Thursday, May 30, 2024

UTSA joins consortium to create sustainable aviation hub in San Antonio

UTSA joins consortium to create sustainable aviation hub in San Antonio

APRIL 3, 2024 — UTSA has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), the City of San Antonio, and CPS Energy to develop and promote energy technologies that could potentially decarbonize the aviation sector. The ambitious project will pursue a range of research and development objectives, including sustainable aviation technologies, battery technologies and battery storage solutions, enhanced electric vehicle charging technologies and power-related technologies. The MOU will position San Antonio as an innovation center for these new energy solutions, accelerating their development and deployment across the country.

Today’s agreement marks the first time an international airport will work with ARPA-E, the DOE’s innovation arm, to decarbonize the aviation sector. SAAS is home to the San Antonio International Airport and Stinson Municipal Airport.

UTSA was invited to join the partnership due to its commitment to growing the state’s leading industries, including aerospace and the new energy economy, and its ability to serve as the region’s top producer of workforce talent in these fields. As the partners begin their work, UTSA faculty, staff and students will further advance projects in energy research and innovation, including the integration of renewables, energy-storage solutions and the fortification of the cybersecurity framework as the power grid is modernized.

“Together, this collective will accelerate discoveries that will positively impact the local and regional economies while advancing technologies that change the world.”

“This collaborative effort is an incredible opportunity for UTSA to partner with strategic industry leaders in evaluating electric aircraft, advanced energy storage and micro-grid systems to advance the adoption of sustainable multi-modal transportation technologies,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “Together, this collective will accelerate discoveries that will positively impact the local and regional economies while advancing technologies that change the world.”

Central to UTSA’s work in renewable energy initiatives is the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute (TSERI), which elevates UTSA’s position, and that of San Antonio, as a significant contributor to the global energy economy. The institute integrates scientific discovery, engineering innovation and policy deliberations with pragmatic implementation. TSERI, a center of intellectual creativity, provides technology systems solutions to reduce costs, improve reliability and assure responsible environmental stewardship.

This partnership marks the latest example of the strategic alliances UTSA is forging with leaders in the private, nonprofit and governmental sectors, a network that is providing UTSA’s students with the experiential learning opportunities they need to put their classroom learning to work before graduation and gain a competitive edge in the job market.

“We are committed to facilitating research that solves the grand challenges of our time, and few challenges are as formidable as the pressing need for energy security and sustainability,” said JoAnn Browning, UTSA interim vice president for research. “This collaboration is an opportunity for UTSA to continue to uphold that commitment and pursue discoveries that shape our world in positive ways.”

In 2010, TSERI forged a strategic alliance with CPS Energy to develop advanced research projects in grid modernization. This alliance set the stage for several projects developed collaboratively by UTSA and CPS Energy, including energy management systems for the integration of battery storage systems and solar panels in building applications.

In recent years, a team of researchers at TSERI has achieved notable milestones, including creating a digital twin of San Antonio that makes it possible for decision makers to map out the city’s intricate grid infrastructure and better understand the impact of electric vehicles charging station demands on grid operations. The system is adaptable, making it possible to understand the impact that the burgeoning e-aircraft technology could have on the grid, ensuring both grid stability and efficiency.

“UTSA remains deeply invested in leveraging digital twin and microgrid testbeds as instrumental platforms for evaluating operational efficacy, ensuring seamless interoperability, fortifying cybersecurity protocols, and meticulously assessing performance metrics vis-à-vis design standards,” said Krystel Castillo, Lutcher Brown Chair in Mechanical Engineering in the Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design and director of TSERI. “This holistic approach includes a spectrum of technologies, encompassing e-aircraft, batteries and charging infrastructure, thereby fostering innovation and resilience within the energy and decarbonization landscape.”

Learn more about the UTSA Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute (TSERI).
Read about UTSA’s involvement in the president’s consortium to advance AI safety.
Explore the innovation taking place at the UTSA Office of Research and about the Research Centers and Institutes that are key to the university’s academic ecosystem.

Eighmy joined ARPA-E Director Evelyn Wang, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and CPS Energy Chief Customer Strategy Officer DeAnna Hardwick at today’s event.

The event was also an opportunity for the ARPA-E-funded teams working on this project to demonstrate their latest innovations, including a hybrid-electric aircraft, a new system of ultrafast, compact electric-vehicle chargers, sodium-ion batteries, and a new energy-resource-management system.

During the event, Castillo shared ongoing research underway at TSERI, including a city-scale grid digital twin. This digital replica of the city's infrastructure enables predictive analysis and optimization of power demand as the multi-modal transportation sector transitions to electrified vehicles.

Earlier this year, UTSA announced a pioneering initiative to reshape its academic landscape by creating a new college dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, computing, data science and related disciplines. This initiative positions UTSA and its students to lead in the rapidly evolving landscape of advanced technologies, and to fill the in-demand jobs in the industry.

Tricia Lynn Silva and Audrey Gray

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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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