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Duke Energy, Siemens Energy Provide $8.8 Million for UNCC's EPIC

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CHARLOTTE, NC – Two Charlotte energy companies, Duke Energy and Siemens Energy, today announced US$8.8 million in support for the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center [EPIC] at UNC Charlotte. Duke Energy will provide approximately $4.5 million and Siemens Energy will provide approximately $4.3 million in support of the Center. Both companies will do this over several years as the EPIC program develops.

Critical to training new engineers and conducting research in energy technologies, EPIC will serve the diverse needs of existing and new energy companies, further positioning Charlotte USA as The New Energy Capital.

The combined support from the two companies will provide engineering scholarships, advance research capabilities in Smart Grid and precision manufacturing, provide access to large-scale manufacturing equipment and enable recruiting of key faculty in power engineering disciplines.

“The generous financial support from Duke Energy and Siemens are integral to the gathering momentum of the EPIC project; we at UNC Charlotte are most grateful for the ongoing support of these two energy leaders,” says UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip L. Dubois. “This support reflects the depth of academic and industry collaboration in the Charlotte Region. We also are grateful for the steadfast support of the State of North Carolina in its crucial funding to build the EPIC facility and to hire staff and faculty.”

“EPIC will transform the future of our energy workforce and job development across this growing region,” said Dhiaa Jamil, Group Executive, Chief Generation Officer and Chief Nuclear Officer for Duke Energy, who also chairs EPIC’s Industrial Advisory Board. “It will be a resource for engineering students from many universities and colleges, and a national resource for the development of cutting edge technologies that continue to shape the energy industry,” he continued.

“Siemens Energy is committing time, talent and funds for a dual community impact – to further the EPIC and New Energy Capital efforts and to support the expansion of Siemens’ superior energy workforce and research reputation,” says Mark Pringle, Director of Operations for Siemens Energy’s Charlotte operation.

Siemens Energy has announced plant expansions that will increase its Charlotte Region employee base from almost 800 to more than 1,800. Gas turbine manufacturing will be a premier specialty at the new Siemens Energy facility in Charlotte.

At EPIC, Siemens Energy expects to support a manufacturing lab that can increase the accuracy of machining large-scale parts.

EPIC director and SPX Distinguished Professor at UNC Charlotte, Steve Patterson, explains its importance. “First, highly accurate parts improve the efficiency of manufacturing operations thus allowing for reduced assembly and installation costs and longer service life. Overall that is a time and energy saver. Second, this will be a training laboratory for the next generation of manufacturing engineers.”

Graduates are often said to locate close to their universities, so this talented workforce can provide an ongoing lure to the Charlotte Region for new and existing energy and engineering firms.

Siemens Energy will also provide funding for undergraduate and graduate scholars, support for a veterans’ outreach program, and support for a visiting scholars program which will bring in key researchers from outside the U.S. to work with EPIC associates.

Siemens Energy will also provide machinery time at its 550,000 square foot plant southwest of Charlotte so faculty can work on advanced manufacturing concepts. Part of Siemens Energy’s support is framed as challenge-funding that can motivate other firms to provide support.

Duke Energy plans to support a Distinguished EPIC Student Fellows Program for promising high school seniors with a declared interest in energy engineering. The program will be a renewable award made to entering engineering freshmen, recurring over a four-year period to students enrolled in the energy program curriculum, provided that they maintain eligibility requirements.

A Duke Energy Chair in Power Engineering Systems will recruit a distinguished professor with proven research in the area of power engineering systems and notable industry experience to serve as the inaugural director of the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center. This faculty member will be equipped to direct faculty within EPIC to target research projects of immediate and long-term interest to Duke Energy and other energy companies. This researcher will attract students and develop graduate engineers that have the unique skills and knowledge required to add value to the energy engineering workforce. This distinguished faculty position will be supported by an endowment of $2.67 million that is funded by a $2 million commitment from Duke Energy and a $670,000 match from the State of North Carolina.

A Duke Energy Smart Grid Laboratory will provide much-needed research to modernize the electric power grid – a national priority. A digitally-enabled power-system infrastructure will accommodate all generation and storage options, enable markets, optimize assets and operational efficiency, and motivate consumer stewardship. A modernized grid also provides feedback, ensures power quality appropriate for digital applications, allows self-healing within the system, and resists attack by providing adequate security measures.

Says Jamil, “This will be a research service for our EPIC partners so that they may test new technologies and develop collaborative relationships within the Lee College of Engineering. This kind of cross-discipline work within the college builds a greater understanding about our nation’s energy priorities among a large number of engineering students.”

Studies done in the 1990s showed that that Charlotte needed to expand its university research and technology infrastructure for the long-term economic development of the region.

“A research university produces good ideas and good people. Both are essential for sustainable economic development. Aligning corporate workforce and research needs with our university like this says something about the character of our region as an energy hub. It makes our region even more attractive to new energy firms,” says Ronnie Bryant, President and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

In the last two years the State of North Carolina committed funds to build the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center Building on the UNC Charlotte campus and for ongoing support for new faculty. The College of Engineering is recruiting or has already hired more than 20 energy faculty.

Charlotte USA has become known as “The New Energy Capital” because of more than 240 energy-oriented organizations and more than 26,000 energy-oriented employees in its 16 counties.

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