Ensuring a reliable power supply

WSU teams with the U.S. Department of Energy in “smart grid” research and education

On a hot August day in 2003, a falling tree branch in Ohio triggered a power outage that rippled across 8 U.S. states and into Canada, cutting power to 50 million people. As transportation ground to a halt, food spoiled, and indoor heat soared to intolerable highs, the critical need for a reliable energy supply became irrefutably clear. Today, the electrical grid has the smarts to avert such a disaster, in part because of research conducted at Washington State University.

WSU leads the nation’s efforts to increase the reliability and efficiency of the “smart grid,” the computer-automated network that distributes electricity nationwide. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, WSU scholars explore new technologies to advance power grid operation and control, dependability, and security. They seek ways to automate power distribution, integrate renewably generated power, and prevent blackouts.

Anjan Bose, distinguished professor in power engineering and National Academy member, works to develop a software platform for testing the smart grid. Dr. Bose served as a senior advisor to the U.S. Department of Energy, where he led an effort to coordinate research on electric power grid technologies. His work is part of a greater body of research conducted at the University’s Energy Systems Innovation Center. The Center’s multidisciplinary studies on electric energy and its social and economic impacts support development of public policy at the state and federal levels.

Educating tomorrow’s power engineers is a top University priority. Backed by a $2.5 million grant from the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), scholars in the University’s Smart Grid Demonstration and Research Investigation Laboratory are developing a workforce training program. Its goal: to prepare the clean energy and smart grid engineers of tomorrow.