Today, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and GE Digital celebrated the opening of the new cutting-edge Microgrid Control Lab at the University of Central Florida (UCF). The lab will serve as a state-of-the-art research facility and control room for engineering faculty and students. FPL and GE Digital are co-sponsoring the lab at UCF, which will feature control center equipment and software that students will use to simulate and test real-life grid control operations, including finding ways to optimize and keep the grid of the future secure.
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“The Microgrid Control Lab provides unprecedented access to a modern grid control center that enables some of the brightest young minds in the country to collaborate, learn and help reimagine the energy grid of tomorrow,” said Jim Walsh, General Manager of GE Digital’s Grid Software business. “As renewable energy sources, like solar, continue to expand and evolve, the technology behind the grid has to keep up. It is critical that electrical and computer engineering talent have real-life experiences with the hardware and software than underpins the modern grid helping utilities securely deliver reliable clean energy.”
At today’s lab opening ceremony, leaders from the three organizations participated in a panel discussion focused on the engineering roles available to recent graduates in the energy sector and discussed opportunities for full-time employment. FPL and GE Digital together have approximately 400 UCF alumni in their workforces.
GE Digital also today announced a new internship program that invests in the development of its team and future grid engineering leaders. The program will offer UCF students an intensive experience in the utilities and power sectors and help students develop analytical and software development skills using emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Currently, more than 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students at UCF are studying electrical or computer engineering - disciplines that support energy systems and electricity grids. Another 500-plus UCF students have indicated they plan to pursue an electrical or computer engineering major once prerequisite coursework is completed.
UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a power and renewable energy track as part of its undergraduate programs. In addition, a graduate certificate is offered in sustainable and resilient energy systems. Through a faculty collaboration called RISES - Resilient, Intelligent and Sustainable Energy Systems - UCF researchers across multiple disciplines are working to develop sustainable and resilient energy systems and storage.
“This new facility is exactly the kind of strategic partnership that makes UCF a premiere choice for students with future-focused career goals. GE Digital and FPL have been both philanthropic investors and design collaborators in this lab, ensuring our students in this field will be industry-ready on day one of their careers,” UCF President Alexander Cartwright said. “It’s a win-win. Our students get a leading education in a lab environment, and both companies open up a pipeline of incredible talent for their workforce.”
The lab at UCF is designed to simulate the control center of a microgrid, a type of self-sufficient energy system that incorporates solar or other renewable energy sources and battery storage to power a small-scale area, independent of a large-scale grid.
“We are excited to bring this innovative research space to UCF engineering students,” said Ed De Varona, FPL’s Vice President of Transmission & Substation. “The lab is a terrific training ground for rising engineers to work directly with the latest technologies and help refine and innovate the way energy is transmitted and distributed across the grid now and in the future.”
The lab aims at safe, reliable, efficient and secure operation of large-scale distribution networks with extremely high penetration of renewables, a growing area in the energy industry. Through collaborating with industry and utility partners, UCF continues to offer students real-world opportunities as they prepare to go into careers that are shaping the future.
About the University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida is a public research university in Orlando. Founded in 1963, UCF and its 13 colleges offer more than 220 degrees from the university’s main campus, downtown campus, hospitality campus, health sciences campus, online and through multiple regional locations. UCF is an academic, partnership and research leader in optics and lasers, modeling and simulation, engineering and computer science, and video game design. According to U.S. News & World Report, UCF ranks among the nation’s 20 most innovative universities.
About Florida Power & Light Company
Florida Power & Light Company is the largest vertically integrated rate-regulated electric utility energy company in the U.S. as measured by retail electricity produced and sold. The company serves more than 5.6 million customer accounts supporting more than 11 million residents across Florida with clean, reliable and affordable electricity. FPL operates one of the cleanest power generation fleets in the U.S and in 2020 won the ReliabilityOne® National Reliability Excellence Award for the fifth time in the last six years. The company was recognized in 2020 as one of the most trusted U.S. electric utilities by Escalent for the seventh consecutive year. FPL is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE), a clean energy company widely recognized for its efforts in sustainability, corporate responsibility, ethics and compliance, and diversity. NextEra Energy is ranked No. 1 in the electric and gas utilities industry in Fortune’s 2021 list of “World’s Most Admired Companies,” and recognized on Fortune’s 2021 list of companies that “Change the World.” NextEra Energy is also the parent company of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun and a world leader in battery storage. For more information about NextEra Energy companies, visit these websites: www.NextEraEnergy.com, www.FPL.com, and www.NextEraEnergyResources.com.
About GE Digital
GE Digital transforms how our customers solve their toughest challenges by putting industrial data to work. Our mission is to bring simplicity, speed, and scale to digital transformation activities, with industrial software that delivers breakthrough business outcomes. GE Digital’s product portfolio – including grid optimization and analytics, asset and operations performance management, and manufacturing operations and automation – helps industrial companies in the utility, power generation, oil & gas, aviation, and manufacturing sectors change the way industry works. For more information, visit www.ge.com/digital.
Rachael Van Reen
Florida Power & Light Company
Heather Smith Lovett
University of Central Florida