Alfred University News

Alfred University unveils power grid training lab

With several key representatives from the utilities industry on hand, Alfred University on Wednesday, May 8, unveiled a new facility that will be used to prepare students for careers in the growing renewable energy industry.

Alfred University has received a $466,853 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) which will support student internships and fund a program that provides short course training for renewable energy engineering students and workers in the electric utilities field. In addition, the University has received a donation from GE Vernova of $2,786,000 in power grid planning and operations software to support the NYSERDA-funded project.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony, with representatives of GE Vernova, NYSERDA, EPRI, and regional power companies on hand, was held in the McMahon Engineering Building, and was followed by a tour of the new lab.

“Sustainability is one of our most pressing issues,” Mark Zupan, Alfred University president. “We thank GE Vernova and NYSERDA for providing us with a significant lever to help solve those problems.”

“We’re excited to be here to launch this lab,” Joe Franz, senior director of Advance Technology Organization with GE Vernova, commented. “We look forward to meeting these challenges with Alfred University.”

The University was initially awarded $786,000 in Advanced Energy Management System (AEMS) and Advanced Distribution Management Solutions (ADMS) software packages from GE Vernova, to be used in 2023-24, the first year of the project. GE Vernova has since awarded the University an additional $2 million in software, which will be used over the ensuing five-year period.

The program—to which the University will provide $117,000 of in-kind/cost share funding—will benefit students in the Alfred University Inamori School of Engineering’s Renewable Energy Engineering and Electric Engineering programs by providing them with access to state-of-the-art equipment and training. The NYSERDA workforce training grant will support student internships—22 over the next three years—as well as fund the purchase two microgrid control systems, which will be located in the new lab in McMahon Engineering Building and be used as a training tool for students. It will also the allow the University to subcontract with the EPRI, an independent, non-profit research and development organization, to conduct industry-standard training short courses for students.

Patricia Nilsen, president and CEO of the AVANGRID companies Rochester Gas and Electric (RG&E) and New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG), was also on hand to make remarks. Nilsen, a 1988 Alfred University graduate of Alfred University with a bachelor’s degree in English, spoke of the importance of educating the “next generation” of power grid operators.

“It is important we prepare for a future with a network of renewables,” Nilsen said. “This way, we are doing it from the ground up, giving people the training they need, so they can better understand this amazing field.”

man talking at ribbon-cutting ceremony for new power grid training lab
John Simmins ’84, PhD ’90, executive director of Alfred University’s Center for Advanced Technology, speaks at the ribbon-cutting ceremony unveiling a new electrical grid training lab on McMahon Engineering Building on the Alfred University campus.

John Simmins ’84, PhD ’90, executive director of Alfred University’s Center for Advanced Technology, referred to the ribbon-cutting ceremony as a “very Alfred event,” noting the attendance of such accomplished Alfred University alumni as Nilsen, John Edmond ’83, co-founder of semi-conductor manufacturer Wolfspeed and an Alfred University Board of Trustees member, and Scott Misture, ’90, ’94, Inamori Professor of materials science and engineering.

“There are a lot of people who helped make this happen,” Simmins said, referring to Inamori School of Engineering Dean Gabrielle Gaustad ’04, who he thanked for her support and guidance. He also thanked NYSERDA, GE Vernova, and EPRI “for their generosity and for providing the means for this project,” and credited Xingwu Wang, professor of electrical engineering, for his work in spearheading the endeavor.

“This lab will be a huge benefit for the region. Our students will be able to walk into a place like RG&E and NYSEG and contribute immediately,” Simmins said. “Alfred University is committed to providing the utilities of New York State a pipeline (of workers and educational resources) they can count on for years to come.”