University Smart Grid gets grants

Timothy Sandoval

Sacramento State will receive $2 million a year from the California Energy Commission for research into Sacramento’s Smart Grid system, which seeks to reduce energy consumption in the region, said Emir Macari, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Macari said it is unknown yet how long the annual funds will last. The funds, which were agreed upon on April 21, are in addition to the $905,348 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to develop a new training program for Sacramento’s Smart Grid system.

Macari said Sac State received the funds because it is the only university in the state that offers power engineering as a discipline and master’s program. Sac State also houses the only Smart Grid Center in California.

“(They) saw that we were the main players,” Macari said. “Sacramento is now positioning itself to be the clean technology, green energy hub of the country.”

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, supported Sac State’s application for the federal funding.

“This is something that the congresswoman has been working on for many years,” said Mara Lee, communications director for Matsui.

SMUD will install many of the “smart meters” across Sacramento to facilitate the use of the Smart Grid technology. The Smart Grid would work in people’s homes to show them which appliances are best to run at what times, and how much energy they are using. This would allow consumers to know the best time to turn on their appliances to be more energy efficient and to reduce their bills.

When consumers know how much energy they are using and at what times to use their appliances, they will reduce their overall energy consumption, Macari said.

“With all of these devices, we will be able to reduce the amount of energy in our region,” Macari said. “If we are able to export that to the rest of California and the nation, in the near future we could become an energy-independent country.”

The Smart Grid will work through electronic communications, like the Internet, to tell consumers how much energy they are using.

Because of this, Sac State will also be granted $600,000 to $1 million from the National Science Foundation to improve the school’s Center for Cyber Security. This would prevent hacking into consumers’ Smart Grid information.

Macari said faculty members will help create the new certificate programs and classes to educate engineers in Smart Grid technology.

It is uncertain whether the new courses in Smart Gird will be offered this summer, Macari said. If not, the courses will be offered by fall 2010.

Sac State will receive the stimulus funds within the next two months.

Macari said he was excited to see Sac State get the recognition.

“We are not the little Sac State college anymore,” Macari said. “People are paying attention to us, not only in the country, but around the world.”

Timothy Sandoval can be reached at [email protected].