In the News: University of St. Thomas Center for Microgrid Research to Expand Following Funding

Mahmoud Kabalan, professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering and director of the Center for Microgrid Research, and Don Weinkauf, dean of the School of Engineering, recently spoke with Energy News Network about how state and federal funding will be used to expand the university’s microgrid research.

From the story:

The University of St. Thomas has been developing its campus microgrid for about a decade. Today, it consists of a 48-kilowatt rooftop solar array along with a diesel generator, a lead acid battery pack, and an inverter that converts direct current to alternating current. A campus substation connects to Xcel’s local grid. 

Like most microgrids, the St. Thomas system can run in “island” mode, meaning it can operate even when the power grid fails by drawing on the battery, solar panels and backup generation.

The Center for Microgrid Research opened in 2020 as a way to build research and education programming around its campus microgrid. Mahmoud Kabalan, the center’s director, was hired in 2017 from Villanova University to teach engineering and helped secure seed funding from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund for the program.

Don Weinkauf, the school’s dean of engineering, said the new state and federal funding will allow the center to expand both the program and the microgrid system itself. 

“This stuff is expensive,” Weinkauf said. “Each piece of equipment is on the scale of a million dollars, and right now, we are expanding to reach a 1-megawatt capacity.”