Why was NC State chosen to lead the new research consortium?

President Obama announced yesterday the creation of the $140 million Next Generation Power Electronics Institute which will be headquartered at NC State’s Centennial Campus. The Institute will be a consortium of companies and universities that will develop the next generation of energy efficient electronic chips and devices. According to a release by NC State, the Institute will develop new energy solutions through the use and evolution of a technology called wide bandgap semiconductors.

The US DOE will provide $70 million to the Institute over the next 5 years to be matched by business, universities, and the State of North Carolina.  The consortium will consist of 7 universities and 18 companies including local powerhouses ABB and CREE. 

So why here? Why was NC State selected as the home of the Institute?  I think it’s for 3 key reasons:

  1. Local industry strength. We have an incredible array of local companies up and down the smart grid and cleantech sector.  These companies are global leaders in energy and smart grid innovation.  We sit at the convergence of this incredible mix of engineering, power, energy, and technology that will shape the world’s energy future.

  2. University and industry resources.  The Institute will join a host of university and industry resources here in the Triangle.  The Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems Center is an NSF-funded engineering research center focused on developing new technologies associated with the smart grid. The Center, which is also home to the Advanced Transportation Energy Center (ATEC), counts close to 50 companies as active industry partners. Its solid state transformer was recently named one of the world’s 10 most important emerging technologies by MIT’s Technology Review.  The North Carolina Solar Center, at NC State University, advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices and policies. The Solar Center serves as a resource for innovative, clean energy technologies through demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training. It also administers the Database of Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), a resource providing financial incentives and policies.  Advanced Energy is a nonprofit research institute that collaborates across the industrial, transportation, and renewable energy spectrum to discover, development, and implement sustainable solutions.  Our region is also home to the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC).  The RTCC is a non-profit economic development organization whose goal is to facilitate collaboration between companies, institutions and government agencies.  RTCC is one of only a handful of members of the International Cleantech Network, an international group of regional entities pushing cleantech innovation.

  3. People.  Talent – our highly skilled and educated workforce – are what drive innovation.  Our region is home to some of the best and brightest, particularly in smart grid. This project will create or sustain over 1,000 jobs in the first five years

This is a day of great news for NC State and the entire Triangle Region! Stay tuned, lots more to come. 

Be sure to keep up with all the smart grid and cleantech news by following us on Twitter @TriSmartGrid.

Author: Michael Haley, Project Manager, Wake County Economic Development


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