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NREL researcher honored with Hispanic STEM award

A national organization devoted to getting more Hispanics into the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), has honored a scientist at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with its annual Outstanding Technical Achievement Award.

Santiago Carlos Grijalva is NREL's new director of the Power Systems Engineering Center at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), and is responsible for establishing and directing the NREL's grid research portfolio at the $135 million state-of-the-art user facility.

Grijalva received the Outstanding Technical Achievement Award at the 25th Great Minds in STEM HENAAC Conference in New Orleans.

NREL Director Dan Arvizu said Grijalva was selected for the important post at ESIF because" he has a vision that is rare and innovative and that melds ideally with our focus on energy integration here at NREL." As utilities and vendors from around the nation and the world come to ESIF to develop their new technologies, Grijalva "will be the overseer of the big picture: how to create a smarter grid that can move renewables and fossil-fuel-based energy seamlessly on and off the electric network," Arvizu said.

Grijalva was born in Quito, Ecuador, where his passion for electricity blossomed early. By his own admission he was always "destroying toys," taking them apart to see how they worked, stitching toys together to get a bigger bang.

He credits his drive and appreciation for diverse cultures to his physician parents, who never missed a chance to spend a year, a season, or a couple weeks as visiting doctors in other countries and on other continents and who always brought the kids along. He is a native speaker of Spanish but also learned, in order, French, German and English.

At the age of 25, he was head of the real-time Software Department at the National Energy Control Center (CENACE) in Ecuador, sharing responsibility for controlling the National Interconnected System serving 12 million people.

Grijalva won a Fulbright Scholarship, and earned his doctorate in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has 10 invention disclosures and has been author or co-author of more than 50 peer-reviewed journal and conference publications. He has been invited to present 50 talks, papers or testimonies on subjects ranging from "Distribution System Automation" to "Computations Needs for the Future Grid."

Arvizu noted that Grijalva champions an "Internet of the Grid," a transformation of how energy will be managed. In Grijalva's vision, millions of decision-makers from building supervisors to individual households will manage the electric grid. He was among the first to envision and espouse that every car, every building, every home can be both a consumer of electricity and a potential provider of electricity.

After several years in industry, including creating software for electricity networks at Power World, Grijalva became a distinguished professor at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he focused on developing a new breed of leaders in the energy field with skills in both engineering and computing. He has been the principal investigator of various future electricity grid research projects for the US Department of Energy, ARPA-E, EPRI, PSERC as well as other Government organizations, research consortia, and industrial sponsors. He won a $2 million Energy Department ARPA-E grant to create an autonomous, decentralized grid architecture for the future grid with partners Duke Energy, Midwest ISO, OSIsoft, and PJM.

He continues to mentor graduate students from Georgia Tech and from his alma mater in Ecuador. He has moved Spanish-speaking graduate students into leadership roles, encouraging them to combine their engineering skills with management skills and computer skills.

"As much or more than anyone I know, Dr. Grijalva combines technological brilliance with a commitment to raising the bar for STEM education," Arvizu said.


Contact: David Glickson
DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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