(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.
Roadrunner Days events welcome UTSA's newest students and helps our returning Roadrunners learn strategies for success in the new year.Various locations, Main and Downtown campuses
Join the UTSA contingent as we honor the memory and work of Martin Luther King Jr. in this citywide march. The City of San Antonio has sponsored this march on the east side of the city down MLK Drive since 1987.MLK Academy, 3501 MLK Drive, San Antonio
This exhibition, curated by Libby Rowe and Scott Sherer, presents the work of women artists who are compelled by their commitments to investigating and transforming social and cultural legacies and contexts.UTSA Art Gallery (ART 2.03.04), Main Campus
UTSA will further honor King with the university's annual MLK Day of Service. Roadrunners are encouraged to participate in the service day, located in various locations, including helping to beautify campus.Various locations, Main Campus
Celebrating the Year of the Rat, the 33rd annual Asian Festival will feature a wide spectrum of Asian cultures with family-friendly events and performances. Enjoy authentic Asian foods with a menu including Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Pakistani, Chinese and Filipino cuisines. Vendors will sell clothing, artwork, dolls, silk items, jewelry and other exotic gifts.Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., San Antonio
Peniel E. Joseph, founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at UT Austin, will discuss his book “The Sword and The Shield,” which focuses on the lives of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.Student Union, Denman Room (SU 2.01.28), Main Campus
The Heart Walk will be held at all three campus locations starting at the same time. Support Go Red for Women Day by wearing red.All UTSA campuses
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.