The University of Minnesota will receive a $2.5 million economic stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for revitalizing electrical power engineering education programs and retraining employees from other energy industries.
The University will continue to lead more than 80 universities from around the country in re-energizing education and research programs. These programs are meant to prepare the next generation of utility and electrical manufacturing workers and will begin to focus on how to store wind and solar power.
This will bring the University’s funding for this project up to $4.2 million.
The proposal, submitted by University electrical and computer engineering professor Ned Mohan and his colleagues, asked the DOE for funding for faculty development, state-of-the-art laboratories and classroom materials that could help produce a large number of graduates in a short period of time.
DOE Secretary Steven Chu announced Thursday that a total of $99.3 million will be given to universities, community colleges and manufacturers to develop and implement training programs. The funding builds on the more than $4 billion in the Recovery Act for smart grid development and is estimated to train approximately 30,000 Americans.
“Today’s investment will help ensure that we have the workforce in place to meet this need,” Chu said at a press conference. “This is a great opportunity for workers to upgrade their skills and earn more, or for laid-off workers from other industries to start fresh in a new and growing field.”
Mohan said he believes this is why the University received stimulus money.
“The bottom line is that skilled workers are needed,” Mohan said.
The University has already received funding from the Navy and the National Science Foundation for this venture, and the new funding comes less than a month after an $8 million DOE grant was finalized at the University for advanced wind-energy research.
“We’re not doing anything unusual here,” Mohan said. “Any university could have taken the lead, but we were able to see the potential.”
Secretary Chu made the announcement last Thursday at a Pepco engineering and service center in Rockville, Md., which will receive $4.4 million. The company estimates the funding will train 700 new and existing employees.
“This is the future of energy, and we want to help this program to become international,” Mohan said. “We’re excited about the money, but more excited for the exposure that will help other universities take the initiative.”