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UW-Milwaukee bringing microgrid expertise to research center

Brett Peters, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Engineering and Applied Science, announces Thursday that the university has partnered with a National Science Foundation-backed research group to better develop technologies that will control, store and distribute energy. Also in attendance at the news conference were Igor Stamenkovic, global technology director at Eaton (center), and Adel Nasiri, associate dean for research and a professor of electrical engineering at UW-Milwaukee. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Brett Peters, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Engineering and Applied Science, announces Thursday that the university has partnered with a National Science Foundation-backed research group to better develop technologies that will control, store and distribute energy. Also in attendance at the news conference were Igor Stamenkovic, global technology director at Eaton Corp. (center), and Adel Nasiri, associate dean for research and a professor of electrical engineering at UW-Milwaukee. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is putting its expertise in microgrid technology to use at a national research center that helps Americans get their energy in better ways.

The assistance will go to “Grid-Connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems,” or GRAPES, a research center backed by the National Science Foundation. The center’s main mission is to work with industry to develop technologies that can be used to store and distribute energy in new ways and yet are still compatible with the existing grid.

Adel Nasiri, associate dean for research and a professor of electrical engineering at UW-Milwaukee, said the university’s expertise in microgrids will make its collaboration with GRAPES a “perfect fit.”

A microgrid is an interconnected electrical system composed of power generation, distribution and controls. In essence, it’s a smaller version of a standard power grid.

“We are pioneers in microgrid research, and how microgrids should (be formed), operate and so on,” Nasiri said at a news conference Thursday at the campus’ University Services & Research building.

Microgrids are becoming more popular, he explained, for a few reasons. For starters, they work well with solar power and other types of renewable energy, especially with the cost of storing that sort of energy having fallen in recent years.

GRAPES is an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center that was started in 2010 by the University of Arkansas and University of South Carolina. With Thursday’s announcement, UW-Milwaukee is now the third college to collaborate with the center.

Both UW-Milwaukee and Marquette University joined a similar cooperative research center in 2010; that one specializes in developing freshwater technologies.

“Having industrial partners in the center helps significantly with making the research applied (there) more relevant,” explained Nasiri. “And, of course, they show the academic members all the practical constraints that come into the research, as well as the commercialization of the product.”

The advice they expect to receive will ultimately help microgrids become more integrated in the energy market.

“By working with business and exchanging ideas, we each have a clearer line of sight between the research labs and consumer,” said Brett Peters, dean of UW-Milwaukee’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. “With that, we can solve today’s tough challenges efficiently.”

Of course, industry representatives that take part in GRAPES can also offer job opportunities to engineering students, Peters added.

“Today, more than ever, the world is looking to engineers to solve some of our toughest problems,” he said. “Whether that’s finding and delivering clean and safe drinking water, advancing life-saving medical breakthroughs, or bringing cleaner, more reliable, sustainable energy … throughout the world.”

About Alex Zank, alex.zank@dailyreporter.com

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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