Given how controversial smart meter rollouts have become of late, what are the optimum sites for smart grid initiatives?
Ideally, you’d look for something that’s self-contained and with a population that’s localized and small enough to keep the costs of comprehensive updates relatively low. If that sounds like a university, you’re on the same page as UCLA, whose Smart Grid Energy Research Center (SMERC) just got another boost in its goal to make the university’s sprawling campus a model smart grid paradise.
“UCLA is like a little city — Pasadena, Burbank and Glendale are not much bigger,” Rajit Gadh, the director of SMERC and an engineering professor who specializes in wireless smart-grid technology, said in a release. “With a city like UCLA, we can test our concepts very quickly, as well as conduct very interesting tests.”
SMERC is already funded by the Energy Department and the L.A. Department of Water and Power. This week, it announced that it had finalized a 10-year partnership with the Korea Institute of Energy Research, a government-supported think tank in South Korea, to swap ideas and research to build a baseline for an international smart grid.
As part of the plan, Gadh’s group is retrofitting buildings on the UCLA campus — starting with the engineering department, naturally — with metering and sensor systems. The project is aimed at moving past residential smart meters toward testing sensor networks for coordinating the usage of all electric devices. By testing at the full-building scale, Gadh and SMERC hope to iron out the bugs in networked smart grid systems.
The cornerstone is Gadh’s WINSmartGrid network platform. It’s being developed as an all-inclusive platform to wirelessly monitor and control appliances, environmental and HVAC systems and EVs. The whole thing is run through a web service that cross-indexes usage data with feeds from utilities on the price of power throughout the day. In theory, it’s a way to automatically balance a building’s electricity needs with a utility’s flexible pricing scheme.