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University of Central Florida Opens Innovative Microgrid Lab to Prepare Future Engineers

(Credit: University of Central Florida)

This week, the University of Central Florida (UCF) celebrated the opening of its new cutting-edge Microgrid Control Lab. The lab will serve as a state-of-the-art research facility and control room for engineering faculty and students. Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and GE Digital are co-sponsoring the lab at UCF, which will feature control center equipment and software that students will use to simulate and test real-life grid control operations, including finding ways to optimize and keep the grid of the future secure.

GE Digital’s commented: “As renewable energy sources, like solar, continue to expand and evolve, the technology behind the grid has to keep up. It is critical that electrical and computer engineering talent have real-life experiences with the hardware and software than underpins the modern grid helping utilities securely deliver reliable clean energy.”

At today’s lab opening ceremony, leaders from the three organizations participated in a panel discussion focused on the engineering roles available to recent graduates in the energy sector and discussed opportunities for full-time employment. FPL and GE Digital together have approximately 400 UCF alumni in their workforces.

GE Digital also today announced a new internship program that invests in the development of its team and future grid engineering leaders. The program will offer UCF students an intensive experience in the utilities and power sectors and help students develop analytical and software development skills using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Currently, more than 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students at UCF are studying electrical or computer engineering disciplines that support energy systems and electricity grids. Another 500-plus UCF students have indicated they plan to pursue an electrical or computer engineering major once prerequisite coursework is completed.

The lab at UCF is designed to simulate the control center of a microgrid, a type of self-sufficient energy system that incorporates solar or other renewable energy sources and battery storage to power a small-scale area, independent of a large-scale grid.

The lab aims at safe, reliable, efficient and secure operation of large-scale distribution networks with extremely high penetration of renewables, a growing area in the energy industry. Through collaborating with industry and utility partners, UCF continues to offer students real-world opportunities as they prepare to go into careers that are shaping the future.

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