UT Center for Electromechanics works to improve energy grid

Vanya Sharma

UT’s Center for Electromechanics is working to make energy more efficient and accessible for rural Texas communities with its UT Energy project.

In a $1.6 million initiative, the CEM will partner with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability to complete the project, which will focus on creating the necessary equipment for a new grid  and simulating the grid’s performance in a laboratory. An electric grid is the network that carries and delivers power from power companies  to consumers.

Bob Hebner, CEM director and engineering professor, said the project will help to prevent grid malfunctions and allow for overall improvements to system repairs.

“Nearly no one wants to think of the [electric] grid,” Hebner said. “We just don’t want to worry about electricity. It needs to be where we want it, when we want it and affordable. Without changes in the grid, we will be increasingly unable to meet the anticipated demands for affordability and sustainability.”

Currently, the CEM and DOE are finalizing the administrative and legal details with no indication of when the bureaucratic process will be over. Once the project is launched, the goal is to be done in three years, Hebner said.

Students in the Cockrell School of Engineering are looking forward to this project.  Taylor Zhao, electrical engineering and business senior, said he is proud UT is involved in solving such a problem.

“I'm glad UT Austin is at the forefront of the energy industry and championing the transition for a better grid in the future,” Zhao said. “It’s truly inspiring that I'm at a place where we're at the cutting edge of technology."

Chemical engineering junior Eiler Schiötz said learning about the project’s schematics is an opportunity to learn and question.

“Researchers may have to consider uncertainties in the reliability of wind and solar energy production as they can vary depending upon environmental conditions,”  Schiötz said.

Zhao said this project is a very good use of UT’s time and resources and looks forward to the project’s future success.