Can't find good power engineers? Raise them from scratch

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By: SGN Staff

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Quick Take: Good power engineers are a precious commodity. Here's a technique that has long been practiced by grid suppliers such as Alstom, General Electric and others. They build long-term financial arrangements with universities that have power engineering programs. That gives them first crack at the most promising graduates.

 

Lately, more and more utilities have been using the same tactic, as you will see in the press release below describing Avista Corp.'s relationship with Washington State University.

 

What's the nearest university with a strong power engineering program? Do you already have a strong relationship? If not, you can bet that other utilities (and utility suppliers) will be there soon if they're not already. Time to get yourself to the head of the line.- By Jesse Berst

 

Avista Power Lab aims to prepare students for a smarter grid

 

PULLMAN, Wash. – A five-year pledge commitment totaling $325,000 from Avista Corp. will support research innovation and better prepare Washington State University students for new Smart Grid technologies.

 

Avista’s pledge will support WSU’s newly formed Energy Systems Innovation Center as well as WSU’s undergraduate power engineering curriculum, including the purchase of state-of-the-art technology for the power engineering lab.

 

"WSU has committed to partnering with industry to advance clean technology and to expand our power engineering program, and we are pleased and grateful to see Avista step up to make this investment,’’ said WSU President Elson S. Floyd. "Industry involvement from a company like Avista is a key component in attracting top faculty, in further enhancing this program’s reputation, and in better educating the workforce needed to grow our economy.’’

"Our partnership also helps ensure that we’ll have the well-trained workforce that is critical for Avista as we build our energy future,’’ Vermillion added. "We’re excited by the possibilities as we look ahead to many more years of successful collaboration.” 

 

The Avista support will go toward lab improvements, such as incorporating renewable energy and improving communications systems. Support from Avista will help make some of the latest state-of-the-art technology available for undergraduates.

 

Avista is also one of seven charter members of the newly formed Energy Systems Innovation Center (ESIC).  With a unique, holistic approach that bridges disciplines from engineering to the social sciences, the ESIC is a pioneering, multidisciplinary center that emphasizes the interactions between people and smart grid technology in a societal context. Current research focus areas include information collection, delivery, and analysis; integration of renewable energy resources; decision support, public policy, human behaviors, and economics; efficiency on the demand side (buildings); efficient use of right-of-way and associated economic issues; and cyber security of the smart grid.

 

"We are grateful to Avista for its generous contribution,’’ said Chen-Ching Liu, director of the ESIC. "It will have a direct impact in helping us to address our nation’s most important challenges in clean energy.’’

 

Avista’s pledge will also support undergraduate education through the Power Engineering Partner program. The funds support mini internships for students, in which students participate in a practicum course in areas such as substation design, utility operations, and transmission, and gain hands-on learning and the chance to interact with a potential employer. The company is also providing general operating support for the power engineering program for things such as travel for students to attend professional meetings, scholarship supplements, faculty seminars, and seed money for grants. 

 

The generous commitment from Avista is a part of "The Campaign for Washington State University: Because the World Needs Big Ideas" (see campaign.wsu.edu). Since July 2006, the campaign has raised more than $785.5 million toward a $1 billion goal to increase support for WSU’s students, faculty, research, and programs and to leverage the University’s impact across the state, nation, and world.

 

Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.

 

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