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State grad Schulte to be honored by power industry

Robert Schulte
Robert Schulte

Robert Schulte, a 1974 South Dakota State University graduate, will be honored as the recipient of the 2023 Wayne E. Knabach Award for Excellence in Power by the Center for Power Systems Studies at South Dakota State University Oct. 2. 

The center is a group of regional electric utilities that provide scholarships, educational seminars and internship opportunities for electric power students at State.

The award honors career contributions to the power industry and is named after the professor who taught hundreds of power systems graduates in his 38 years (1957-95) on campus.

Steve Hietpas, a professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department and coordinator of the Center for Power Systems Studies, said, “The CPSS and its members continue to make significant impacts in our region and abroad in the area of power and energy, and Bob Schulte is no exception. Wayne always spoke very highly of Bob and he would be extremely pleased seeing Bob recognized in this special way.”

Schulte, originally of Huron and now of Raleigh, North Carolina, is among those graduates. Knabach was a family friend of the Schultes and worked for Herbert Schulte, father of Robert, in the summers early in his career. Herbert Schulte headed the electrical transmission and distribution department for Northwestern Public Service (now Northwestern Energy) from 1950 to 1974 as part of his 34-year career there.

After Robert Schulte earned his electrical engineering degree, he spent four years in the Air Force as a communications/electronics officer and 16 years with Northern States Power before opening his own consulting business, Schulte Associates, in 1995.

During his 28 years as a consultant, Robert Schulte has written integrated resource plans, worked on project developments, served as interim CEO and COO, and done other services for energy companies nationwide. He is the author of numerous industry articles on utility resource planning, transmission and energy storage.

He used to plan and permit coal and nuclear plants, but now he plans renewables, transmission and storage to replace them. Currently, Schulte is the managing member for Power from the Prairie LLC, which proposes a 4,000-megawatt, high voltage direct current line from the wind fields of southern Wyoming to the wind fields of north central Iowa.

“This is my all-time favorite project. It’s really doing some innovative things. It involves skills in resource planning, engineering, regulatory affairs and interregional/interutility politics; the latter they do not teach in engineering school. It could potentially connect 3,000-megawatt, or $4.5 billion of new renewables in South Dakota that wouldn’t otherwise have access to the nation’s power grid or remote markets.

“The concept development study supported by nine utilities and developers is done and can be found at Now we’re recruiting participants for proof-of-concept studies,” Schulte said. 

His positions with Northern States Power included being an associate planning engineer, manager of industrial energy programs, distribution engineering manager for the Minneapolis division, construction and operations manager for St. Paul area/Metro East region, general manager for South Dakota region, vice president for rates and corporate strategy, and vice president for marketing and customer service.

In addition to his leadership in the power industry, Schulte also has recently served on the SDSU Foundation Council of Trustees. His daughter, Nikki Brower, is lead designer for The Brookings Register, and his daughter, Melissa Schulte, is an advertising strategist for the HenkinSchultz ad firm in Sioux Falls. The Schulte family was SDSU Family of the Year for 2023.

The Center for Power Systems Studies banquet also includes student scholarship presentations and follows a day of educational talks from leaders in the power industry.