Projects for a cleaner, more fuel-independent way of life

Dear Friends of CITRIS:

As gas prices soar and energy politics heat up, the work we’re doing here at CITRIS should be encouraging. Leading the way is i4Energy, our collaboration with the California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I am pleased to announce that  Dr. Carl Blumstein, a close advisor to CITRIS, has agreed to take an office here at Sutardja Dai Hall where he will serve as i4Energy’s Managing  Director. At the helm, Blumstein joins Professor David Culler, who was appointed Faculty Director of i4Energy last year.

Blumstein, who is also the Director of CIEE, has explored the state’s and nation’s energy challenges inside and out, and he has worked to address them from every important angle. Trained as a chemist, his own research focuses on energy efficiency. But he is also a veteran of energy policy and politics; he is the Chairman of the Board of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), he served on the Board of Governors of the California Power Exchange, and has been an energy policy analyst at the UC Energy Institute for more than 30 years. I am thrilled to have him here with Professor Culler; it is hard to imagine a better one-two energy punch we could pack than these two creative and world-wise scientists.

The two projects described in this issue of The CITRIS Signal should also encourage scientists and citizens across the state and around the world. The ingenuity, persistence, and commitment we see here at CITRIS is helping California, and the nation, navigate a course to a cleaner, safer, more fuel-independent, and peaceful way of life.

Professor Joel Kubby is exploring the use of EV batteries to store energy for local use.

The first project, directed by Professor Joel Kubby at UC Santa Cruz, is a testbed for exploring the use of electric car batteries as a versatile storage system for a small, localized grid. As the number of electric vehicles grows, their capacity as storage devices can be exploited. But first we need a way to track and analyze these mobile power supplies in order to integrate them seamlessly into the grid. Professor Kubby is exploring the best ways forward. The testbed—with UCSC facilities on the Santa Cruz Pier, and at NASA Ames—will use wind power, solar energy, and tidal energy as power sources.

Electric Vehicles for Energy Storage to Stabilize Utility Grid

An “optical turnstile” project by Alberto Cerpa will help building managers keep track of room occupancy and target heating and cooling.

The second story examines an innovative UC Merced project that tracks the occupancy of buildings in a way that could potentially save billions of dollars. Today, building managers have no method of counting the number of people in their buildings or of tracking which rooms are being used and by how many people. As a result, most large buildings are air conditioned and ventilated as if all spaces were fully occupied at all times. Early studies of Professor Alberto Cerpa’s “optical turnstile” suggest that by automatically counting, tracking, and predicting occupancy of each room at any given time, managers could reduce the energy required to air condition a building by 40 to 50 percent. That would be a game-changing innovation.

Alberto Cerpa’s Optical Turnstile

Professor Cerpa’s work is a part of UC Merced’s Triple Zero Commitment, an ambitious effort to make the campus ultra-green by achieving zero net energy, zero landfill waste, and zero greenhouse gas emissions. The entire Merced campus is serving as a testbed for projects like Cerpa’s.

Keep up the good work!

Paul K. Wright
Director, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley

View this issue and more in the CITRIS Signal Newsletter Archive