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Source: US National Renewable Energy Laboratory

NREL Partnership with University of Colorado Advances Power and Energy Systems Professionals

Nov. 5, 2019

Rapid energy sector changes are creating new opportunities for students who want to help build the electric power grid of the future. As the grid increasingly integrates variable renewable energy sources—such as wind, solar, and electric vehicles—industry demand for professionals who can help mitigate the impacts of variability and uncertainty in power generation systems is growing.

Such transformation inspired a new master’s degree program in Next-Generation Power and Energy Systems at the University of Colorado (CU), Boulder, offered by the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering (ECEE) in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Instructors from CU Boulder’s faculty and NREL research programs teach courses designed to help students learn about grid modernization-related challenges the laboratory is addressing, such as renewable energy source integration, cybersecurity, and the potential of autonomous energy grids.

NREL researchers work on the Consolidated Utility Base Energy System. Photo credit: Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

Applications are due in December 2019 for classes starting fall semester 2020, when the new CU program begins. For Bri-Mathias Hodge, who splits his professional time as faculty in CU’s ECEE department and as chief scientist of NREL’s Power Systems Design & Studies Group, the program presents a new way the two organizations can help engineers and decision makers prepare for next-generation technologies. Hodge is one of six instructors from NREL who will teach master’s program classes along with CU faculty.

“The power system has become more tightly intertwined with other systems, such as buildings, natural gas pipelines, and the transportation sector,” Hodge said. “There’s strong demand in the industry for a rejuvenated workforce that can fill a gap in the area of next-generation power and energy systems and help us design grids that are built for the future.”

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A Proven Instructional Team

Through their existing partnership, NREL researchers and CU faculty already bring practical industry knowledge to EECE classroom discussions. Students have opportunities to explore energy systems integration themes from the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a joint program between CU Boulder and NREL. RASEI addresses important and complex energy problems to expedite transformative solutions by advancing renewable energy science, engineering, and analysis through research, education, and industry partnerships.

“NREL researchers and CU faculty together bring real-world scenarios to students who can leverage Colorado’s hub for renewable energy development,” said Ben Kroposki, Director of the Power Systems Engineering Center at NREL. “Through this next-generation-focused program, we’re working closely with energy industry partners to prepare passionate students with the skills and knowledge required to practice grid integration of renewable energy.”

A total of 30 credit hours—normally 10 courses—are required for the master’s degree. The curriculum is built around a core of five required courses in power and energy systems:

  • Renewable Energy and the Future Power Grid
  • Introduction to Power Electronics
  • Power System Analysis
  • Distribution System Analysis
  • Power System Operations and Planning

Students can choose from a broad range of electives to equip them with deep foundational knowledge, cutting-edge skills, and the ability to effectively participate in multidisciplinary teams to solve the power and energy system challenges of today—and in decades to come. Many of the courses offer distance-learning options through CU Boulder’s graduate school. 

Help Recruit Prospective Students

You can help spread the word about the new master’s program to current college seniors, former Science Undergraduate Laboratory Interns, recent college graduates, and early-career industry professionals who want to expand their opportunities in renewable energy. Encourage applications to the program by Dec. 15 to be considered for the first cohort in fall 2020.

To learn more, contact Bri-Mathias Hodge or visit the CU Next-Generation Power and Energy Systems graduate program website.

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