by Sagarika Gami
The University of Toledo, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, is making leaps in the realm of energy grids, shifting to transaction-based energy management. With climate change finally accruing noise in the media, more and more university towns are seeking to bolster the efficiency and reliability of their energy grids. The current grid system is very simple – the power companies match their production to the demand of homes and businesses and deliver based on these numbers. However, to keep up with demands for change in sources of power and its output, the grid system will likely become more complex.
This project works within the university’s smart-building technology and one megawatt of solar generation capability. A new software, Volttron, will tap into the grid to collect information based on energy prices, generation, and demand. This information will be used to control how the buildings on campus can draw power and from where they will draw power – either UT’s solar array or alternatively, from a battery that will collect roll-over power from the solar array, putting lower strain on the grid itself. The hope is that the grid will be able to automatically adjust energy loads based on the information gathered, developing mechanisms for minimal human direction. The transactive nature of this kind of energy management stems from how the quantity of energy usage in buildings on these campuses could result in more efficiency and reduced costs. This system will work to provide more flexibility for the power grid itself.
These changes will make the grid lower cost and more flexible in how it disseminates power throughout the campus. As one of the primary real-world tests, UT is working with the NASA Glen Research Center on the project with $1 million of funding from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This project is just beginning and is a pioneer for this grid system. While UT and its collaborators are optimistic about the progress, we’re keeping an eye out for bumps in the road.