The Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment (GEARED) program is a research, training and education framework that grows the expertise and preparedness of current and future electric utility sector professionals so they have the knowledge and skills required to operate our country’s electric grid with high penetrations of solar electricity and other distributed technologies.
GEARED launched in October 2013. It received follow-up funding through the Solar Training and Education for Professionals funding program in 2016. The program established training consortia consisting of multiple university, utility, national laboratory, and industry partners that work toward integrating power systems analysis and R&D into curriculum, short course development, and continuing education at the undergraduate and graduate level.
The GEARED Solution
Our country’s electric grid is aging and doesn’t meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond. The people who will solve these problems—power systems engineers—are in short supply. GEARED is working to attract and train the next generation of engineering professionals who will drive innovations our grid operations. GEARED also provides updated systems integration training for existing power systems professionals who are facing a rapidly changing U.S. electric generation portfolio.
In its first two years, GEARED trained more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students, delivering 120 new courses and creating job, internship, and research opportunities for students to ensure these engineers are well-prepared to manage our nation’s changing power generation portfolio. GEARED also developed nearly 200 new power systems engineering curricula elements, which tackle topics like how to define smart grids and how to build and operate electric grid systems that will be able to accommodate increased levels of distributed energy production. Each year, GEARED sponsored a national student-centered research conference where student leaders review technical posters and academic research.
In October 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy hosted a peer review to discuss and evaluate the progress of the GEARED program. Learn more about the results of the peer review.
By 2018, the GEARED program grew from over 50 courses with over 1,400 students to more than 200 courses with over 8,000 students. The program improved industry cooperation by encouraging student and industry professional engagement across the consortia, which increased conference attendance at utility industry events. Data from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council showed that the program established a nationwide network of over 37,000 students and industry professionals, and more than 1,250 GEARED-related courses by the end of the program. These metrics demonstrate how the project greatly impacted the utility sector and provided a viable framework for future industry professionals.
GEARED also supports the Energy Department’s Grid Modernization Initiative, which helps improve our country’s electric grid. The initiative works to create a cost-effective path to a resilient, secure, sustainable, and reliable grid that is flexible enough to include larger amounts of distributed energy while remaining affordable to consumers.
The GEARED consortia all work to bring more power systems engineers to the workforce, which has enhanced our grid’s ability to handle increased amounts of distributed energy. Each has a different research focus and shares its findings with other consortia.
- Location: Knoxville, TN
- Amount: $4,798,035
- Cost Share: $2,266,990
- STEP Funding Addition: $1,000,000
- STEP Cost Share: $250,000
- Project Summary: In 2013, EPRI collaborated with four U.S. universities and seventeen utilities/system operators to establish the GridEd Distributed Technology Training Consortium (DTTC) in the eastern United States. This consortium aims to effectively combine utility and industry research with educational expertise in power engineering. The project team is empowering new and continuing education students to become not only competent and well informed engineers, but also influence major technological, social, and policy decisions that address critical global energy challenges. EPRI received additional funding under the Solar Training and Education for Professionals funding program in 2016, which allowed it to establish a new consortia in the western United States. This new consortium, GridEd-West (The Center for Grid Engineering Education in the West), leverages the existing structure, knowledge, and successes from the EPRI-led GridEd-East team, and adds new three new utility partners in California, Arizona and Oregon. In addition to GEARED student support at its university partner campuses, EPRI has expanded the number of engineering short courses in service to its large utility member network, re-training utility professionals in cutting edge grid management.
- Location: Orlando, FL
- Amount: $3,670,000
- Cost Share: $1,900,000
- STEP Funding Addition: $1,000,000
- STEP Cost Share: $250,000
- Project Summary: The Foundations for Engineering Education in Distributed Energy Resources (FEEDER) Consortium consists of seven universities in the Southeast United States, eight utility companies, five supporting industry partners, two national labs, and a research center. This consortium upgraded the existing power systems engineering workforce by improving power systems engineering programs at participating universities and developing a pipeline of new power systems engineers and engineering faculty. Through the efforts of this Consortium, a new group of engineers entered the workforce capable of re-engineering the existing electrical grid infrastructure to include a highly sophisticated communications platform. The University of Central Florida, which administers FEEDER, received funding under the Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) funding program to expand FEEDER’s research, curriculum development, and education and training activities to five additional university partners in California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, and Texas. FEEDER supports an extensive GEARED student chapter system on its university partner campuses and engages students in primary research, as well as industry placements for rotations and fellowships. FEEDER supports widespread adoption of distributed renewable energy resources and deployment of smart grid technologies.
Missouri University of Science and Technology
- Location: Rolla, MO
- Amount: $4,999,976
- Cost Share: $2,302,371
- Project Summary: Missouri University of Science and Technology and its partners integrated cutting-edge research and advanced instructional methods to create a flexible, evolving approach to microgrid training for all levels of students. Operating as the Mid-America Regional Microgrid Education and Training Consortium, this effort aimed to impact more than 500 technical employees by offering certificates, PDHs, CEUs, and engineering degrees through a variety of workshops, short courses, and semester courses.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council
- Location: Latham, NY
- Amount: $1,100,000
- Cost Share: $0
- Project Summary: The Interstate Renewable Energy Council and the Solar Electric Power Association, operating as the National Network Administrator (NNA), facilitated efforts to build a national framework for power systems training and curriculum that accelerated the growth of power systems programs and human capacity.