Some professors at UC Irvine, like John Smith, got to experience a part of the future after the university installed smart grid technology into their homes.
Researchers outfitted Smith's neighborhood with solar panels, electric cars, battery chargers and storage units.
"They were trying to look into the future and the future is that more and more of us are getting solar panels, more and more of us want to have some kind of storage," said Smith. "So, they wanted to go on a small scale, see what it would be life if everybody has an electric vehicle."
The UCI study wanted to test the performance of the electrical grid and reduce energy costs and emissions. To do so, they teamed up with the Department of Energy and SoCal Edison to install smart grid technologies in and around the homes on four streets where university faculty live.
Part of the study revolves around the all-important solar panels. The energy that the panels harness the solar power the homes while the excess is stored in batteries for when the sun goes down. At night, the battery is used to power homes and electric cars. The study has had some key findings.
"We must have energy storage if we are to make a highly renewable future work," said Brouwer. "The second is that we need to upgrade the electric infrastructure if we want 100% zero-emission vehicles. An alternative to that is to use hydrogen and fuel cell technology."
Brouwer said more hydrogen fueling stations would need to be built to avoid the necessity for a complete upgrade of the electric grid. In the future, people would drive both plug-in electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars to insure that everyone has the power they need and to not overburden the grid.
A housing development in Murietta is using the findings of this study to better integrate smart grid technology into hundreds of homes.