DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office awards money to train electric utility workers in grid integration

DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office awards money to train electric utility workers in grid integration

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has been selected to receive a $6 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to train the next generation of electric utility workers. The award, the largest of 53 DOE workforce development grants, will be used to develop the data science and analytical skills needed to manage the more integrated grid of the future.

EPRI, along with a collaborative of electric utilities and universities, will launch the Grid-Ready Energy Analytics Training (GREAT) with Data initiative before the end of 2018. The initiative will address workforce skills in four key, emerging technical areas: (1) data science, including descriptive, prescriptive, and predictive analytics and machine learning; (2) cyber security; (3) information and communication technologies, with an emphasis on interoperability and standardization technologies; and, (4) integration of solar photovoltaic and other distributed energy resources such as energy storage, electric vehicles, and demand response.

This initiative will focus on engineers and computer scientists, with an expanded focus on the new technologies, datasets and planning tools at the intersection of power system operations and technology (OT) and information technology (IT) in an advanced, electrical power system. Additionally, the program will develop certifications, credentials, qualifications and standards for the training and education needed in the electric utility industry workplace.

“The engineers of today and tomorrow need to understand the tools and analytics necessary to make sense of the intersection of OT and IT that is transforming the grid,” said EPRI principal technical executive and GREAT project lead Tom Reddoch. “This project is about growing and supporting that workforce with the skills they need to be successful.”

Because electric utilities rely heavily on regional resources from which they obtain assets and people, the GREAT team also will develop five strategic regional training hubs across the United States to prioritize, guide and customize content development, feedback, and training to support regional workforce needs.

The five-year initiative will build upon the existing GridEd program, which EPRI has run for the past five years for the Energy Department, to train and recruit power systems workers and develop university curricula for new engineers and computer scientists.

Utility participants on the project development team include: American Electric Power, Austin Energy, Bonneville Power Administration, Con Edison, Duke Energy, Entergy, FirstEnergy, Lincoln Electric System, Portland General Electric, Riverside Public Utilities, Salt River Project, Snohomish Public Utility District, Southern California Edison, Southern Company, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Western Area Power Administration.

Collaborating universities include: Stony Brook University; University of California, Riverside; Virginia Tech; and Washington State University.

GREAT with Data was selected as a part of the Energy Department’s FY2018 SETO funding program, an effort to invest in research to lower solar electricity costs and support a growing solar workforce. The EPRI team will work alongside other projects in the funding program to develop training programs that prepare the solar workforce for a more digital electric power system and enable veterans and interested transitioning military personnel to join the solar workforce. EPRI and the project team are contributing $1.5 million in cost share to this project. Training opportunities and classes will be posted on the GridEd website as they become available.

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