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WSU gets $1M for transmission grid research and development October 23, 2009

Researchers from WSU’s College of Engineering and Architecture have been working on developing better power grid technology.

Sen. Patty Murray included $1 million for transmission grid research and development at WSU in the 2010 Energy and Water Development appropriations bill.

The Senate passed the bill Oct. 15.

Eli Zupnick, Murray’s deputy press secretary, said he expects President Barack Obama to sign the bill into law soon.

“Our nation’s transmission system is badly aged and vulnerable to disruptions,” Zupnick said. “WSU researchers are working to develop faster, more advanced technologies that will ensure the stability of the power grid.” WSU’s specialty is creating computer and communication systems that allow the power grid to function in real time and increase efficiency, reliability and stability, said Anjan Bose, a co-principal investigator and Regents professor in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

The technology helps to avoid and anticipate major blackouts as well as incorporating renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar, Bose said. The grant will be used to create a platform to simulate the behavior of the large grid to test the computer and control algorithms being developed for the smart grid.

“This platform should be running in about a year,” Bose said.

Other professors from the College of Engineering and Architecture, Dave Bakken, Carl Hauser and Mani Venkatasubramanian, will work with Bose as the other co-principal investigators for the transmission grid research and development.

Last year, the professors received a similar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and with a team of graduate students, research associates and postdoctoral fellows, they started researching and developing this summer, Bose said. They are having the first of many meetings with the DOE on Monday.

WSU has also been working with local companies like Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc. and Avista Corp. on similar projects.

Improving the electric grid to smart grid technology is a national focus, and an initiative for the smart grid was included in the $819 billion stimulus package passed by the House of Representatives on Jan. 28.

Avista has paired with other regional partners, such as Battelle, and proposed implementing smart grid technology through the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project. The project would make Pullman the region’s first smart grid community to be followed by the rest of the Northwest. The companies hope to get matching stimulus money from the DOE to pay for the total implementation cost of $178 million.

If approved, this would create benefits for students as well as Avista customers, Avista spokesman Hugh Imhof said.

Avista customers’ rates would remain the same, but new technologies, like a smart-meter, would allow consumers to better control and cut down their usage and essentially save them money, Imhof said.

“People don’t realize how much they can save by making a few adjustments,” he said.

WSU is one of the multiple partners that would participate in the smart grid project for Pullman, and the university already has a lot of interaction with Avista, Imhof said.

Kerry Gugliotto, The Daily Evergreen


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