T&D World Magazine

Forrest Small: Transforming the Grid

Forrest Small is playing a meaningful role in the transformation of transmission and distribution to a smarter grid. He is a consultant with Navigant Consulting and is doing work with the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity.

“I have a once-in-a-career opportunity to work with utilities across the industry as part of the Smart Grid Investment Grants and Smart Grid Demonstration programs,” Small said.

Small is a director in the Energy Practice at Navigant. He helps utilities, government agencies, equipment suppliers and investors create strategy, development and implementation plans for the smart grid and related technologies. This includes distribution automation, AMI, microgrids, HTS equipment, power electronics, distributed generation, demand response and energy storage. His 20-year career spans both management consulting, and T&D planning and operations at an electric utility.

Small has taught courses in electrical machinery, power systems analysis, and portions of review courses for the Professional Engineer exam. He has also made conference presentations on distribution automation, electrical system restoration, and power electronics research.

In accordance with the move toward smart grid, however, most recently his presentations have dealt with assessing the benefits of smart grid.

“A clear understanding of smart grid benefits and the ability to measure them are critical to realizing its long-term value,” Small said.

His experience with consulting and from working at a utility in the first half of his career has prepared Small for teaching others.

“Consulting forces one to keep up with the changes affecting our industry,” Small said. “Clients often come to Navigant to help them understand market trends, new technologies, industry best practices, and policy implications. I am a firm believer that the best way to refine your understanding of anything is to teach it to someone else.”

Small started out his career at Central Maine Power. Due to his skills and the size of the company, he was able to get involved in special projects in different areas, including transmission and distribution planning, open access transmission services, grid operations, power quality and even marketing.

While he is happy with his career choices, he said he initially wanted to pursue robotics. But he had spent his summers working at CMP while studying electrical engineering at the University of Maine. His practical experience at the utility and his coursework slowly turned him to power engineering.

“I found that I understood power engineering better than the other areas, and I had a crystal clear picture of how I could work in the industry as a power engineer,” Small said. “I also had the support of an excellent professor, Dr. Peter McKenny, with whom I completed my master’s degree in electrical engineering, focusing on power systems.”

Small started his management consulting career at Arthur D. Little and then joined Navigant. His consulting experience has taught him that often, less is more. “A simple message that the audience can fully grasp is more valuable than a complicated one that only a few people may comprehend.”

When Small takes a break from consulting, he likes skiing with his family, photography and playing the guitar.

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