St. Thomas Engineer Magazine

Solar panels for the Center for Microgrid Research stand atop McCarthy Gym on south campus in St. Paul.

I t’s easy to imagine that such a moment deserves a big, red lever between the words ON and OFF and the tension before the switch gets flipped. Instead, Xcel Energy CEO Ben Fowke reached out his hand on Nov. 1, standing in the basement of the St. Thomas Facilities and Design Center (FDC) on the St. Paul campus. Reaching down, his hand hovered over a computer mouse as his right index finger swung down, and just like that he officially turned on the brand-new Center for Microgrid Research. The system’s response kicked off a chorus of applause from everyone gathered, as the moment represented the culmination of a $2.1 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Account, years of

faculty and student efforts and construction going back to the summer of 2016. “This facility is nearly unique in the U.S. It will help us attract students, research and industry partners. It’s wonderful to be at this stage,” said Dr. Mahmoud Kabalan, director of the Center for Microgrid Research. “We’re setting people and our society up for the future through our students. We’re producing people who will go out and be leaders in the field with very strong technical backgrounds.” “There are only a handful of facilities like this in the country,” said Dr. Greg Mowry, who used his decades of experience in the power sector and with microgrids to custom design the St. Thomas facility. “On the playing field of advanced research in the power sector, that puts us not equivalent, but ahead of nearly everybody.”



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