Pitt launches new electric grid research institute

The Energy Grid Research and Infrastructure Development Institute will promote off-campus efforts to modernize the power grid.

The University of Pittsburgh has established an off-campus energy research institute to build on its efforts to modernize the electric grid by attracting public and private partners.

In an announcement this morning, Pitt said the new Energy Grid Research and Infrastructure Development Institute, or the Grid Institute, will be housed in its laboratory space in the Energy Innovation Center. In March, Pitt began construction on four individual laboratories and administrative offices covering 18,600 square feet of the building, formerly the Connelley Trade School on Bedford Avenue in the Lower Hill District.

“Considering the expansive and somewhat daunting goal — to modernize the nation’s electric power grid and energy infrastructure — it’s vital that research institutions such as Pitt partner with the utility industry and the community to find solutions addressing security, resiliency and reliability,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick D. Gallagher, in a press release.

Over the last year, Pitt has sought to advance its research, which tackles the question of how to integrate more localized, clean energy resources and upgrade aging poles and wires. In November, it announced it would partner with Duquesne Light Co., the Downtown electric utility, to experiment with a microgrid. It is also working with a partnership signed last summer between the City of Pittsburgh and U.S. Department of Energy to scale up district energy.

The Grid Institute effectively puts a formal name on those efforts.

Initial partners include Duquesne Light and Greensburg-based electric utility West Penn Power, as well as Pitt-Ohio Express, Siemens and Eaton, the latter of which sponsors an electric laboratory in the Swanson School of Engineering in Oakland.

Gregory Reed, professor of electrical and computer engineering in the engineering school and the director of the Pitt’s Center for Energy, said research at the Energy Innovation Center will “impact not only our nation’s power grid, but also energy transmission and distribution infrastructure around the globe.”

Daniel Moore: dmoore@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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