State advances as hotbed of energy innovation

Energy-Systems-Innovation-CenterPULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University is a partner in a grant to research, develop and demonstrate technologies to create “smart” buildings, campuses and cities to better manage energy use.

Once buildings and devices are smarter — managing energy resources optimally on their own — they also can be more responsive to the needs of the power grid.

WSU researchers in the Energy Systems Innovation Center will install photovoltaic modules on the Pullman campus and integrate them into Pullman’s “Smart City” test bed and WSU’s micro grid system.

Experiments will be designed to show how campus power generation can power critical city infrastructure in the event of a power outage. WSU will also develop strategies for sharing energy between its smart buildings and solar modules.

The U.S Department of Energy (DOE) is matching a $2.25 million Clean Energy Fund grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to support the work.

Statewide partnership

In what the DOE is calling a pioneering regional partnership for grid modernization, Washington will host a three-campus demonstration of transaction-based energy management. This is the first time researchers will test the use of transactive controls at this scale involving multiple buildings and devices.

The idea is that equipment will make decisions and automatically adjust energy loads based on pre-determined criteria related to energy prices, essential services, comfort levels, time of day, etc. The project is developing the mechanisms to make that happen with minimal human direction.

WSU, DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington are teaming on the effort, which builds on their involvement in the recently completed Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project.

The state is funding infrastructure for the project to establish an enduring test bed that will enable subsequent research. Once perfected, load flexibility available from smart buildings will help to better integrate nontraditional energy sources like wind and stationary battery power into the grid.

Tested at WSU before moving to grid

Last year, WSU researchers received a grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust to begin building the most comprehensive university “smart city” laboratory in the U.S. to test smart grid technologies. This grant, along with a gift from Alstom Grid, helped create a facility that can test a city of the future complete with simulated windmills, solar panels, fuel cells, power substations and smart meters.

The power grid is too complex to conduct systemwide tests on new technology, so the testing lab allows utilities to try out equipment upgrades and new technologies.