Dominion Virginia Power has donated $400,000 in smart-grid equipment and started a $45,000 fellowship fund for ECE graduate students to gain experience using state-of-the-art technology to help improve the U.S. power infrastructure.
New digital relays under construction for ECE
The equipment is the “latest and greatest” generation of microprocessor-based high-voltage transmission protection systems, said Matthew Gardner (BSEE ’03, MSEE ’05, Ph.D ’08), an electric transmission planner for Dominion.
The equipment – identical to what is being installed on Dominion’s power system – is used to monitor the operations and power flows on the transmission grid, as well as detecting and locating system faults, Gardner said.
The four units are large, 3 feet by 8 feet each, cost upward of $140,000, and will be installed in the power engineering laboratories in Whittemore Hall.
Rear view showing the relay interconnection
“This brand new, state-of-the-art equipment will allow our graduate and undergraduate students to implement advanced protection schemes that take advantage of intelligent electronic devices,” said Jaime De La Ree, assistant department head.
The $45,000 Dominion Virginia Power fellowship fund will support a master’s student in power engineering. It would pay for tuition, fees and a stipend for a master’s student who would intern and then possibly work for the Richmond-based power company.
Virginia Tech has a long history of power engineering excellence and has one of the largest and oldest power programs in the country. The first smart grid technology, phasor measurement units (PMUs) now being used worldwide to improve reliability of power grids, was built at Tech. ECE researchers also deployed the first national network, the Frequency Monitoring Network (FNET), to monitor frequency of the power grid.
“Thanks to Dominion, our students will have experience and expertise in the technology needed to build smart, sustainable power grids. Dominion’s support in this tough economic climate signals their approval and confidence in our students and our programs,” said De La Ree.