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Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities: Course Plan

During the Winter Term, 14 graduate students and 17 professional development students from throughout the Northwest and beyond learned the foundational concepts from a first-rate, six-person multidisciplinary faculty team and well-known guest presenters.  The class included lectures, panel discussions, team projects, course readings tailored to a wide range of knowledge and experience, and optional field trips. The students also fine-tuned their ability to work effectively in multidisciplinary small group teams in preparation for the Spring Term projects.

In our Winter Term course, we explored the implications of many of the new and emerging technologies and concepts that are associated with or can be enhanced by the “Smart Grid”: smart grid edge and core grid technologies, demand response, energy efficiency, energy storage, distributed generation, energy imbalance markets and other renewable resource integration strategies, and more.  We also considered conceptual frameworks to help us explore these topics, learned about the existing physical grid and how it operates, and received a whirlwind history of the grid technology, markets, planning, and regulation.

However, we also went far beyond the latest technological innovations and current practices. We also explored the implications of:

  • The growth of “disruptive” technologies and financing models, calls for new business and regulatory models, related issues associated with the anticipated “utility death spiral”, and their relationship to the Northwest’s energy profile;
  • Wholesale markets and managing variable resources in a fixed obligation world;
  • Demand manipulation strategies by technology and pricing;
  • Stakeholder hopes and concerns with smart meters, the smart grid, distributed generation, demand response, renewables integration, and other emerging technologies and business and financing models;
  • Interoperability opportunities and challenges;
  • The concepts behind the vision of “community energy sustainability”;
  • New strategies to encourage the successful integration of more wind, solar and other cleaner but more intermittent and distributed forms of energy;
  • Calls for transformative change and the emergence dramatically different visions of our energy future; and
  • Workforce challenges and job opportunities associated with the transition to a greener energy economy.
Here is a link to the detailed Winter Term Course Syllabus