Timely Academics + Professional Networking: How We’re Shaping The Clean Energy Power Engineering Workforce

Caroline Kamm, a senior at the University of Central Florida (UCF), is pursuing not one but two Bachelor of Science degrees: one in electrical engineering and one in mechanical engineering. Her studies focus on the power systems side of electrical engineering and on the heat transfer/thermodynamics side of mechanical engineering.

“Ultimately, I want to use my multidisciplinary knowledge to design high-efficiency systems in the utility or facility construction industries,” says Kamm.

Her senior research project, “a bid-shading auction in a P2P trading network where each participant is both a producer and consumer of renewable energy, or ‘prosumer,’” was inspired directly by the FEEDER program (Foundations for Engineering Education for Distributed Energy Resources) at UCF. The program is part of the GEARED network of collaborative universities and industries integrating power systems analysis and R&D into curriculum and short course development, offering internships, coops and continuing education. (GEARED stands for Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment and is a program funded by the US Department of Energy. IREC is national administrator).

Kamm credits FEEDER and GEARED for offering a wide variety of power systems and renewable energy courses that are preparing her to take her rightful place in today’s power systems engineering workforce. She is confident she is building a strong foundation of power systems fundamentals, including renewable and distributed power generation, data analytics, cyber systems security, economics and public policy that will serve her and her future employer well.

Caroline Kamm explains her bid-shading research at DistribuTECH 2018.

She explains her research project: “I simulated a bidding algorithm in a small network of renewable energy generation sites that traded excess energy at market price. I used load and irradiance data specific to the Orlando area for the per-hour bidding simulation. The results were favorable for this market scheme, indicating not only substantial savings and reduced payback periods for the renewable energy systems, but more importantly, increased savings during inflated utility prices. Essentially, this strategy protected prosumers against utility price swings, which would encourage renewable energy growth.”

Kamm was invited to participate in Modern Electrical Grids and Electricity Markets for 100% Renewable Energy, an online course for technical elective credit from the University of Hawaii.

“This course really aligned with my interests,” she said. “In addition to reading, watching and listening to lectures and reviewing relevant research, I wrote a short paper on a topic that interested me. This led me to conduct my own research, which is veering into curtailment algorithms. This should help regulate overvoltage situations created by too much power from PV and wind. For this research, I’m working with a graduate student under the same professor.”

Kamm presented her research as part of the GEARED poster session at DistribuTECH 2018 in San Antonio, Texas in February. This year, 45 GEARED students from 27 universities showcased their research on power systems, smart grid and distributed technology at the two-day conference. When she wasn’t explaining her research to conference attendees, Kamm made the rounds in the exhibition hall, collected business cards and passed out her resume.

DistribuTECH conference organizers arranged for GEARED students to visit Mission Solar, a solar PV manufacturing facility in San Antonio. As someone studying both electrical and mechanical engineering, the tour was a real eye-opener for Kamm.

“Those moments that pique both my mechanical and electrical interests are magical for me. Learning about how solar panels are manufactured and how to read their specifications – that is absolutely instrumental when beginning the design process,” she says.

“Not only did the GEARED program at the DistribuTech conference allow me the opportunity to present my research, but I also learned more about the power industry through the conference events. The FEEDER and GEARED programs indirectly led me to the important networking connections at DistribuTech that will likely result in employment upon graduation. And yes, I plan to jump into industry as soon as I graduate!”

Joining FEEDER in offering this unique kind of power systems curriculum are MARMET (Missouri University of Science and Technology: Mid-America Regional Microgrid Education and Training Consortium) and EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute: The Center for Grid Engineering Education).

All three consortia make up the GEARED network.