Nov 10, 2021 - Atlanta, GA
In the year 1996, the future of the Georgia Power Research Center was quite dim. Georgia Power was experiencing lean times and was going through its second or third downsizing. Word was that, in order to save money, Georgia Power was planning to close down the lab. In addition, the employees would not be able to find other work within The Southern Company since this was a part of the company downsizing.
Many departments in The Southern Company and others in the electric utility industry who had benefitted from working with the lab were saddened to hear the news and sent many condolences to the lab employees. However, in the background, many friends of the lab believed that the benefits of the lab’s investigative work was well worth the investment. There was one effort that included selling the lab to KEMA Laboratories. However, that was short-lived, as KEMA only offered around 5¢ to 10¢ on the dollar. There seemed to be no place for the lab to go. Personnel morale was dropping even more.
Then, something magical happened. There were many at Georgia Power and The Southern Company who had graduated from Georgia Tech. In addition, the lab had established a good rapport with Georgia Tech because of many mutually beneficial dealings. Some of these folks got together and began to brainstorm a tremendous idea, a co-joining of Georgia Tech and the Georgia Power Research Center. The Georgia Power Research Center had already become well known in the electric utility industry as an industry leading research and test lab. The addition of the lab to Georgia Tech seemed a natural marriage. It took several months to work out the details, and then, on January 2, 1996, the National Electric Energy Testing, Research, and Applications Center (a.k.a. NEETRAC) was born. It was a membership organization, a research center, within the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. Funding was provided by 10 industrial members through membership dues. These 10 industrial “charter members” had the foresight and faith to invest in the future of NEETRAC.
With hopes lifted and an exciting new future in view, the lab employees and the charter members worked diligently to become a world-renowned research center, an organization now backed by more than 30 members. It was a tough journey starting out, but the efforts of so many who believed in the people and the benefits of the research and testing performed at the lab have grown NEETRAC to the premier laboratory it is today. As for this employee, who has had the privilege of watching NEETRAC grow from birth to the organization it is today, it has been an amazing journey. The interactions and friendships with the member companies are the fruits of labors that will always be cherished. The exciting new projects and research have made this a very rewarding experience that could hardly ever be matched.
Note: Ray Hill is the author of this article. A senior research technologist at NEETRAC, Hill has a combined tenure of 42 years and four months with the Center, both with Georgia Power and Georgia Tech.