ABB’s North American headquarters has made a gift to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to support power engineering research and education at North Carolina State University. The $1.2 million initiative, which includes a $632,000 commitment over five years from ABB plus anticipated state and private matching grants, aims to strengthen the organizations’ cooperative research in electric power technologies and aid ABB’s recruiting of top engineering professionals.
The gift will establish an endowed professorship, a faculty support fund, annual scholarships, and a lecture series, all focused on power engineering, a field that deals with the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power, as well as the electrical devices connected to those systems. ABB, a global power and automation technology group, is one of the world’s largest power grid suppliers.
The ABB Distinguished Professorship in Electrical Engineering will enable the College of Engineering to retain or recruit a top power engineering faculty member and support groundbreaking research in the field. In addition to ABB’s contribution, it is anticipated that the professorship will be supplemented by matching grants that NC State has requested from the UNC Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund and the C.D. Spangler Foundation.
The ABB Power Engineering Scholarship program will offer five awards annually to students taking power engineering classes. The $6,000 scholarships are roughly equal to in-state tuition and fees at NC State and will help attract talented students to the field.
The lecture series will feature prominent experts on topics related to recent developments in power technology and the smart grid. The gift also includes funds for faculty development in power engineering.
“NC State recognizes that advances in power engineering will help build the smart electricity grid of the future,” said Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering. “This generous gift to the endowment from ABB will help attract outstanding engineering faculty and talented students to a field of great importance to our state and nation.”
Society’s demands for reliable, high-volume power from cleaner energy sources have fueled tremendous growth in the power engineering field. As energy efficiency and alternative-energy technologies — from electric vehicles to renewable power generation to smart grid applications in homes — enter the marketplace, researchers from universities and industry are working to reshape the power grid to handle the demand.
“One of our biggest challenges is finding skilled engineers who are well-trained in the technical principles of this dynamic field,” said Enrique Santacana, president and CEO of ABB Inc. and region manager of ABB in North America. “Not only will this initiative establish a pipeline of talented people for ABB, it combines NC State’s top academic thinking and our practical business know-how for advancing this exciting and rapidly changing industry.”
ABB and NC State have a long-established relationship. In 1991, ABB became the first corporate tenant on NC State’s Centennial Campus, where the company currently manages two of its five North American regional divisions, the power products and power systems divisions. In September, ABB announced the expansion of its Centennial Campus facilities to include the Smart Grid Center of Excellence, which will include a testing and development laboratory and a demonstration center that will showcase ABB’s smart grid technologies and partnerships.
ABB is investing an additional $300,000 this year in other research, fellowships and partnerships at NC State. The company is an industry partner of the FREEDM Systems Center, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center headquartered at NC State that is developing key technologies to revolutionize the nation’s energy grid.