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Herkimer College opens smart grid laboratory

Steve Rogerson
January 29, 2020

Herkimer County Community College in New York officially opened its Electrical Technology Smart Grid Lab at a ribbon cutting ceremony this month. The facility is designed to educate and train students in power grid repair and maintenance, preparing them for careers in the utility industry.
Herkimer College also announced an electrical technology degree programme with a focus on smart grid technologies. The associate in applied science degree will prepare students with skills necessary for careers in the design, application, installation, manufacturing and operation and maintenance of electrical and electronic systems, with a focus on smart grid technologies. Graduates may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology or a related field.
Approximately $2m went into developing the lab, made possible by an investment of $949,000 by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and $96,000 from the M&T Bank and Partners Trust Bank Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund of the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties.
These combined funds were matched by the State University of New York community college capital programme for a total project cost of just over $2m. The NYPA funding was announced by governor Andrew Cuomo at a Capitol for A Day event in 2015 as part of a plan for advancements in the Mohawk Valley.
“We are grateful for the funding and support from our partners on this project, and look forward to preparing our students and the workforce for lucrative careers in the utility industry,” said Herkimer College president Cathleen McColgin.
Located in Johnson Hall, the lab and classroom include the installation of a grid-parallel photovoltaic electrical generation system and an emergency generator that includes grid-integrated controls for parallel operation to enable the college’s participation in the New York Independent System Operators’ energy demand response programmes. The laboratory also includes energy efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning upgrades and as well as lighting upgrades.
In addition to using the new lab for courses in its Electrical Technology degree programme, Herkimer’s lab is available for NYPA and other utilities to use for workforce training. The facility also has a high definition projector with 229 by 366cm drop-down screen, camera, microphones and speakers for distance learning, 190cm mobile smart board, and 16 Dell laptops and eight personal computers.
“Herkimer County Community College’s Electrical Technology Smart Grid Lab will educate and inspire the next generation of utility workers with the unique skills required for the energy industry as it transitions to the grid of the future,” said Gil Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “It is an exciting time to choose energy as a field as it is rapidly evolving to proactively address climate change. This lab will ensure that we have the skilled workforce to help New York state modernise its power grid and expand our focus on incorporating renewable energy sources into our power grid. This lab will help us all achieve Governor Cuomo’s aggressive clean energy vision.”
NYPA and Herkimer College began work in 2016 to develop the curriculum and plans for a classroom and lab dedicated to workforce development and training for employees in the utility industry. Herkimer College also partnered with Ilya Grinberg, professor and director of the Power Center for Utility Exploration at Buffalo State, where a similar facility exists. As a result, Herkimer’s facility is modelled after the lab at Buffalo State, and students who graduate from Herkimer will be prepared for successful transfer to the bachelor’s programme at Buffalo State.
Grinberg said: “Besides typical courses that every engineering technology programme in this state offers, such as circuits, electronics and digital courses, which are all geared more towards electronics, this programme will have a course in renewable energy and a course in microprocessor-based relays, which will train and education students in controlling the power grid.”
Rabab Hassan has been appointed as an assistant professor to teach multiple courses in the programme, including renewable and clean energy and power systems applications. Hassan was an electrical engineer for Mansoura for Resins and Chemical Industries in Egypt and is a member of the IEEE, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical power engineering from the University of Mansoura, Egypt, and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University. She has a special interest in renewable energy – especially solar and wind – microgrids, and distributed generation.
Herkimer College is one of 30 community colleges in the State University of New York. Centrally located in the Mohawk Valley, Herkimer offers more than 40 associate degree and certificate programmes in arts, communication arts, criminal justice and law, business, education, healthcare and service, liberal arts, and stem. Herkimer College is a residential college with on-campus housing for more than 600 students.
NYPA is the largest state public power organisation in the USA, operating 16 generating facilities. More than 80 per cent of the electricity NYPA produces is clean renewable hydropower. NYPA uses no tax money or state credit. It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.