published Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Smart grid key to city's tech future

Audio clip

David Wade

David Wade, 50

* He said: "We're building capacity to future-proof the (entire electrical) system. We're making sure we will provide benefits for years to come."

trendsetting engineers

Dr. Cecelia Wigal, 46

* Occupation: UC Foundation professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

* Accomplishments: Oversaw state Department of Education grant in which freshmen students designed, modeled and built projects to assist Signal Centers students.

* She said: "It's been exciting watching teams of students evolve and then see what happens when they complete a project."

Dr. J. Ronald Bailey, 64

* Occupation: Guerry Professor of Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, director of the school's Center for Energy, Transportation and the Environment.

* Accomplishments: Oversees Hydrogen Internal Combustion Engine Dynamics program in which senior engineering students convert a Saturn Vue to run on alternative fuels.

* He said: "Students get hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology like hydrogen-fueled vehicles ... hybrid vehicle technology and just about every new idea under the sun that can help break our addiction to oil."

Dr. Neslihan Alp, 42

* Occupation: UC Foundation professor, director of engineering management and graduate programs in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

* Accomplishments: Began new construction management program at UTC in conjunction with Chattanooga State Technical Community College, Cleveland State Community College and Associated General Contractors of East Tennessee.

* She said: "This program is going to be great and grow so rapidly. I wasn't expecting that (so) many students would be interested."

In the world of electric systems, if you're standing still, you're falling behind.

David Wade, senior vice president of electric systems for EPB, is helping to make sure the Chattanooga area is on the forefront of technology.

Part of that technology is a Smart Grid, a fiber-optic communications network integrated with the existing electric grid.

"We're building capacity to future-proof the (entire electrical) system," said Mr. Wade, 50, who supervises the design, construction and operation of the network which will cover EPB's 600-mile customer service area. "We're making sure we will provide benefits for years to come."

He said the utility is on the leading edge of Smart Grid technology.

"The initial build-out is to cover the whole system," he said, "and we'll be continuously adding new devices to grow into the future. Because the Smart Grid system is a good communications backbone, carrying large amounts of data very quickly, we'll be able to add new applications that we can't even imagine today."

Its ability to automatically and constantly monitor equipment in a critical moment came as recently as the Good Friday storms that raked Chattanooga in April, officials said.

When high winds caused trees to fall into power lines and snapped utility poles, 10,000 customers whose area of town is served by a portion of the Smart Grid saw their power restored in seconds because the technology recognized the problem and created a different route for power to reach the customers.

Mr. Wade, a Chattanooga native and East Ridge High School graduate, began his 26-year EPB career as a ground worker, attended apprentice school and eventually went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to earn an engineering degree.

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about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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