More than 40 students and faculty from universities across the country participated in a first annual, one day student-centered conference April 28 on developing the power engineering workforce of the future. The first annual conference is a project of the U.S. Department of Energy’s new program: Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Development (GEARED). A part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, GEARED is administered by IREC and the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).

Among the highlights are a student poster session and a Smart Grid and Distributed Technologies Seminar, including a panel discussion on “Challenges to Students in Transforming the Electric Utility Grid,” led by utility, industry, and national laboratory leaders.

Mike Coddington @ GEARED student conf_042814
NREL’s Mike Coddington talks with Tyrone Medina from Puerto Rico about his poster

About half of the students attending presented posters on research projects. Student and faculty attendees had the opportunity to network with professionals at a reception held in conjunction with the opening of SEPA’s annual Utility Solar Conference, April 28-30, and will participate in the first day of that conference, which is focused on the theme “Building a Solar Smart Utility.” The coordinated conferences are both at the Newport Beach Marriott, Newport, CA.

“Co-locating the meetings allows us to bring together the students in power engineering programs with electric utility practitioners at a time when both groups are responding to the challenges of an increasingly decentralized and diverse grid,” says Bob Gibson, vice president of education and outreach for SEPA. “We especially want to thank Pacific Gas & Electric for its generous support of the GEARED conference, making it possible for us to capitalize on this synergy between academics and industry.”

SMUD's Dave Brown shares two case studies for the GEARED conference
SMUD’s Dave Brown shares two case studies for the GEARED conference attendees

A $25,000 grant from PG&E is underwriting much of the students’ costs associated with the conference.

Power systems expertise is needed to meet the unique challenges and opportunities posed by increasing penetration of renewable power technologies – specifically for distribution systems. Integrating distributed solar PV, small wind, transactive controls, demand response, electric vehicles, distributed storage and other variable and distributed power technologies into the grid will require new skills and power systems expertise.

The GEARED project consists of four Distributed Technology Training Consortiums (DTTCs) that work with universities and utilities across the U.S. to support the inclusion of power systems analysis, research and development into training activities, such as curriculum and short course development, internships and coops, and continuing education. IREC and SEPA, as national network administrators, are working to facilitate and support efforts of the DTTCs to build a national framework for power systems training and curriculum that will accelerate the growth of power systems programs and human capacity.

About SEPA
SEPA is an educational non-profit organization based in Washington, DC, dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios. For an overview of the Utility Solar Conference and detailed agenda, please visit:

About the SunShot Initiative
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of solar energy at the utility, commercial, and residential levels by 75 percent before the end of the decade, making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity without subsidies and enabling widespread deployment of solar energy.