Dominion Virginia Power has donated $400,000 in smart-grid equipment and started a $45,000 fellowship fund. The fund was designed to help graduate students in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech gain experience using state-of-the-art technology to help improve the U.S. power infrastructure.

The Richmond-based power company donated the power system protection and relay equipment to Virginia Tech’s Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The equipment is the latest and most advanced generation of microprocessor-based high-voltage transmission protection systems, said Matthew Gardner, an electric transmission planner for Dominion and a three-time alumnus of Virginia Tech. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 2003, his master’s in 2005, and his doctoral degree in 2008, all from the electrical and computer engineering department.

The equipment — identical to what is being installed on Dominion’s power system — is used to monitor the operations and power flows on the transmission grid, as well as detecting and locating system faults, Gardner said.

The four units are large, 3 feet by 8 feet each, cost upward of $140,000, and will be installed in the power engineering laboratories in Whittemore Hall on the Virginia Tech campus this spring. “This brand new, state-of-the-art equipment will allow our graduate and undergraduate students to implement advanced protection schemes that take advantage of intelligent electronic devices,” said Jaime De La Ree, assistant department head and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

The remainder of the $400,000 value stems from installation and engineer design cost, Gardner said.

The $45,000 Dominion Virginia Power fellowship fund will support a master’s student in power engineering. It would pay for tuition, fees, and a stipend for a master’s student who would intern and then possibly work for the Richmond-based power company. The sponsorship is on a pilot basis, but will expand to multiple years if successful, Gardner said.

Virginia Tech has a long history of power engineering excellence and has one of the largest and oldest power programs in the country. The first smart grid technology, phasor measurement units (PMUs) now being used worldwide to improve reliability of power grids, was built at Virginia Tech. College of Engineering researchers also deployed the first national Frequency Monitoring Network to monitor frequency of the power grid.

“Thanks to Dominion, our students will have experience and expertise in the technology needed to build smart, sustainable power grids. Dominion’s support in this tough economic climate signals their approval and confidence in our students and our programs,” said De La Ree.

Richard Benson, dean of the College of Engineering, said the support is particularly beneficial as more students at all levels are seeking admission into the College of Engineering than ever before.

Dominion regularly seeks not only engineering students from Virginia Tech, but also forestry students in the College of Natural Resources, said David Roop, director of electric transmission operations for Dominion. “We lean against Virginia Tech more than you realize.” Roop also is a Virginia Tech alumnus, earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1976. “It is nice to be able to support my school in this way to prepare our future industry leaders for the challenges we face as we improve the efficiency of our transmission systems,” Roop said.

Dominion Virginia Power is a subsidiary of Dominion (NYSE: D), one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, with a portfolio of more than 27,000 megawatts of generation, 6,000 miles of electric transmission lines, 14,000 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline, and 1.2 trillion cubic feet equivalent of natural gas and oil reserves. Dominion also owns the nation’s largest underground natural gas storage system and operates more than 975 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves retail energy customers in 12 states. For more information about Dominion, visit the company’s website.