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Engineer Laurel Brandt stands in front of a field outside the Vonore Battery Energy Storage System.

Brandt Finds Creativity in Engineering

Problem-solving leads engineer to innovative battery storage project

Laurel Brandt recently checked off the 50th state from her U.S. travel bucket list.

This is no surprise to anyone who has met this driven, outcome-focused engineer. Brandt is a reliability and analysis electrical engineer with Power Operations at TVA. Her experience led to a rotation as a battery storage engineer with the Innovation and Research Group and the Vonore Battery Energy Storage System project, the first TVA-owned storage facility of its kind.

"I was able to be part of reviewing the design and specs," Brandt said as she sat inside the control room — a tiny building filled with colorful wiring, knobs and flashing lights.

She explained the innovative technology in simpler terms.

"When my rotation was over, I still wanted to support the project to the end — through scoping, design, installation and, ultimately, commissioning — to make sure each part works as it was supposed to."

Creativity Guides Solutions

Brandt reminisced on her time in school, describing how she gravitated toward the rational nature of engineering.

"To me, objectivity — being graded on right or wrong — felt safe," she said. "If you didn't get the answer, you didn't get it, but at least you'd know."

As she's grown in her career, though, Brandt has unearthed the creative, collaborative nature of her work. That ingenuity has become a guiding principle in how she approaches her job. Brandt has supported multiple people in their learning at TVA, working together on common goals and learning how others think.

"I tell them, when you start off, you won't know everything," Brandt said. "But there are lots of people to support you. Don't be afraid of saying what you know. Speak up. Sometimes there's not one right answer. There's more room for creativity than you think."

The words engineering and ingenuity are both rooted in the same Latin word, ingenium. Both words are linked by the concept of creative problem-solving and innovation, ideas that are the crux of Vonore's mission.

Leaving the control room, Brandt pointed away from the intricate transmission lines and rows of battery storage containers toward a field. This was her chosen site for photos.

"It's really pretty, and there are sometimes cows out there," she said.

Walking along, the conversation shifted from megawatts and energy storage to facts about birds — how Killdeer fake a broken wing to distract predators and how Mockingbirds hold grudges.

When Laurel takes off her hard hat and closes her laptop, when waveforms on the oscillograph go flat, you'll find her listening to '90s alternative music and placing another pin on the map — a new destination, a new experience.

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