WSU is advancing Washington industries …
WSU teams with aviation to develop sustainable aviation biofuels …
WSU partners to develop bioproducts that reduce dependence on petroleum imports …
WSU works with state commodity commissions to conduct needed agricultural research …
WSU developed the technology used for wood-plastic composites used for buildings …
WSU researchers work to improve dairy productivity and reduce disease …
WSU research has made Washington one of the world’s most productive wheat-growing regions …

Cougar Chat, In the News, Land grant mission in action, improving everyday lives

If you flip a switch, will your light come on? Land grant mission in action, improving everyday lives

Energy butch

Welcome to the seventh entry in our series that extends information about Washington State University’s land grant mission and demonstrates how our university is increasing knowledge, providing research, and making a difference for our state. This week, we highlight the research that WSU is doing on energy affordability, availability, attainability, and reliability. Let’s face it, when we flip a switch or recharge our smart phone, we expect the light to come on and our battery icon to glow green. However, our state’s and nation’s energy needs are ever increasing and the stakes are getting higher. Energy-related research is vitally important as we seek to supplement non-renewable energy sources, advance renewable sources of energy — including biofuels — and address growing global demand and security issues. WSU is on the front lines of finding solutions, including “smart grid” technology …

Other stories in the series:
WSU. Land grant mission in action, improving everyday lives
WSU Vancouver MAP program
WSU Vancouver Hospitality Business Management Program
WSU Global Campus 
WSU Biofuels Research
WSU Research, Centers, Schools, and programs that bring it all home, to your home

When one thinks about energy, three things come to mind: will we have enough affordable energy in the near future to meet our needs? What can we do for the energy needs of future generations, particularly in light of concerns about global warming and finding greener alternatives? And, can we continue to depend on energy supplies and delivery systems that are available when and where needed, at affordable, stable prices, and protected against global conflicts and growing demand?

Some things to consider.

  • What if the western United  States power grid had the capability to instantly detect a cyber attack by either domestic or foreign terrorists, isolate the problem, and simultaneously provide alternative energy flows to avoid dangerous, chaotic blackouts?
  • What if we could easily track home energy use by month, day, or the hour and be notified if our consumption moved into a higher-cost tier, or we could instantly learn about rate options to control our home energy use and expenses?
  • What if a smarter power grid could help Washingtonians and our country better optimize energy production and use for future generations to follow?
  • What could be the global implications if smart power grids helped reduce our carbon footprint and provided more choices about how energy is produced and used?

WSU is researching the answers to these and related questions.

Most of us are familiar with the term “smart” phone:  phones with a computer to multiply its communication capabilities and uses. What some may not know, is that Washington State University’s Energy Systems Innovation Center is working with private and public sectors and other research partners to develop  “smart” grid technologies that will potentially affect energy production, usage, and delivery systems.

What does this mean?

Humans create energy demands: energy to heat our homes, power our devices, fuel our transportation, and keep our economy going and growing. The future will entail meeting rising energy demands while protecting the nation’s infrastructure – power plants, transmission lines, and towers. Other considerations include green power generation, addressing the effects of climate change, and gaining energy independence.

WSU is a leader in developing  new technologies for improving the efficiency and reliability of electrical power and energy systems. Smart grid technologies are being designed, developed, analyzed, and tested, including new devices, software, and advanced analytic tools that inform existing power systems. Also being evaluated is the best way to incorporate new, alternative energy sources with existing energy production.

What are the expected results?

A major goal of the research partners is to develop cleaner, more secure and efficient energy production systems than are presently available. This includes improving the current electric grid system, which is being stretched to its capacity, making it less dependable and vulnerable to shut downs.  In addition, new smart electric grids are being designed to handle the groundswell of digital and computerized equipment and technology dependent on them, and to respond to the increasingly complex demands of the 21st century.

Pullman is even smarter than you think
For those who live in Pullman or are visitors to the campus, did you know that WSU researchers and Avista are working on a demonstration project that will help make the city the region’s first smart grid community?  Through the use of computers, communication devices, and locally-based power sources, the plan is to demonstrate how smart grid technology can increase Pullman’s energy efficiency, provide new opportunities for consumers to satisfy energy needs, and stabilize the power grid during times of disruption.

The project  could also make Pullman a greener place to live. The “intelligent” functions will create a “smarter” grid capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in addition to potentially boosting energy efficiency for the town’s residents, industrial and commercial users, and WSU’s Pullman campus.

The research also has the potential  to support a variety of new services and green-based industries, including:

  • Systems for storing and managing energy, including enabling customers to actively monitor and manage their energy uses
  • The “visualization” of power usage and automated meter reading using smart meters
  • Household appliance control (demand response, demand side management) and other smart home technologies that will provide customers the tools to manage energy use more efficiently

And, fundamentally, WSU will prepare and graduate a new generation of engineers who will further “energize” the energy industry and help build more smart grid communities. With approximately half of the national energy workforce eligible for retirement in the next five years, the industry faces a significant need for replacement engineers. As one of the leading power engineering programs in the country, WSU will proudly be a source of state-of-the-art talent and information for our state, the nation, and the international community.

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