UC Riverside-Led Team Receives $3.2 Million Award to Improve Solar Power Integration

New energy management system will be deployed in Riverside and serve as a prototype for other utility companies

A photo of UCR's solar farm

UC Riverside researchers are developing an energy management system that will improve the way solar power is integrated onto the grid. The system will be deployed and tested at a substation that is connected to UCR’s solar farm.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Hamed Mohsenian-Rad, an associate professor of electrical engineering in UC Riverside’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering, has been awarded $3.2 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to lead a team of researchers who are working to improve the way customer-generated solar power is integrated onto the grid. Once developed, the new energy management system will be deployed at two power system distribution circuits in Riverside, in collaboration with Riverside Public Utilities (RPU).

As the number of homes with photovoltaic solar panels increases, so do the complexities associated with operating the aging power grid. The DOE’s Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) funding program supports projects that enable the dynamic, automated and cost-effective management of distributed sources, like solar, onto the power grid.

“When the power grid was set up, it was designed to handle power from conventional sources, but now we must consider the penetration of solar panels, the size and location of these units, and whether the energy they generate should go directly into the grid, get stored in batteries, or be sent somewhere else. This is a relatively new challenge and at present it is having a negative effect on grid reliability and efficiency,” said Mohsenian-Rad, who is also associate director of UCR’s Winston Chung Global Energy Center.

A photo of Hamed Mohsenian-Rad

Hamed Mohsenian-Rad, associate professor of electrical engineering at UC Riverside.

One way to modernize the grid is through distributed energy resources (DER), which are clusters of small power sources that can be combined in various ways to provide the power needed to meet fluctuating demands. During the three-year project, the researchers will develop and test a data-driven DER management system that will be implemented at Riverside’s University and Hunter substations, which are both connected to large photovoltaic installations.

“Our goal is to develop a state-of-the-art prototype energy management system that will allow RPU and other utility companies to support future increases in solar generation on their existing circuits,” Mohsenian-Rad said.

Mohsenian-Rad is leading the project with Matthew Barth, director of the Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research & Technology (CE-CERT); Alfredo Martinez-Morales, managing director of the Southern California Research Initiative for Solar Energy (SC-RISE); and Sadrul Ula, managing director of the Winston Chung Global Energy Center. Partner institutions include RPU, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Smarter Grid Solutions, PG&E, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and GridBright.

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