October 24, 2012

University of Washington launches research phase of smart grid project

News and Information

The University of Washington marked the start of the data-gathering phase of the UW Smart Grid Project with an event featuring Washington’s two US Senators.

The UW is one of 11 sites in the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, made possible by an $89 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (supplemented with matching funds) and managed by Battelle. The overall project goals are to identify opportunities to help save energy, make the power system more reliable and incorporate renewable energy into the power generation system.

Smart Grid news conference

Students Evann Sawyers-Rouse, left, and Duncan Clauson, talk with Sen Maria Cantwell, center, and Sen. Patty Murray.

“The University of Washington is recognized as a national leader in sustainability within the higher education community,” says UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce. “The Smart Grid Project provides an exciting opportunity for testing how 21st century technology can reduce energy consumption. Given our students’ keen interest in the environment, it is appropriate that much of our research on smart grids will occur within our residence halls and that the initial research will be conducted by UW graduate students.”

“The data we’ll gather during the next two years will enable us to evaluate the costs and benefits of smart grid, and how renewable energy can be part of the equation,” says Carl Imhoff, electricity infrastructure market sector manager at Battelle.

As part of the UW’s five-year, $10 million project, the university has installed more than 200 “smart meters” across campus in nearly every building. The meters provide great detail on energy consumption to the university’s central power distribution center every 15 minutes. They are also two-way devices that allow managers of power distribution systems to fine-tune the mix of energy sources automatically in response to energy needs and market prices at that moment.

Smart grid research projects are already beginning, led by students from the Program on the Environment. They are embarking on projects that will test how energy users (in this case, students in UW residence halls) respond to having detailed information about their energy usage, its environmental impacts and costs.

Students in selected UW residence halls will have access to high-tech personal energy dashboards, floor-by-floor energy use displays, smart plugs, web-based education tools, social media and opportunities to participate in energy conservation education. The goal is to reduce energy waste and determine what strategies are most effective long-term in achieving carbon reduction goals.

The UW Smart Grid Project is being developed by the UW in cooperation with Seattle City Light and with project partners McKinstry, Spirae and Energy Hub. Technology partner 3TIER of Seattle is developing near real-time predictions of daily renewable energy production to help seamlessly integrating renewable energy into the grid. At the UW, 3TIER is using near real time energy production values from UW solar arrays to validate and improve its predictive model. Alstom of Kirkland is providing a section of the control room system that creates a visual display of how renewable resources are being deployed, as well as real-time electricity pricing information.

Funding for the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. More information is available at www.pnwsmartgrid.org.