This project is based on the idea that, as solar panels and wind energy become more common, individual houses can both produce and consume renewable energy. The homes can also become power brokers, storing energy in batter arrays or electric vehicles and then selling power back to the grid when it is needed. This single home set-up is known as a nanogrid—a tiny version of the massive power grid structures that are so prevalent today. A nation of nanogrids could help solve some of our energy challenges, but it would require new infrastructure to monitor and administer that power exchange.
The researchers are creating the necessary facilities to experiment and test solutions to the challenges of a nanogrid-based society. They have designed and implemented a testbed at the NASA Ames Research Center based on a project held jointly between UCSC and Denmark. The testbed uses an electric vehicle for energy storage and transportation, and a recharging station for the vehicle. Software is being developed for an artificial neural network that can be used to forecast energy production and to learn energy consumption patterns in the nanogrid so that it can automatically balance production, consumption, and storage.
This project was featured in a recent issue of the CITRIS Signal.