While at the IEEE T&D Expo last November, I had the opportunity to meet folks from the National Electric Energy Testing, Research and Applications Center, a not-for-profit at Georgia Tech which focuses exclusively on power delivery technology, including (the integration of) storage and distributed generation. (See below* for a list of services provided–clearly a very practical “nuts and bolts” approach.)
NEETRAC grew out of the R&D Center that Georgia Power transferred to Georgia Tech in 1996, with all its staff and large facilities. Since then, the program scope and constituency have been broadened. The fulltime staff now exceeds 30, in addition to faculty and students who work with them. NEETRAC has access to all kinds of expertise and facilities across the entire school. They are ISO-9001 certified.
Sometimes it’s easier to start with an explanation of what something is not. NEETRAC is not a research management organization. Work is done in-house, and almost nothing is subcontracted out. They are not a funding agency. There is no technology watch function, except as part of scoping studies at the front end of projects. As the name says, they do testing, research, and applications.
Membership includes 23 major utilities (including 3 current UFTO participants, TXU, Xcel, and Exelon) and manufacturers. This number is expected to rise to 25 this year; they will stop at 30. Most pay $105K/year (much larger companies pay more).
Half of this money goes into “baseline projects”, which are selected and overseen by the Management Board. Forty-seven such projects have already been done, for a total cost of $4.2 million — on or below budget. Each project has a technical advisory committee, which usually meets by teleconference. There is a total commitment to the idea that members are to determine project content and program direction.
The other half of the money is placed directly into individual proprietary projects for the individual members (IP is very carefully protected). There is also about $1 million/year in contract research performed for other (nonmember) clients.
A new program of “Focused Initiatives” will offer non-members the chance to participate, though at 2.5 times the member cost. The proposal for the first such Initiative will appear in July, for Cable Diagnostics. NEETRAC already is doing a lot of work (for its members only) on Cables, including a test facility with cables with known defects. Vendors are invited to test and demonstrate their equipment. There are similar programs for other components.
Hans (Teddy) Püttgen, Director*
(*Dr. Püttgen is also the new President-Elect of the IEEE Power Engineering Society.)
*Services provided by NEETRAC:
-Transmission and Distribution Component Failure Investigation
-Incoming Material Inspection for Quality Control Program
-High Voltager Testing of Transmission and Distribution Components
-Testing of Aerial Personnel Devices
-Soil Thermal Property Measurements
-Lighting Fixture Evaluation
-Testing of Routine Utility Devices
-Line Hardware Evaluation
-Electric/Hybrid vehicle testing & research
-Underground Cable Pulling
-Fault Current Testing
-Performance Evaluation of Overhead Conductor and Accessories
-Vibration-damper Testing HV 60Hz Watts Loss
-Measurements Power Cable and Accessory Evaluation
-Weathering and Corrosion Evaluation