Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Siemens teaches New Mexico students about microgrids

Steve Rogerson
August 15, 2017
Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico is using government grants and equipment and expertise from Siemens to help students learn about energy management and microgrids.
The US Economic Development Administration has granted the college $351,000 in federal funds to support the purchase of critical equipment for the campus Building Energy Automation & Microgrid Training Center (BEAMTC).
The two workforce training labs on the campus will provide specialised hands-on training in the fields of building automation and microgrid energy distribution. The college is leveraging an additional $326,000 in state appropriations, and $111,661 in donated equipment and engineering expertise from Siemens and other industry partners to support this project.
This investment will create a research environment to support product development, testing and workforce training, and business attraction and is projected to support up to 750 jobs in the next ten years. Globally, the microgrid market is rapidly expanding and is expected to rise to $35.1bn in 2020.
“Santa Fe Community College has become a state-wide leader in the effort to build the green energy workforce and economy,” said congressman Ben Ray Luján. “This grant recognises their smart, forward-looking approach to ensure that students graduate with the skills to get good jobs in the renewable energy sector. I am pleased to have supported this initiative and look forward to the next steps.”
BEAMTC will be housed in the college’s energy-efficient Trades & Advanced Technology Center and will serve the entire North Central New Mexico Economic Development District, which encompasses seven counties – Colfax, Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Santa Fe and Taos – as well as nine pueblos and tribes.
SFCC president Randy Grissom said: “The EDA grant will put the college on the world stage for innovation, but more importantly it will be training a regional workforce for skills that are in high demand.”
Building automation systems (BAS) are the control system for a buildings’ heating, cooling fresh air, lighting and security. A microgrid is a distribution network for electrical energy, starting from electricity generation to its transmission and storage. A microgrid offers a local energy system that can operate independently from the larger energy grid. Microgrids expand the reach of BAS to include integration of multiple energy systems, add resiliency to the grid in the event of power disruptions, optimise the energy systems and enable advanced cyber security.
“We’re fortunate to be partnering with EDA and Siemens Industries to make BEAMTC a reality,” Grissom said. “Siemens has committed to corporate carbon neutrality by 2030. Siemens is the world’s most recognised name in advanced microgrids. Siemens is investing sustainably in the advancement of science education in order to prepare students for the rapidly expanding career opportunities in these fields. The combination of technological fit and educational mission makes Siemens an ideal partner for BEAMTC.”
The college will install equipment to an existing lab to accommodate the BAS equipment. Additionally, the college is in the process of constructing an almost 1100 square metre four-bay gutter connected greenhouse and a second lab south of the TATC that will host an advanced microgrid controller.
The centre will incorporate building energy management techniques as a component of smart energy systems design, and develop these principles in a nanogrid serving the new greenhouse complex for advanced hydroponics and aquaponics. Both the building automation systems lab and the greenhouse nanogrid will become nodes of the proposed campus-wide microgrid, which is in development.
“BEAMTC is superbly efficient because it leverages the college’s multi-million dollar investment in existing programmes, living laboratories and advanced cyber security,” said Grissom.
Students can begin taking classes in the basics of engineering technologies for a certificate or associate in applied science this autumn. More classes in smart and microgrid technology will be offered next year as the BEAMTC becomes operational and provides students with hands-on training.
“Santa Fe Community College is a leading educator in the region for building science and construction technologies, as well as sustainable, renewable energy,” said Camilla Bustamante, dean of the School of Trades, Technology, Sustainability & Professional Studies. “The BEAMTC will prepare a workforce that is up to date on energy smart building, as well as microgrid technology. Just as people want to secure and control energy costs in their homes through smart phones, the construction industry is looking at building smarter, more energy-efficient buildings that offer increased cyber security that can be controlled independently from the main power grid. We will be teaching students how to operate, design and manage those systems.”