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Conference confronts energy challenges


August 19, 2008

Ideas for facing the critical challenges of producing and delivering energy to a growing world will be given a spotlight at ASU for three days in September.

ASU will be the first university in the United States to host the international Conference for Power Engineering Leaders of Tomorrow, bringing leading graduate students in the field to the Tempe campus from Sept. 5 through 7.

Each of 17 participants from universities with the top power engineering programs in Europe, Africa, Australia, India, China, Canada, the United States and Mexico, among others, will offer their perspectives on meeting the energy needs of the 21st century.

“They will address all of the big issues involved in providing the affordable and readily available power we are going to need to sustain and improve our lifestyles, economies and environments throughout the world,” says Gerald Heydt, an ASU professor of electrical engineering.

“We will hear their ideas about what specific engineering advances we need to make in energy research and how we can move in the right directions to achieve those technological breakthroughs,” Heydt says.

The conference is designed to gather the potential leaders of the next generation of power systems engineers and encourage them to begin networking with their peers and develop collaborative research pursuits throughout their careers.

“We want to initiate the process that enables them to work collectively in the future,” says Vijay Vittal, an electrical engineering professor and director of the ASU’s Power Systems Engineering Research Center. “By combining their efforts, it will give them the best chance to contribute things of significant worldwide impact in the power field.”

The conference is sponsored by ASU’s Office of the Vice President of Research and Economics Affairs, the Department of Electrical Engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, and Arizona Public Service Co. and the Salt River Project, Arizona’s leading power utilities.

ASU has one of the largest power engineering programs in the United States. It is the home of the Power Systems Engineering Research Center, which includes 13 universities and 45 members from the power engineering industry.

Jonathan Stahlhut, who earned a Ph.D. in power engineering at ASU in 2006, attended the inaugural conference in 2006 at the University of Manchester in England.

“You gain valuable exposure to the different types of power research being done around world, and you learn about the various ways the power systems and energy markets are structured,” says Stahlhut, now working in the transmission planning department of Arizona Public Service Co.

“It’s important to form these international contacts for what they can teach us about different ways to deal with energy challenges,” he says.

ASU will be represented at the upcoming conference by Chong Wang, who is working toward a Ph.D. in power engineering. In his studies and research, Wang is exploring how to improve restoration of large power systems after they have experienced catastrophic blackouts.

The conference is expected to move in 2009 to ETH-Zurich (the Eidgenossiche Technische Hochschule) in Switzerland, one of Europe’s leading technology universities, and in 2010 to the University of Cape Town in South Africa. ASU power engineering faculty will be on the advisory committee for planning of future conferences.