Jan 29, 2024

University of California, Irvine, opens research microgrid in Shadow Mountain community

By Kelsey Misbrener | June 2, 2023

Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Moreno cuts the ribbon at the grand opening.

The Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine, joined the U.S. Department of Energy, KB Home, SunPower, Southern California Edison and Schneider Electric on May 22 to officially open the novel microgrid communities located in the Shadow Mountain master plan in Menifee, California.

A microgrid is a self-supporting energy system that serves a specific geographic footprint, with one or more sources of energy that power the community along with the utility grid. For this research and demonstration project, the all-electric homes are located in two adjacent communities and equipped with solar panels, home batteries, a smart water heater, a smart heating and air conditioning system and controls that can isolate and energize the homes in the event of a grid outage. Every home is certified to DOE-designated Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) standards, which includes ENERGY STAR, WaterSense and Indoor airPLUS.

The two communities of 219 homes have separate microgrids that can be connected when shared energy resources are determined to benefit both communities. In addition to the home batteries, a community battery will be shared among the homes. The overall goal of the project is to enhance residential home energy reliability, resiliency and efficiency as well as leverage flexible loads based on an electric microgrid architecture of connected communities. Over thirty homes have been occupied with a large portfolio of state-of-the-art energy-efficient appliances and energy efficiency measures to meet the ZERH standards.

"This is at the cutting edge of the next generation of home developments," said Scott Samuelsen, professor of mechanical, aerospace and environmental engineering and the co-principal investigator with SunPower. "For homeowners, the digital age and home charging of electric vehicles demands the enhanced home energy security provided by microgrid technology."

APEP is collaborating with SCE, SE and SunPower to develop, deploy and evaluate a microgrid infrastructure and microgrid controller designed to interface with the homes, a community battery and the utility grid to achieve the enhanced reliability, resiliency, and energy efficiency expected by the next generation of homeowners. Throughout the project, APEP will simulate the connected microgrids in collaboration with SCE, acquire and archive the data emanating from the project and conduct research to enhance the technologies deployed in support of future microgrid applications.

APEP will also explore, test and demonstrate the future of "vehicle-to-home," wherein the energy stored in the electric vehicle is available to extend the energy readiness of the home in the event of a grid outage.

Overall, APEP will assure that the microgrid controller meets the national standards (IEEE 2030.7) that evolved from prior research conducted by APEP for the DOE using the UCI Microgrid as a platform for both the development and demonstration. The UCI Microgrid is a 20-MW class microgrid that serves a community of more than 50,000, a wide array of building types (residential, office, research, classroom), transportation options (automobiles, buses, shared-cars, bicycles) and an array of distributed energy resources. Through prior and current research programs, APEP has teamed with the UCI Administration and Facilities Management (FM) to integrate key microgrid hardware, software and simulation assets into the UCI Microgrid. In partnership with UCI FM and SCE, APEP successfully and seamlessly islanded and reconnected the UCI Microgrid from the utility grid. During the 75-minute islanding demonstration, the event was transparent to the campus community even though load demand on the local generation resources changed appreciably.

News item from the University of California, Irvine