St. Thomas Engineer Magazine

COLLABORATINGWITH EXTERNAL PARTNERS Amicrogrid contains a certain number of sources that generate power and loads which receive power. It acts as a single, controllable electrical system that allows smooth renewable energy integration and can operate either connected to the wider power grid or as an independent “island” of power. Mowry designed the energy sources to be of similar capacity. There isn’t a single, dominant energy source, unlike most microgrids, which allows for flexibility with research and experimentation regarding what elements can be introduced and studied. “With our focus on working directly with industry partners, there are some unique attributes with what we’ve put together,”


role in our clean energy future. We’re proud of the partnership we have with St. Thomas and the School of Engineering and look forward to a bright future of working together.” POWER AND EMPOWER What flows through the microgrid is remarkable on two levels. On one hand is power, the all- important energy upon which our society depends. On the other hand is empower. From day one, St. Thomas students have been trusted and empowered to contribute to the microgrid throughout its entire construction, imbuing the facility itself with a spirit of learning. “When you figure new stuff out, it’s not always going to work. Keep going. Don’t be afraid of it,” Mowry said of the attitude he passes on to his students, dozens of whom have contributed to the microgrid. “The moment they crack open a door and see that glimmer of light, they see they’re capable. That’s the greatest thing any teacher can do for a student. …That self-awareness and potential are major changes in the way a person views themselves in life. That’s what these kinds of projects unleash.” The benefits are incredible for both undergraduates and graduate students, particularly those of the burgeoning Master of Science in Electrical Engineering, the growth of which has coincided with the microgrid’s development since it was first submitted as a grant in 2011.

A 48-kilowatt (48,000 watt) solar PV array, located on the roof of McCarthy Gymnasium and the FDC

One 50-kilowatt biofuel Genset generator

A connection to the grid through Xcel Energy

Dean Don Weinkauf said. “The dream has been for

A 125-kilowatt/396-kilowatt hours lead acid battery storage

companies to be able to come in, plug in their components and see how they interface in a microgrid environment. We can now do that.” For Xcel Energy, the key partner to this point, the results already speak for themselves. “The St. Thomas Center for Microgrid Research is a great example of two partners with a shared vision to reduce carbon emissions working together to benefit students, the university and the environment,” said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy- Minnesota. “The technologies that students and companies are testing at this facility could someday play an important

The capability to emulate different electrical sources or loads using state-of-the-art electrical power research equipment

The capability to test third-party equipment up to 125 kilowatts

Controllable load devices up to 250 kilowatts

St. Thomas Engineer 2020 Page 11

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