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The University of Tennessee at Knoxville has been awarded a five-year, $18 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to research and develop technology for sustainable energy systems with. The NSF and DOE have partnered to address the nation’s critical need to develop a smart grid and selected UT Knoxville to take a lead role.

This is UT Knoxville’d first opportunity to lead an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) and the first time an ERC will address power transmission systems. Traditionally, an NSF ERC is considered the most prestigious award given to a university industry team. Since the program’s creation in 1984, only 33 American universities have led a total of 42 ERCs.

The new center, called CURENT (Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks), consists of a consortium of academia, industry and national laboratories.  Kevin Tomsovic, head of UT’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, will direct CURENT, and Yilu Liu, Governor’s Chair for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will be co-director.

UT Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek, says, “Our country is in a defining moment in history as it relates to the urgency to address the aging infrastructure and managing our energy needs. This award propels UT to the frontlines both domestically and internationally of smart-grid research. We have the leading experts and the sophisticated tools to develop the transformational technology that will make our power grid greener, safer, and smarter.”

According to the DOE, demand for electricity has exceeded transmission growth by almost 25 percent. As the nation’s population grows, this overload is expected to worsen. CURENT seeks to solve this problem by focusing its technologies and methods to operate the power grid efficiently and reliably over long distances.

Tomsovic adds: “Using wide-area synchronized measurements, large-scale computer simulations, and hardware testbeds that represent the major U.S. power grids, we will seek fundamental breakthroughs and investigate the enabling technologies needed to achieve a resilient transmission network on a continental scale.”

CURENT will be housed in UT Knoxville’s new Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. For more information, visit


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