UCR Researcher Awarded $1.2 Million California Energy Commission Grant to Help Create the Smart Grid

Technology under development will increase penetration of distributed renewable energy resources, empower consumers and reduce outages

A photo of Nanpeng Yu

Nanpeng Yu, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — A researcher at the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to help the state meet its goal of adding 20 gigawatts of renewable power generation by 2020.

Nanpeng Yu, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the three-year grant to develop advanced technologies for the smart grid. Researchers are creating the smart grid to overcome shortcomings in the traditional grid and manage the increasing complexity and needs of electricity in the 21st Century. The technology aims to integrate and support renewable energy sources like solar and wind, empower consumers with real-time information about their energy consumption, and reduce outages. Yu’s project will be done in collaboration with researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

While California leads the country in renewable energy integration, Governor Jerry Brown last year proposed an ambitious expansion of California’s renewable energy goals, from one-third by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. By 2030, the state also aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels. To meet these goals, the existing grid system must be upgraded to handle the high penetration of distributed and renewable energy resources, increase grid reliability, and shorten the downtime when outages do occur.

The grant will support Yu’s work on developing an Integrated Distributed Energy Resources Management System (iDERMs), a first-of-its-kind distribution automation system that enables decentralized control of large numbers of heterogeneous distributed energy resources. As the ‘brains’ behind the smart grid, the iDERMS software will monitor and control energy needs in real time, allow two-way communications between power providers and customers, and help optimize the operation of distributed energy resources to best meet demands.

Yu said iDERMS will change how customers interact with power delivery systems, encouraging them to become active participants, rather than passive users.

“Our scheme will allow customers to communicate their electricity consumption preferences to the distribution system and market operators, and participate in the distribution and wholesale market dispatch and price formation process,” Yu said.

Automation of the smart grid will offer many additional benefits to California residents, Yu said.

“More efficient energy generation and consumption will mean cost savings for consumers, fewer outages, improved safety, and environmental benefits from the increased incorporation of renewable energy sources like wind and solar.”

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