Grid Innovation & Community Resilience: Minnesota's clean energy pathways

Panel discussion & tour

Feb. 14 | 1-3:30pm

Iversen Hearth Room, Anderson Student Center, University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul MN 55105

Metro Clean Energy Resource Team, St. Thomas Center for Microgrid Research, Connexus Energy
Event Description

Join the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team, St. Thomas Center for Microgrid Research, and Connexus Energy for an engaging panel discussion and tour of the St. Thomas microgrid. Cookies and refreshments provided.

Panel Discussion (1:00-2:15 p.m.) (Iversen Hearth Room, Anderson Student Center)

Panelists will discuss grid innovation, research, and software advances, battery storage projects and lessons learned, and how communities are leading resilience planning efforts.

Panelists (scroll down for bios):

  • Astrid Atkinson, CEO and Co-founder, Camus Energy
  • Nick Loehlein, Vice President, Electric Operations, Connexus Energy
  • Bharat Balyan, Resilience Hub Project Coordinator, City of Minneapolis Health Department
  • Dr. Mahmoud Kabalan, Director of the Center for Microgrid Research, University of St. Thomas
  • Moderator: Diana McKeown, Clean Energy Resource Teams Co-Director and Metro CERT Director

Tour (2:30- 3:30 p.m.)

Following the panel, head across the street for an indoor tour at 2:30 showcasing the industry-grade microgrid on the St. Thomas campus.

Location, Transportation & Accessibility:

  • Due to newly begun construction and additional events on campus, parking availability at St. Thomas will be extremely limited, both on campus and street parking. Attendees are strongly encouraged to carpool, use transit, and check the campus map.
  • The Anderson Student Center is on the northeast corner of Summit Avenue and Cretin Avenue.
  • The Iversen Hearth Room is on the third floor, with elevator access available.
  • The tour will last about an hour and cover about 200 feet within the facility, with elevator use between floors.
  • The St. Thomas microgrid is an active industrial scale facility with high voltage and power. It is completely safe though tour attendees are reminded not to lean on or touch equipment.
  • Tour capacity is limited, please register in advance to reserve your place.


Astrid Atkinson is CEO and co-founder of Camus Energy, which provides software-based Grid Management as a Service, combining real-time situational awareness, device control, and market integration for grid operators and energy providers. Prior to founding Camus, she was a Senior Director of Software Engineering at Google, where she was an early leader in distributed systems reliability. As head of Frameworks Engineering for, she led the development of a common, performant, scalable set of infrastructure frameworks. She speaks globally as an expert on large scale distributed systems architecture, reliability engineering, and organizational leadership. 
Nick Loehlein is vice president of electric operations for Connexus Energy, the Midwest’s largest electric cooperative, nationally and regionally recognized for its innovation, affordability, and providing reliability in the top five percent of all utilities nationwide. In this role, Loehlein collaborates with cooperative directors and fellow senior staff to develop strategies for the organization and oversees the engineering, design, construction, maintenance, and operation of the electric system. Loehlein is a certified professional engineer, holds an MBA from St. Cloud State University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University. 
Bharat Balyan is the Resilience Hub Project Coordinator at the City of Minneapolis Health Department. Bharat received a Master of Public Health in Global Environmental Health in 2019 from the University of Minnesota. After graduate school, Bharat was an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Climate and Health program in the division of environmental health science and practice, where his work focused on researching the mental health impacts of drought. His current work is to support the development of a first cohort of three resilience hub sites in Minneapolis. 
Dr. Mahmoud Kabalan is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and the Founding Director of the Center for Microgrid Research (CMR) at the University of St. Thomas (UST) in St. Paul, Minnesota. He is the recipient of the 2023 National Science Foundation CAREER grant which is the National Science Foundation's most prestigious grant in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their organization. Dr. Kabalan led and supervised the commissioning of a $3 million industry-grade microgrid on UST’s St Paul campus.
Diana McKeown is CERTs Co-Director and Metro CERT Director at the Great Plains Institute. Diana has led the Metro region of CERTs since October 2007, coordinating and participating in a number of clean energy initiatives in communities across the Metro. She has also collaborated on the launch of a number of statewide projects, programs, and peer cohorts including GreenStep Cities, Powering Ahead with Vehicle Electrification (PAVE), Cities Charging Ahead, and MN EV Smart Cities and MN Native Nations EV Smart. Most recently Diana has helped launch a project focused on equitable access to rooftop solar for underserved and especially BIPOC and immigrant owned small businesses.

Free, but registration is required

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