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Dominion Virginia Power Donates Equipment to Virginia Tech
April 15, 2009

Mary Bess Bolin, manager of Transmission Reliability for Dominion Virginia Power; Matthew Gardner, an electric transmission planner for Dominion and Virginia Tech alumnus; David Roop, director of Electric Transmission Operations for Dominion and a Virginia Tech alumnus; Richard Benson, dean of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech; and James Thorp, the Hugh P. and Ethel C. Kelly Professor of Electrical Engineering and head of the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Dominion Virginia Power has donated $400,000 in smart-grid equipment and started a $45,000 fellowship fund. The fund was designed to help graduate students in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech gain experience using state-of-the-art technology to help improve the U.S. power infrastructure. The Richmond-based power company donated the power system protection and relay equipment to Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The equipment is the latest and most advanced generation of microprocessor-based high-voltage transmission protection systems, said Matthew Gardner, an electric transmission planner for Dominion and a three-time alumnus of Virginia Tech.

The equipment – identical to what is being installed on Dominion’s power system – is used to monitor the operations and power flows on the transmission grid, as well as detecting and locating system faults, Dr. Gardner said. The four units are large, 3 feet by 8 feet each, cost upward of $140,000, and will be installed in the power engineering laboratories in Whittemore Hall on the Virginia Tech campus this spring. The remainder of the $400,000 value stems from installation and engineer design cost, Dr. Gardner said.

The $45,000 Dominion Virginia Power fellowship fund will support a master’s student in power engineering. It would pay for tuition, fees, and a stipend for a master’s student who would intern and then possibly work for the Richmond-based power company. The sponsorship is on a pilot basis, but will expand to multiple years if successful, Dr. Gardner said. Virginia Tech has a long history of power engineering excellence and has one of the largest and oldest power programs in the country. The first smart grid technology, phasor measurement units (PMUs) now being used worldwide to improve reliability of power grids, was built at Virginia Tech. College of Engineering researchers also deployed the first national Frequency Monitoring Network to monitor frequency of the power grid. Richard Benson, dean of the College of Engineering, said the support is particularly beneficial as more students at all levels are seeking admission into the College of Engineering than ever before.

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