PowerAmerica Receives $5M NIST Cooperative Agreement to Help Native American Communities Better Prepare for Future Pandemics

COVID-19, Education, Power Electronics, Workforce

PowerAmerica has been awarded a $5 million cooperative agreement from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to help Native American communities better prepare for future disasters and emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The institute will work closely with Navajo Technical University, Sandia National Lab in New Mexico, and other Native colleges to engage with these communities.

“NC State is proud to play a pivotal role in this important work,” says Mladen Vouk, Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. “As a land-grant university, it’s part of our job to improve the lives of everyday people. And thanks to this funding, we’ll be able to help some of the communities in this country who were hit the hardest by COVID-19.”

Native American communities were disproportionately affected by the pandemic — in large part due to the widespread lack of electric utility infrastructure. This infrastructure is critical to the refrigeration of vaccines and other medicines or supplies. And without it, setting up field hospitals that can effectively treat patients locally becomes much harder.

To address this issue and other complications that have resulted from the pandemic, PowerAmerica will develop a solar-powered microgrid to power on-site field hospitals and refrigeration; a semiconductor-based fast-charging system for drones to support rapid supply delivery; a solar-powered system for supplying critical electric loads at home; and a low-cost, energy-efficient air quality control system with pathogen-detection and disinfection capabilities.