Electrical Engineers Sevag Bekmezian, right, and Jeff Robeniol test protective relays for power lines in the
A unique synergy is emerging at Cal Poly Pomona.
And if all goes as planned, Southern California Edison will soon be recruiting more engineering students from the school.
SCE has moved 450 of its employees into a new, 126,000-square-foot facility in the school's Innovation Village, and 280 of those workers are engineers.
David Mead, SCE's vice president of engineering and technical services, said the Rosemead-based utility has a growing need for more engineers.
"It all starts with growth in the company," he explained. "My organization is responsible for the planning, design and construction of the grid. When growth occurs in residential areas, we need substations. And we need a lot of brainpower to figure out how to bring in renewable energy."
Most of Edison's renewable power - wind, solar, geothermal or otherwise - comes from desert areas or up in the hills. And routing and connecting that power to Edison's network while still maintaining a high level reliability and efficiency takes innovative thinking, Mead said.
"Five or 10 years ago there wasn't a lot of growth in that business, but today there is," he said. "We need to hire more engineers and you need a good, strong engineering department to start this."
The new arrangement will help SCE mentor and recruit students as future employees, as well as grow partnership opportunities between SCE's engineering department and the university's engineering program.
Edison already has a strong connection to Cal Poly. Mead said the utility recruits engineering students from a variety of Southland schools, but the largest number are drawn from Cal Poly.
Salomon Oldak, who chairs the electrical and computer engineering department at Cal Poly, said some of the school's engineering professors will be involved in evaluating data from a battery bank Edison plans to use to store power from its massive Tehachapi wind-power project.
The school also submitted a proposal to Edison and ultimately received money from the utility for a relay-protection lab.
"When you have transmission lines that go from one place to another, they're switched through relays," Oldak explained.
Mead said SCE is working with Cal Poly's college of engineering to develop a curriculum in power engineering. The utility is also creating opportunities for students to learn from SCE's team of skilled engineers.
"Many students in engineering have turned to the IT discipline because our field hasn't been very sexy, so schools are a little behind the curve," Mead said. "But now we're in a very steep upswing to build this system so we need them."
Southern California Edison's new Cal Poly facility will also provide a welcome boost to the local economy, with SCE workers patronizing restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations and a variety of other retail businesses.
SCE is also building a second facility in the second phase of Innovation Village, which is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2011.
"We hire a lot of interns from Cal Poly," Mead continued. "They have a very big program there and they're very intense in the engineering field. And the thing about Cal Poly is it's a very hands-on institution. They pride themselves on turning out engineers who have actually done some stuff."
Article originally posted by
San Gabriel Valley Triubune