Travis Smith didn’t start out in the wind energy sector. But with more than 20 years of experience as an engineer and consultant, he has since become the “wind guy” in a small, often-overlooked community— the protection engineers who ensure the stability of the electrical grid. Now a staff engineer at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Smith studies how to integrate and interconnect wind plants with the electrical grid.
“I’m focusing on the power grid and how it interfaces to wind,” Smith said. “I’m trying to help engineers, especially younger ones, understand how to do this, because there are relatively few standards that tell you.”
Smith’s experience working for utilities such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and Georgia Power Company has made him a natural liaison among different wind power-related stakeholders, especially in the southeastern U.S., where wind energy has yet to make major inroads. For example, he organized a wind energy round table in 2010 for Atlanta-based Southern Company that brought together technical, financial, industry and utility experts for two days of presentations and discussions about wind power.
“I think it’s important for utilities to understand how wind turbines work, even if they’re not currently working on them,” Smith said.Smith’s technical expertise was also instrumental in the development of ORNL’s Wind Energy Data and Information (WENDI) Gateway, an online clearinghouse for wind energy-related information and data. The WENDI site, which is available to the public at http://windenergy.ornl.gov through support from DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, houses two main interfaces: the Wind Energy Metadata Clearinghouse and the Wind Energy Geographic Information System (WindGIS).
“You can even use this tool for the logistics of moving wind turbine components from the manufacturer to the site,” Smith said. “The tool helps look at all factors at once when you start thinking about siting.” Smith is a senior member of IEEE, active in several wind-power-related working groups in the organization, and has co-authored dozens of papers published by IEEE.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and two associate’s degrees from Chattanooga State Technical Community College.
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