Job-seeking engineering students should study renewable projects sitting in grid operator queues
- Jan 15, 2021 12:41 pm GMT
In the US energy industry, 2 problems are brewing that could be a solution to each other. On one side, we have fresh engineers looking for jobs in policy and other areas that may not be the right starting point for an engineer. On another side, the industry faces an unprecedented amount of renewable projects request simply sitting in the interconnection queues waiting to be studied. The renewable project developers pay large study deposits to maintain these queue spots. This queue problem shall only become worse when distributed scale renewables connect to the transmission grid. Hence the industry, regulator, and environmental advocates need to join forces and provide a way for job-seeking engineers to work on interconnection studies and clear out the backlog.
Engineering students need jobs
Universities and colleges do a good job of laying the foundation, but students don't get practical experience until they find internships or jobs. Lucky students have professors with strong ties to the industry. Not so lucky ones have to fend for themselves even if they have the technical chops to solve complex engineering issues.
Students likely spend too much researching on topics when there is a problem right in front of them – renewable interconnections. If students work on grid interconnection queue problems while on-campus, they get real-world experience, plus they would be marketable in the industry when they graduate. If interconnection studies workload reduces, the same engineers can rotate to market operations and other business areas within a utility or grid operator.
Renewable projects need engineers
There are far too many projects in the interconnection queues across this country. These are mostly due to renewables, especially solar and storage.
The grid operator process-based compliance tariff is the culprit because grid operators cannot stop what they are doing and focus on interconnections alone. If they do that – they could be non-compliant with other parts of the tariff.
The solution is more engineers who know what they are doing because it takes solid 2 years for a fresh engineer to run a model and have a result that makes sense to most stakeholders. The last point about stakeholders would improve students' communication skills and enhance networking within the industry.