College of Engineering

Engineering researchers to modernize electric grid across Appalachia with $10M grant

People standing in lab

Researchers with the College of Engineering’s Center for Energy Systems Research and Tennessee Tech’s Center for Rural Innovation will be modernizing the aging electric grid across Appalachia, thanks to a $10M grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC)—the largest single grant in Tech’s 108-yr history.

The two centers will lead a four-state consortium that will help rural electric utilities and energy supply companies deploy smart grid technologies to better serve their communities and address challenges such as the rolling blackouts that have impacted consumers across the country during times of peak energy usage.

Researchers will consider factors such as how to better plan and position electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to most effectively manage the strain on electric grids. The project will also address challenges associated with integrating renewable energy sources – such as wind and solar energy – as well as managing large-scale battery storage. Newer battery technologies use materials that are abundant in the Appalachian region, including iron and ethane.

The project uses a dedicated computer platform called HILLTOP, created by Tennessee Tech and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Experiments will be performed with new technologies in a real-time simulated environment so that electric utilities can provide cost-effective testing and solutions prior to the implementation. Tech will also train partner institutions on using the HILLTOP platform. The project’s partner institutions include MIT, The MIT Lincoln Lab, Pennsylvania State University and West Virginia University, as well as Ohio’s BRITE Energy Innovators, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and Cookeville-based The Biz Foundry.

Read the full story in the Tennessee Tech University Newsroom:

College of Engineering Newsroom