UT awarded $18 million to lead energy research center

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT)-- The University of Tennessee is now at the front lines of President Barack Obama's plan to overhaul the nation's energy grid.

The school has won a five-year million $18 million award from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy. UT will lead an Energy Research Center to study transfer of electrical energy.

"It's a very prestigious center, something UT has not had before so it's a sign that we're capable of being leaders in this research area," said Kevin Tomsovic, UT professor and head of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department.

Tomsovic will direct the new center called Center for Ultra-wide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks, and Yilu Liu, Governor's Chair for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as co-director.

Tomsovic said the funding will be used for the research and to educate students about sustainable energy.

"We'll be training students. I expect we will have local companies that will hire those students and stay in this part of the country to develop those products," he said.

Penn Markhan, a Ph.D student said the new center will make his degree and the university as a whole more valuable.

"We're real excited about the opportunities. It's going to provide funding and I think it'll allow us to work on great projects and allow us to interact with industries we normally don't get to," Markhan said.

The new center will be housed at the new Min Kao building, which is still under construction. Researchers hope to move into it sometime this fall.

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