September 25, 2013

ASU, SRP partner to research renewable energy, conservation

Posted: September 25, 2013
Milt Sommerfeld inspects red algae with a colleague at the Polytechnic campus. The Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation is one of three projects that will be funded by the SRP-CREC research program.

Salt River Project (SRP) and the Conservation and Renewable Energy Collaboratory (CREC) at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) have partnered for a second year to award a $170,000 grant to fund research initiatives in renewable energy and conservation.

This year the SRP-CREC research program selected four projects for funding. Projects include: reliability and performance testing of batteries in hot and dry climates; solar hot water system testing and evaluation; use of algae for bioremediation of water; and evaluation of solar photovoltaic performance and degradation.

“CTI faculty and students collaboratively work with our industry partners like SRP to define important, use-inspired research problems,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of the college. “Industry partners like SRP are the foundation of the college and provide an important component of our project-based learning and applied research model.”

In addition to its sponsorship of the CREC research program, SRP has been a long-standing supporter and sponsor of the iProjects program at the college. The program pairs students with mentors and companies to find solutions to real-world challenges. This year, two student teams will work on projects that will benefit SRP and the electric utility industry.

One team will develop an electrical model that will allow the utility industry to better plan for and forecast the impact of distributed generation and energy storage methods on high penetration utility systems. A second team will work to develop a portable battery impedance tester for battery technicians to monitor battery state of health on solar installations and substations.

“During our partnership with CTI, we have engaged in innovative research with talented faculty and students on important issues affecting SRP and our customers,” said John Sullivan, SRP’s associate general manager and chief resources executive. “We are pleased with the collaborative relationship that SRP is developing with CTI and we look forward to continuing to develop this important partnership in the coming year.” 

Use of algae for bioremediation of water:

Researcher: Milt Sommerfeld

Maintenance and regulation of water quality is an essential tenet of environmental sustainability. This project investigates the feasibility of utilizing algae to capture contaminants from water and wastewater. The project will also evaluate whether the resultant algae can be converted into a usable biomass product such as fuel, feed or fertilizer. The research will be conducted at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, ASU’s state-of-the-art algae test center. 

Solar hot water system testing and evaluation:

Researchers: Brad Rogers and John Rajadas

Over the past three years, SRP and ASU have co-developed a testing facility at the Polytechnic campus to study the performance of solar thermal hot water systems in a desert climate. The primary goals of the research are to determine how much energy can be saved using these systems and to assess the challenges that might be encountered in operating and maintaining the systems over time. This year, researchers will continue to evaluate the performance of commercially available solar hot water systems over a full annual solar cycle.

Evaluation of long-term solar system performance:

Researcher: Govindasamy Tamizhmani

As the number of solar photovoltaic system installations continues to rise, the measurement and prediction of their performance, reliability and availability is becoming more critically important to installers, integrators, investors and owners. Researchers at ASU’s Photovoltaic Reliability Laboratory are developing a model to predict the performance of photovoltaic systems over their life span. The researchers are using data collected from actual photovoltaic system installations to build their model. With a better understanding of how the performance of the systems changes over time, investors and owners will be able to more effectively plan for maintenance and more accurately assess the overall economics of these systems.

Reliability and performance evaluation of batteries in a desert climate:

Researchers: Arunachalanadar Madakannan, Nathan Johnson, Scott Pollat

Batteries represent a promising technology for the storage of energy generated by intermittent resources, such as wind farms and solar plants. To maximize the performance and life span of a battery, it is important to be able to assess its state-of-charge and state-of-health. At elevated temperatures like those in desert climates, states of extremely high or low state-of-charge can lead to irreversible damage in the battery. The focus of this research is to correlate performance measurements typically collected to evaluate battery life to state-of-charge and state-of-health values, so that a more complete picture of a battery’s overall status at a given time can be assessed. Researchers are also working to develop a field tester that measures state-of-charge and state-of-health values, which will allow operators to more effectively manage battery systems.

Jessi Hibsman, Jessi.Hibsman@asu.edu
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