(June 13, 2019) – More than 3400 lightning strikes and damaging winds interrupted power to approximately 57,000 residents in San Antonio, TX on June 6, 2019. On the same weekend, California’s largest utility warned tens of thousands of people that they should prepare for extended blackouts due to extreme fire risk. Researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have proposed the development of islanded structures or homes that operate independently on solar microgrids without the need to tap into the central power grid.
Their patent was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, following research supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Associate Professor Brian Kelley in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is behind the effort that proposes an infrastructure based on a liquid-battery energy storage system that permits homes to operate with continuous energy using solar power.
“It’s a much harder problem than you think,” said Kelley. “The sun shines. The clouds come out and the solar illumination intensity changes. We run specific algorithms to optimally manage anticipated energy storage use, real-time power generation, and conversion. These systems enable the smart grid of the future.”
The microgrid operates based on a home's particular sunlight profile. Run on Vanadium redox batteries, the electrolyte-based energy storage is reusable, low cost and has a low environmental impact.
Since the power generated at a particular home would be used in that same location, approaching homes and buildings as individual centers of power generation is a bottom-up approach. It also offers the added benefit of reduction in transmission loss. The device operates with sensors, advanced power meters, and power converters that modify the intermittent generation from the sun to a form that is reliable and easily integrates with A/C power appliances.
Kelley envisions that every home and new construction could have a pool of batteries that supplies and transfers the solar power. His independent microgrid would be part of a wider approach to fully integrate smart cities—where interconnected technology improves the quality of life for residents by maximizing resources.
“We have to make homes and buildings carbon neutral,” said Kelley. “This frees up homes from dependency on a single power source, lowers cost, and helps make us energy independent.”
Solar energy is abundant in fast-growing metropolitan centers such as San Antonio, which have an appetite for alternative energy. According to the latest figures on solar panel adoption by cities, San Antonio ranked 7th in the nation.
Leveraging smart technology is not new to the university, recently UTSA captured global attention for using solar energy to create smart stop signs in order to prevent vehicle fatalities. The university is also home to the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute where work on microturbines is under development.
According to Kelley, innovations in technology make it difficult to predict what the future of a smart city looks like. However, homes as power islands is part of the ecosystem.
“Services in the cloud will manage smart power meters, renewable power flows between a city’s electric vehicle batteries, home energy storage pools, and home appliances. Autonomous cars will chauffeur us to work and back home for family dinner after pit-stops at fast, electric vehicle charging stations. We are going to love the future!” said Kelley.
Learn more about the Texas Sustainable Energy Institute.
Learn more about Brian Kelley’s work.
Learn more about the technology.
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
The Racial Justice Book Club was established at UTSA by members of the campus community to explore social justice following acts of racial violence across the nation over the last few years. We are reading The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas by Monica Muñoz Martinez. We will meet every Wednesday in September and October at 2 pm on Zoom.Virtual Event
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at our very own street fair - Calle UTSA. We will have activities, performances, food, music, and piñatas to break open.Student Union Paseo
"La Plática" is a space for thoughtful dialogue to build a sense of connection among the Roadrunner Community by getting to know each other better and sharing what's on our minds and about ourselves to increase to increase awareness of diverse perspectives.Virtual Event
This September 30, the Friday Series will feature Prof. Milena Ang, who will be presenting A Tren to Nowhere: Statistic Development and the Politics of Racial, a paper co-authored with Tania Islas-Weistein where they discuss Mexico's long history of state-led development projects that contribute to economic and racial inequality. The authors argue that despite professing racial justice, official discourses surrounding the Tren Maya reproduce existing symbolic and material forms of racism.McKinney Humanities (MH 4.01.01,) Main Campus
We invite you to learn about the process of screenwriting and explore the intersection of identity and pursuing dreams from Jorge Ramirez-Martinez and Raymond Perez, screenwriters for the Selena: The Series, released on Netflix. They will discuss their careers and writing process, including how their identities as Mexican American and gay men have shaped their professional experiences.Virtual Event
Please join us in remembering those who have entered the next part of life by designing a nicho box in their memory. This workshop will provide the necessary items to create your nicho box, though please remember to bring a photo or small object that can fit in a 3.5 x5x1 inch box (small jewelry box).John Peace Library GroupSpot B, Main Campus
LMSA invites you to join us in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month through an interactive cooking lesson! This cultural experience will teach you how to prepare a popular Mexican dish, street taquitos. You will be able to sample this dish and learn the recipe to use in your own home.Recreation Wellness Center Demo Kitchen
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.