College co-hosts summit for Indiana Electric Utilities
Representatives from Indiana’s electric utilities met with faculty and administrators from Purdue’s College of Technology and Discovery Park Energy Center on May 8, 2009, to discuss the future workforce and technological needs of the industry.
The Indiana Electric Utilities Technology and Workforce Summit brought together representatives from Indiana Michigan Power (AEP), Duke Energy, Vectren Corporation, and Northern Indiana Public Service Company to start a dialogue about how the College of Technology and the Energy Center resources could be used to assist the industry. Representatives from Indianapolis Power and Light and the Johnson County REMC also participated.
The goal of the summit, according to organizer Michael T. O’Hair, former associate dean for engagement for the College of Technology, was to allow all parties to understand industry challenges and the college’s ability, in partnership with the Energy Center, to help address those challenges.
A recent IEEE report estimated that the industry could lose half of its power engineers to retirement in the next five years. Rapid changes in technology will also create significant stress on the industry’s workforce. The industry is looking to Purdue to address these challenges.
The summit featured presentations from faculty in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology, Building Construction Management, and Mechanical Engineering Technology. The College of Technology presenters discussed how their curriculum and their laboratories are being updated to keep up with changes in energy generation, transmission, distribution, and utilization.
Summit participants were able to tour three laboratories used by these departments to understand the types of applied research that can be completed on their behalf.
“The summit is already paying dividends,” O’Hair says. “The faculty now better understand the challenges. The next step is to find sources of funding and get to work.”
The college has identified potential research and partnership opportunities at several points along the energy pipeline: from generation, to transmission and distribution (the smart grid), and consumption of energy by residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Also, there is interest in the construction of transmission lines and energy-efficient structures.
Since the summit, other action has been taken, including:
- A special interest group to address electrical power has been formed within the college. It currently has 26 members.
- A $100,000 grant has been received to review and strengthen the curriculum for a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology related to advanced energy.
- A team visited Duke Energy’s coal-fired generating station at Cayuga, Indiana, to better understand the technical challenges of these aging facilities.
- A team will visit Indiana Michigan’s Cook Nuclear plant near Bridgman, Michigan, to better understand the challenges with this form of electrical generation.