Engineers Flip the Switch to Battery Power at Winston Chung Hall

1.1-megawatt hour bank of rare earth lithium-ion batteries is one of the largest storage battery installations at a university in the world.

Picture of the batteries powering Winston Chung Hall

The batteries powering Winston Chung Hall

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — The first floor of Winston Chung Hall at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering is now being powered by a 1.1-megawatt hour bank of rare earth lithium-ion batteries, which is one of the largest storage battery installations at a university in the world.

The installation was made possible by researchers at the College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT), and teams from Balqon Corporation in Harbor City, Calif., and UC Riverside’s Department of Physical Plant.

“We are very pleased to have this state-of-the-art electrical energy storage system in operation at UCR,” said Sadrul Ula, managing director of the college’s Winston Chung Global Energy Center and a member of the research faculty at CE-CERT. “This system allows us to store energy when supply is plentiful during late night hours and utilize it when maximum demand during the afternoon stresses the grid to the limit.  We can also charge the batteries when clean renewable energy from wind and solar is available and deliver it when it is needed, thereby adding value to these intermittent forms of energy.”

This utility scale battery storage system will help reduce UCR’s and Riverside Public Utility’s peak system demand.  If many large electricity users adopt the energy storage technology, then their cumulative effect will delay the need for adding new peaking power plants and transmission lines in California.

This test bed is already being used by engineering students for research and for instrumentation and data development. Seniors Amir Rustamzadeh and Sarah Gordon, both electrical engineering majors, are working on their joint Senior Design project developing a data acquisition system, while sophomore chemical and environmental engineering major Shabriha Bashar is helping to develop the instrumentation system.

“These types of hands-on, practical work experiences will make our engineering graduates future ambassadors and standard bearers of energy solutions that avoid adverse environmental impacts,” Ula said. “This challenging project would not have been completed without the dedication and hard work of many participants from UCR and Balqon Corporation. I will like to specially thank Mike Todd, principal development engineer at CE-CERT; Eric Shuler, UCR electrical shop supervisor; Maggie Souder, BCOE safety and facilities coordinator; and Henry Velasquez and Alex Jin of Balqon Corporation for spending many nights and weekends working on the project.”

Balqon, a developer of electric vehicles, drive systems and lithium battery storage devices, designed and installed the system, including the storage cabinets and a series of proprietary components, such as a 160 kW battery charger, 240 kW inverter, 330 1000AH batteries, the battery management system and related power electronics components. The system is powering the first floor in the first phase of the project.  The first floor includes classrooms, offices, computer and instructional laboratories, and the Bytes café.The batteries were donated by Winston Chung, chairman of Winston Global Energy and Balqon Corporation and Fellow of the Bourns College of Engineering.

“The six month development period for our battery storage system that is now operational at UCR certainly tested the limits of our inverter and charger technologies,” said Balwinder Samra, chief executive officer of Balqon Corporation. “The development period has been an educationally rewarding process for us and has expanded our interest in addressing opportunities in the lithium battery energy storage market.  We are using the technologies developed during the UCR project to address other lithium battery storage opportunities related to cell towers and solar and wind energy systems.”

In January, CE-CERT received a $2 million award from the South Coast Air Quality Management District for another project to implement solar arrays, advanced battery storage, vehicle charging stations, an electric trolley, and a grid management system to efficiently provide clean energy to electric vehicles. The project will include industry and government partners Balqon, Bourns Inc., SolarMax, Winston Global Energy, the City of Riverside, Riverside Public Utilities, Riverside Transit Agency, and UCR’s Department of Physical Plant.

“We are well on our way toward fulfilling our vision of an emission-free smart energy grid,” said Reza Abbaschian, dean of the Bourns College of Engineering. “Our research capabilities, combined with the expertise and resources of Balqon and our other partners, will lead us down the path to a clean, renewable energy future.”

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