Innovative Information Technology, Sensors and Controls for Stable and Sustainable Energy

The i4Energy collaboration between CITRIS, CIEE and LBNL*

California and the country need cleaner industries, more efficient buildings and transportation, more renewable energy, and a “smarter grid” to integrate the “demand-side” of the U.S. energy equation. This energy initiative will transform the way engineers and policy makers think about how to supply electricity for the grid. “The key is our ability to be aware of the dynamics of supply and use and to respond in a timely fashion,” noted David Culler, the initiative’s faculty lead. “The demand-side for electricity must become more cooperative and intelligent to allow the supply-side to effectively increase the amount of alternative energy.”

The people of i4Energy are therefore focused on three key areas: integrated sensors to communicate vast amounts of real-time information; data management to gather, process, and direct information; and advanced controls to act on the information, making systems work better. The California Energy Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and various industries support the i4Energy research projects. Some are even using the CITRIS HQ building, Sutardja Dai Hall, as a living-laboratory, or test-bed, for evaluating new controls and sensing. CITRIS’s HQ building is also the physical home of i4Energy – which includes the Marvell Nano Lab (pictured), the student/staff locations on west-side of the fourth floor of Sutardja Dai Hall, and the Invention Laboratory on the first floor.

These activities create the four “i”s of i4energy – information, intelligence, integration and innovation. They have been developed from the natural assets of CITRIS, CIEE and LBNL.  For example, the north wing of the CITRIS HQ building is devoted to the $60M+ Marvell Nanofabrication Lab.  Arguably the most advanced micro/nano prototyping lab in the U.S., this facility has already created prototypes for inexpensive, MEMS-scale current measurements in residential, commercial and grid-scale cables. Another natural asset is the top-ranked engineering faculty of the four CITRIS campuses and the research staff of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Ever since the “first energy crisis” of the early 1970s, the LBNL researchers have made key contributions such as low-energy windows, low energy refrigeration, and low energy home design. These research topics continue today and are now more urgently merged with the research on the four CITRIS campuses, especially in the Colleges of Engineering and the Energy Resources Group at Berkeley and other specialty energy centers at UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis – their West Village installation in particular.

Carl Blumstein, the Director of CIEE, concludes, “This line of research is badly needed and continues to help the state’s and the U.S. energy companies move into the future. An unintended consequence of the restructuring of the electricity industry in the U.S. has been a sharp decline in expenditures for research and development by investor-owned utilities.”


*The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society
   The California Institute for Energy and Environment
   The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory