Exelon PowerLabs

Women in Power: Sara Eftekharnejad

My name is Sara Eftekharnejad and I am a transmission planning engineer and researcher in the power industry. Since 2012, I’ve been with the Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP), the second-largest investor-owned utility in Arizona. During my tenure at TEP, I have been actively involved in a variety of projects that help ensure the reliability of the power transmission systems. TEP provides generation and transmission services to more than 400,000 customers in the Tucson metropolitan area.

As a transmission planning engineer, I study the state of the power system during normal operating conditions as well as under different contingencies. The outcome of these studies shows how the power system reacts to disturbances and whether the system remains stable under different scenarios. As a transmission planner, I also conduct system impact studies. These studies are conducted as new facilities are planned for connection to the power system. System impact studies identify constraints introduced by the new facility and determine the necessary network or facility upgrades required to mitigate those constraints.

I started my career at the power industry during an exciting time. The power industry is evolving at different levels, starting from the infrastructural changes to the deployment of new technologies that increase the reliability of the power systems. Replacing the conventional generation units with renewable energy resources such as wind and solar is the current emerging trend in power industry that has brought about its own challenges. As part of my research, I have been investigating the impact of renewable resources on power system operation and stability.

I became interested in power engineering during my Master’s at West Virginia University (WVU). At West Virginia University (WVU), I was exposed to many interesting research topics including power system stability and control. It was there that I decided to get further involved in power systems research. In 2009, I moved to Arizona, where I earned my PhD in Electrical Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU). The power engineering program at ASU exposed me to the state of the art research in power systems. ASU’s strong academic program, as well as its close interaction with the industry made it possible for me to explore various aspects of the power industry.

Power and energy industry is in great need of young skilled engineers that are ready to take up new challenges facing this industry. My advice to the new engineers in this field is to explore emerging trends of the power engineering, never rejecting the opportunity to get involved in a different project.

IEEE PES Women in Power (WiP) is a new organization within the PES community for women engineers to network and share their experiences. I recently joined WiP as a co-chair of this organization and have been fortunate to collaborate and work with a group of talented female engineers. If you are interested in joining IEEE PES WiP please visit pes-women-in-power.org.