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College of Engineering and Computing

Grid-connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems

Grid-connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems (GRAPES) is an NSF-sponsored Industry/University Cooperative Research Center established in 2009 to research new ways to integrate power electronics into the electric grid so as to support realization of a Smarter Grid.

The mission of the GRid-connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems (GRAPES) Center is to accelerate the adoption and insertion of power electronics into the electric grid in order to improve system stability, flexibility, robustness, and economy. We expect to accomplish that mission by focusing on the following main objectives:

  • Developing new technologies for advanced power electronic systems in the areas supporting grid connected distributed energy resources, power steering and routing devices, and intelligent load-side devices
  • Developing the software and tools for controlling embedded- and grid-connected power electronics to benefit the grid as well as controlled loads
  • Educating engineers who understand the power electronic technologies important to the member companies

Areas of Technical Expertise

Approximately ten participating faculty members, from two institutions, with deep and wide-ranging expertise covering the entire range from electronic devices and packaging to equipment to field applications.

Power electronics Power Converters
Power Systems Power Quality
Device Packaging Control Systems
Wide-Bandgap Semiconductor Devices Renewable Energy Systems                    
Energy Storage Power Sources


The electric power industry is ultra-critical to the economy and security of the United States. Without electric power, everything stops - literally everything - with severe economic consequences. The demand for electrical energy is increasing and political and environmental pressures are forcing adoption of new distributed generation resources, such as wind, solar, and tidal, that do not fit well into the traditional architecture of the electric power grid. Robustness of the national power infrastructure is threatened by aging equipment, lack of integration between generation, transmission, distribution, and utilization, and by terrorism.Paradoxically, one of the direst near-term threats is imposed by increases in local, environmentally-green generation technologies that can undermine the traditional safety mechanisms. This threat occurs partly because the mathematical and physical structure of the power grid is evolving from a paradigm of "a few controls on systems governed by the laws of physics" to "many independent controls on systems being governed by independent digital controls".

Our ability to predict the behavior of the system, and thus to control it, will rapidly erode without greater standardization of the control mechanisms embedded in power electronics. We currently have a narrow window of opportunity to re-define the power grid to improve its robustness. This is a focus of our research and is precisely where university research and industrial partnering will pay huge dividends.

Research concentrates on design, development, evaluation, control, and standardization of grid-connected power electronic equipment on both the supply and load side of power systems.

The center is cooperative in several senses:

  • The research team includes faculty, staff, and students at the University of South Carolina, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee.
  • Research projects are supported by paid memberships of interested industrial organizations.
  • The industrial members of the center help us to identify the most challenging, timely, and crucial technical advances that are needed to move the industry forward.

The UofSC site of GRAPES is located in the Swearingen Engineering Building, 301 Main Street on the campus of the University of South Carolina. The center makes use of all of our laboratories, including Power Electronics, Power Routing, Power Sources, and Real-time Electro Mechanics. Resources of our partner – University of Arkansas – are also available, including a noteworthy 6 MVA testing facility at the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.