Elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering researchers at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity have been awarded $2.3 mil­lion as part of a five-​​year, $18.5 mil­lion grant from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion and the U.S. Depart­ment of Energy to develop the nation’s next gen­er­a­tion of elec­tric power trans­mis­sion grids.

The grant will be used to estab­lish the Center for Ultra-​​wide-​​area Resilient Elec­tric Energy Trans­mis­sion Net­work (CURENT), the sev­enth federally-​​funded national research center awarded to the Col­lege of Engi­neering in the last four years.

CURENT—whose mis­sion is to build a more reli­able, secure and effi­cient elec­tric grid trans­mis­sion system that uses renew­able energy sources, such as wind and sunlight—aligns with the University’s focus on use-​​inspired research that solves global chal­lenges in secu­rity and sustainability.

North­eastern researchers plan to develop a real-​​time mon­i­toring appli­ca­tion for the smart-​​grid system, which will be designed to min­i­mize blackout rates and improve energy effi­ciency in bulk power trans­mis­sion and usage.

Main­taining effi­cient and resilient oper­a­tion of the power trans­mis­sion grid becomes increas­ingly impor­tant as the use of renew­able resources increases,” said elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering pro­fessor and chair, Ali Abur, who will serve as director of Northeastern’s CURENT site. “Suc­cessful mon­i­toring will allow us to sig­nif­i­cantly improve energy effi­ciency and min­i­mize cas­cading outages.”

The center, which will be housed at the Uni­ver­sity of Ten­nessee, Knoxville, will serve as a global hub for researchers from around the world. In addi­tion to North­eastern, researchers at Rens­se­laer Poly­technic Insti­tute in New York and Tuskegee Uni­ver­sity in Alabama will play a role in revamping the country’s aging elec­trical grid infra­struc­ture system. Three inter­na­tional partner schools—including the National Tech­nical Uni­ver­sity of Athens in Greece, Tsinghua Uni­ver­sity in China and the Uni­ver­sity of Waterloo in Canada—will col­lab­o­rate on activ­i­ties through the center.

The center will also develop a robust edu­ca­tional pro­gram for stu­dents at par­tic­i­pating uni­ver­si­ties. More than three-​​dozen industry part­ners from small start-​​up firms, man­u­fac­turers and utility com­pa­nies, for example, will pro­vide engi­neering stu­dents with first-​​hand expe­ri­ence in entrepreneurship.

This project rep­re­sents the com­mit­ment of the col­lege and its fac­ulty to work with industry, other uni­ver­si­ties and the gov­ern­ment for a better future for the nation,” said David Luzzi, dean of the Col­lege of Engineering.

Our work through CURENT ties directly to two of the core areas of research at the Col­lege of Engi­neering, including energy sus­tain­ability, par­tic­u­larly in urban envi­ron­ments, and the devel­op­ment of ubiq­ui­tous sensing that enables advanced data col­lec­tion, analysis and active response.”