Home » General News, Green Investing, Journalism

UC San Diego wins $11 million to build green electricity plants

23 August 2009 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

UC San Diego has landed $11 million in grants to develop cutting-edge renewable energy systems. Awarded by the California Public Utilities Commission, the state rebates are the biggest given for such projects to date, the university announced Wednesday.

The projects will help San Diego move toward energy independence and develop as a renewable energy hub in the country.

“San Diego as a whole takes one step closer towards becoming more energy independent,” said Byron Washom, Director of Strategic Energy Initiatives at UCSD. “The more projects we bring to the San Diego region like this, (the more) we start to become a hub for industrial development and growth of the City’s sustainability initiative and smart grid initiative.”

The two grants aim to achieve dual purposes: generate electricity and store energy.

One grant for $7.65 million will fund a huge fuel cell plant – at 2.8 megawatts – that will use wastewater to generate electricity.

The second rebate for $3.4 million will go toward creating an advanced energy storage system, which will store electricity generated during off-peak hours for use during peak hours.

Fuel cell plant

The new plant, to be housed on the UCSD campus, will become the world’s largest commercial fuel cell facility when completed in 2010.

The system will convert gas discharged by the City of San Diego’s existing Point Loma wastewater treatment plant and turn it into electricity. A facility at the Point Loma plant will compress and purify the gas, using an electro-chemical process.

BioFuels Energy, LLC of Encinitas, Calif., is contracted to transport the compressed gas from Point Loma to the university campus, where it will be turned into electricity.

The advanced fuel cell process creates so few air pollutants it is certified by the California Air Resources Board as an “ultra-clean” technology, exempt from permit requirements.

Energy storage plant

The storage plant to be built on the UCSD campus will also be the world’s largest such system. Energy storage is an important emerging industry, which forms the “third leg of the tripod of energy,” said Washom.

The first leg is energy generation, or supply. The second is customer use, or demand. The third is energy storage, he said. “It can absorb and store when there’s a surplus of energy.”

Additional electricity

The entire system will eventually be able to generate 2.8 million megawatts and store about four times that much energy. The stored amount will be enough to power nearly 10,000 homes for four hours, or the university’s huge campus for 1 hour, 20 minutes.

That may not seem long, but it will take pressure off the system during peak hours, said Washom. Peak hours are from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. – when “buildings are still operating and people are starting to come home.” Off-peak hours are from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

A smart-grid system uses off-peak hours to generate and store excess electricity, which is then used during peak hours. This contrasts with traditional electricity plants, which have no storage capability and can black out during peak hours.

“It’s a start,” Washom said, “It’s not so much the quantity, as to when that energy is being discharged — at peak periods — when it’s needed the most.”

Model projects

The plant will serve as a model for future projects. The university is already applying for triple the amount of rebates to fund later phases, said Washom.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.