Salem: Portland State University, Oregon has issued the following news release:
Portland State University (PSU) has been awarded a $1 million planning grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a smart grid project, SEQUINS. The project is part of the NSF's first new division in 35 years, the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships, which is aspiring to change the way grant money is allocated so that it actually reaches and serves local communities. SEQUINS, which stands for Smart, EQUitable, INteroperable, and Secure, will coordinate major players in the Pacific Northwest to make a truly "smart" electrical grid a reality.
Over a two-year period, the project will identify obstacles to smart grid growth and develop plans to overcome them through academic research, entrepreneurship, workforce training, strategic government investments, and business collaborations. If successful, the SEQUINS planning phase can result in up to $160 million in NSF implementation funding for regional businesses, entrepreneurs, academic institutions, and others, with the ultimate goal of transforming the Pacific Northwest into a global smart grid leader.
Throughout the work, the focus will be on energy equity, so that everyone in the region, regardless of location and income, benefits from the investments and the job opportunities SEQUINS will create.
The planning effort is led by Robert Bass, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at PSU's Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. Other members of the team from Maseeh include Antonie Jetter, Associate Dean for Research and Tong Zhang, Assistant Dean of Inclusive Innovation.; PSU's Birol Yesilada, Professor Hatfield School of Government, Director Cybersecurity & Cyber Defense Policy; and Melissa Appleyard, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs in the PSU School of Business are also involved. The PSU team is leading a unique collaboration between five universities, two national laboratories, six private companies and industry organizations, and federal, state, and local government institutions.
"This planning grant from the National Science Foundation will bring together over thirty stakeholders from across the Pacific Northwest," Bass said. "The partners will develop a strategic plan to promote the development of an innovative smart grid technology ecosystem that delivers prosperity and energy equity to our region."
The Pacific Northwest is an area uniquely suited for this project. As a national leader in clean energy, many households are already familiar with smart grids: their smart meters and thermostats exchange information with utilities, and many consumers opt in to "load management" programs. These programs incentivize customers to reduce their energy use when the grid needs extra energy, for example on hot days when everyone turns on air conditioners. Utility companies may automatically turn up customers' thermostats by a few degrees for a short period of time and compensate those customers for the adjustment. The next generation of smart grids will automatically adjust load and supply-taking energy from home batteries and electric vehicles during peak demand and recharging them when there is excess supply. If enough people participate and if their energy contributions are organized and managed in novel ways with effective incentives, peaks and valleys in demand can be evened out without bringing more power plants online. The cost savings of a fully functional smart grid could save consumers $50 billion a year.
Smart grids offer an important defense against climate change: smart devices improve energy efficiency and data and automation help keep grids stable, even if the share of renewable energy increases. They thus address the problem of short-term disruptions to solar and wind power, such as when clouds obscure the sun or winds die down. Smart grid technologies provide data and automation that can maintain grid stability with a much higher share of clean energy.
To date, however, there are still no large-scale smart grid implementations, and many obstacles remain. These include data privacy and protection from cyberattacks, finding the skilled workforce to implement the new technology, offering a more diverse range of smart products, and making sure that all smart devices can safely communicate with the interoperable standards. SEQUINS catalyzes an innovation ecosystem to address these challenges.