The University of Colorado has been chosen to receive $2.4 million in federal economic stimulus dollars to launch a new program educating students in smart grid technology.
The grant is one of 54 announced Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy -- which together total $100 million -- to create smart grid workforce training programs across the country.
"The idea was that they wanted to have programs to train the next generation of people in the energy industry," said Tim Brown, director of CU's Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program in the College of Engineering. "The energy industry is facing a funny hump where many of their experienced engineers are going to be retiring, and they're concerned that there's going to be a void."
The newly funded smart grid training programs across the country will span the spectrum from training line workers to install specific smart grid equipment to upper-level programs like the one proposed at CU, which will offer a master's degree from the College of Engineering.
Graduate students in CU's Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program have already chosen to study smart grid technologies independently, Brown said, often working one-on-one with professor Frank Barnes, who crafted the proposal for the federal grant with Brown and others. The new smart grid program would formalize the path that some of those students forged, creating a specialization in "networking power systems."
Those students will study how electric utilities can communicate with advanced meters in individual homes and with the grid, as well as look into cyber-security concerns that accompany advances in smart grids, among other issues.
The energy industry appears to be hungry to hire people with this type of training. When Brown started talking about the proposals with utilities and power industry associations, he got overwhelming support in response.
"As we explained this to the power industry, they were incredibly receptive, from the highest level of Xcel to the smaller municipal providers," Brown said.
Gov. Bill Ritter also expressed support for the program Thursday.
"CU-Boulder will help to train the workforce of Colorado's new energy economy in smart grid applications and technology," he said in a statement. "We know that our future generations will use and create energy differently than we do, and smart grid technologies will be critical to how we manage our energy consumption."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Laura Snider at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.