It’s Always SUNY in the Smart Grid

Herkimer College the latest to start a program for utilities of the future

For those doubting the legitimacy of the Smart Grid, here’s a nugget: Smart Grid investments have risen each year since 2010 and are expected to reach $13.8 annually in 2024. A major part of that is state-commissioned technical projects, which often collaborate with state colleges and universities, according to the Smart Grid 2018 Report from The footprint of such projects can be witnessed in news from the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York just this week.


Herkimer County Community College (aka Herkimer College) unveiled a new state-of-the-art Electrical Technology Smart Grid Lab at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, January 17. The facility is designed to educate and train students in power grid repair and maintenance, preparing them for careers in the utility industry.

Herkimer, part of the ‘SUNY’ family of colleges and universities that makes up the State Universities of New York, is located upstate, about 80 miles northwest of state capital Albany (or 30 miles north of Cooperstown, for you baseball fans).

To indicate how important the skill sets behind the Smart Grid wave are, consider that Herkimer also announced a new Electrical Technology degree program with a focus on smart grid technologies. The associate in applied science degree will prepare students with skills necessary for careers in the design, application, installation, manufacturing and operation and/or maintenance of electrical/electronic(s) systems, with a focus on smart grid technologies. Graduates of the program may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology or a related field.


“We are grateful for the funding and support from our partners on this project, and look forward to preparing our students and the workforce for lucrative careers in the utility industry,” said Herkimer College President Cathleen McColgin.

“Herkimer County Community College’s Electrical Technology Smart Grid Lab will educate and inspire the next generation of utility workers with the unique skills required for the energy industry as it transitions to the grid of the future,” said Gil C. Quiniones, New York Power Authority president and CEO.  “It is an exciting time to choose energy as a field as it is rapidly evolving to proactively address climate change. This lab will ensure that we have the skilled workforce to help New York State modernize its power grid and expand our focus on incorporating renewable energy sources into our power grid. This lab will help us all achieve Governor Cuomo’s aggressive clean energy vision.”

The lab and classroom includes the installation of a grid-parallel photovoltaic electrical generation system and an emergency generator that includes grid-integrated controls for parallel operation to enable the College’s participation in the New York Independent System Operators’ energy demand response programs.  The laboratory also includes energy efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning system upgrades and as well as lighting upgrades.

In addition to using the new lab for courses in its Electrical Technology degree program, Herkimer’s lab is available for NYPA and other utilities companies to utilize for workforce training. The facility also has a high definition projector with 90 by 144-inch drop-down screen, camera, microphones and speakers for distance learning, 75-inch mobile smart board, and 16 Dell laptops and eight personal computers.

NYPA and Herkimer College began work in 2016 to develop the curriculum and plans for a classroom/lab dedicated to workforce development and training for employees in the utility industry. Herkimer also partnered with Ilya Grinberg, professor and director of the Power Center for Utility Exploration at Buffalo State, where a similar facility exists. As a result, Herkimer’s facility is modeled after the lab at Buffalo State, and students who graduate from Herkimer will be uniquely prepared for successful transfer to the bachelor’s program at Buffalo State.

Grinberg said, “Besides typical courses that every engineering technology program in this state offers, such as circuits, electronics and digital courses, which are all geared more towards electronics, this program will have a course in renewable energy and a course in microprocessor-based relays, which will train and education students in controlling the power grid.”

Rabab Hassan, New Hartford, NY, has been appointed as an assistant professor to teach multiple courses in the program, including renewable/clean energy and power systems applications. Hassan was an electrical engineer for the Mansoura for Resins and Chemical Industries Co. in Egypt and is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Power Engineering from the University of Mansoura, Egypt, and a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Tennessee Technological University. She has is a member of Eta Kappa Nu, the IEEE’s international honor society, and has a special interest in renewable energy—especially solar and wind—microgrids, and distributed generation.

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