Energy test facility at UA celebrates 10 years

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 68 views 

The National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (NCREPT) is celebrating 10 years as an energy research center of the University of Arkansas.

The 12,000-square-foot center at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in south Fayetteville is a 6-megawatt testing site, allowing companies to test their power electronics before using them in their business. Research in which the center is focused includes to increase reliability and stability in the U.S. electric grid, strengthen cybersecurity in the grid and the oil and gas sectors, and develop smaller and higher power electronics. The research is conducted by 11 staff, 14 professors and more than 80 graduate students, said Chris Farnell, test engineer and managing director.

NCREPT is a testing site for three research centers and collaborates with 12 universities and 34 member companies in its research. The centers include the Grid-connected Advanced Power Electronics Systems (GRAPES), Cybersecurity Center for Secure Evolvable Energy Delivery Systems (SEEDS) and the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS).

Over the past decade, NCREPT has received three R&D 100 awards, presented by R&D Magazine, for a 150-degree Celsius silicon-carbide module, an electric vehicle battery charger with a 35-times increase in power density and a silicon-carbide motor for electric vehicles, Farnell said.

Since NCREPT was established, research funding has increased to more than $100 million, reflecting a return on investment of about 10 to 15 times, he said. Also, between 8,000 and 10,000 grade-school students have toured the facility or have learned about it through science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach activities.

Over the next 10 years, NCREPT is expected to work on grid stability as energy generation sources are expanded, mitigate cybersecurity threats and reduce the size of power electronics while increasing power density by 10 to 100 times.

In May, the center completed a $3.2 million project to expand the center by 5,000 square feet.

On Nov. 19, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association will host a lunch and learn at NCREPT. The event will include tours of the center and a presentation by executive director Alan Mantooth.

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