(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 virtial event will feature undergraduate student research and creative endeavors from across the university. Students who have participated in research experiences beginning summer 2020 through Spring 2021 are invited to participate.Virtual Event
By participating in this training you will feel more prepared to recognize potential harm on a spectrum, decide how you would respond in certain situations and take action to keep our Roadrunner Community safe.Virtual Event
At UTSA, there are many ways to connect with others, gain relevant career experience, and leave your mark at a world-ranked university. With over 300 student organizations, there’s something for everyone at UTSA. Hear from various UTSA Students Leaders about their life as a Roadrunner and why UTSA is their new home.Virtual Event
This course is offered by UTSA's Employee Assistance Program EAP Deer Oaks. Every new beginning comes from something else ending, and in our ever changing world, it is essential to develop the ability topositively cope with change. This session provides participants with the insight to understand the nature of change and learn how to effectively deal with both the losses and the gains that change brings to one’s life.Virtual Event
On April 28, 2021, millions of people across the world will wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors, and educate themselves and others about all forms of sexual violence. To support this movement our donation drive will be items that we will be putting together to make Care Kits. These Care Kits are for students, faculty and staff to get in case of an emergency and they need to leave the situation they're in ASAP and do not have time to pack.Ximenas Ave Garage
ISD Saturdays are an exclusive opportunity for students at an ISD in San Antonio. Each event will group various districts together for each presentation date or session.Virtual Event
Floor captains play a critical role in emergency preparedness, safety awareness and crime prevention techniques throughout the university. They focus on safety and security initiatives while providing guidance and direction to building occupants. During emergency activations, they assist with required evacuations and reentry, shelter-in-place commands, interface with police and other first responders, and help those who may require assistancer.MyTraining Webinar
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.