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UCLA, Korean Institute Collaborate on Smart Grid R&D

Rajit Gadh visiting Jeju Island, Korea (UCLA)

Rajit Gadh visiting Jeju Island, Korea (UCLA)

The engineering school at University of California at Los Angeles and the Korea Institute of Energy Research (KIER) have begun a 10-year partnership to collaborate on smart-grid research and the development of new related technologies. The project, funded on the U.S. side by the Department of Energy and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, is led by engineering professor Rajit Gadh (pictured left), director of UCLA’s Smart Grid Energy Research Center.

Part of the collaboration with KIER involves the use of UCLA itself as a laboratory for smart-grid technologies. Gadh’s team is retrofitting three buildings on the UCLA campus with sensors and smart meters that can gauge and adjust the amount of power needed in a room at a particular time of day. The equipment can also perform tasks such as control appliances, lights, and heating and air-conditioning systems, depending on energy pricing or power availability on the grid.

Underlying the joint project — and what attracted KIER’s attention — is UCLA’s current work that developed the Wireless Internet Smart Grid (WINSmartGrid), a network platform that allows electrically operated machines and appliances such as plug-in electric vehicles, appliances, and air conditioners to be monitored, connected and controlled through a wireless communications framework.

The technology connects the machines and smart meters to the WINSmartGrid Web service, which receives real-time feeds from utilities and external sources on the price of power at any time of day and other information. Control signals can subsequently be sent through the network, which in turn can dynamically control various appliances in real time.

Tae Hyun Yang, KIER’s principal researcher on the joint project with UCLA, says the standards-based, open architecture of WINSmartGrid fits KIER’s needs. A Korean colleague served a sabbatical year at UCLA and brought Gadh’s work to the institute’s attention.

UCLA, in turn, hopes to learn from Korea’s growing experience with smart grid technology. The country launched a national demonstration project with a smart-grid test-bed on Jeju Island. The test-bed, which began construction in 2009, is expected to become the world’s largest smart-grid community. KIER has also established its own Jeju Global Research Center on the island for testing of advanced technologies and integration of renewable energy sources.

The integration of new technologies is part of UCLA’s agenda as well. In UCLA’s Parking Structure 9, located next to the campus buildings retrofitted with smart-grid systems, Gadh has installed two electric-vehicle charging stations with devices that collect and transmit data about electricity usage back to his lab.

Read more: Report: Electrical Grid Needs Technology, Regulatory Changes

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