Researchers To Partner With University of Tennessee, Knoxville for New ERC Funded by NSF and DoE

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced a five-year, $18.5 million award to launch a prestigious Engineering Research Center (ERC) dedicated to developing the next generation of electric grids. These innovative “smart grids” hold the promise of higher efficiency, greater reliability, and the smoother integration of renewable energy sources into large power transmission systems.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will play a key role in the ERC, led by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). The interdisciplinary center, named CURENT (Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks), brings together a consortium of academia, industry, and national laboratories to tackle the grand challenge of enabling a more intelligent, resilient electrical grid that accepts more renewable energy sources. CURENT is jointly funded by NSF and the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the first ERC dedicated to power system transmission.

“Our nation’s current and projected consumption of electric power necessitates a major shift in thinking about how we will manage, monitor, and distribute power in a way that is highly reliable, sustainable, and secure. CURENT addresses these critical needs,” said David Rosowsky, dean of the School of Engineering at Rensselaer. “Rensselaer has a strong focus on energy research, and long-standing reputation for leading-edge research in electric power, systems, and controls, as well as expertise in infrastructure systems, networks, and computational sciences. We look forward to working with our partners to realize the exciting vision of CURENT.”

Leading the Rensselaer team is Joe Chow, professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (ECSE). An expert in power grid control, Chow said Rensselaer has strong programs in power systems and power electronics and a rich wealth of knowledge related to synchrophasors, allowing new mechanisms to monitor the power grid for boosting the amount of energy that can be reliably transmitted on high-power, high-voltage electric grids.

“Our vision for the coming decades is of ultra-efficient homes and buildings equipped with smart meters, easy interfaces that allow us to see when and how we’re using energy, and seamless integration of home-based solar and wind power generation into the larger grid,” Chow said. “In collaboration with UTK and others, CURENT sets us on that path.”

Other Rensselaer investigators are: power electronics expert Jian Sun, ECSE professor and director of the New York State Center for Future Energy Systems at Rensselaer; machines and renewable energy expert Leila Parsa, ECSE associate professor; Dan Shawhan, assistant professor in the Department of Economics; cybersecurity expert Biplab Sikdar, ECSE associate professor; and Paul Schoch, ECSE associate professor. Additionally, undergraduate and graduate students at Rensselaer will work on the CURENT research and projects.

CURENT will be based at UTK. Along with Rensselaer, UTK’s university partners in the United States are Northeastern University and Tuskegee University. Researchers at the National Technical University of Athens in Greece, Tsinghua University in China, and the University of Waterloo in Canada will contribute additional expertise and international perspectives.

More than 40 industry partners, which range from small start-up firms to manufacturers to utility companies, will guide strategic planning, spur innovation, and provide university students with first-hand experience in entrepreneurship. CURENT will also work with three regional organizations — Southwest Research Institute, Technology 2020, and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation — to stimulate technology transfer.

Another third-generation NSF ERC, the Smart Lighting ERC, dedicated to developing new technologies and applications that will change the way society uses lighting, is based at Rensselaer.

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Contact: Michael Mullaney
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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit