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This smart community will power 200 homes with solar and batteries in California

The overall goal of the project is to enhance residential home energy reliability, resiliency, and efficiency as well as leverage flexible loads based on an electric microgrid architecture of connected communities.

Distribution utilities know that flexibility is key for a grid made up of thousands of distributed energy resources (DER) and renewable energy. In California, a state that tends to lead in terms of the energy transition, a new project will test the efficacy of two all-electric microgrids that span two communities and 192 homes for bringing the type of flexibility that the grid of the future will need.

The Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is working with the Department of Energy (DOE), SunPower, KB Home, Southern California Edison (SCE), and Schneider Electric (SE) to develop, deploy, and test two microgrid communities located in Menifee, California. 

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For this research and demonstration project, the all-electric homes are in two adjacent communities and equipped with solar panels, home batteries, a smart water heater, a smart heating and air conditioning system, and controls that can isolate and energize the homes in the event of a grid outage.  Every home will be certified to DOE-designated Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) standards.

The two communities of 192 homes will have separate microgrids that can be connected when shared resources are determined to benefit both communities.

In addition to the home batteries, a community battery will be shared among the homes.  The overall goal of the project is to enhance residential home energy reliability, resiliency, and efficiency as well as leverage flexible loads based on an electric microgrid architecture of connected communities. 

APEP is collaborating with SCE, SE, and SunPower to develop, deploy, and evaluate a microgrid controller designed to interface with the homes, the microgrid energy resources, and the grid to achieve the enhanced reliability, resiliency, and energy efficiency expected by the next generation of homeowners.  APEP will simulate the connected microgrids in collaboration with SCE, acquire and archive the data from the project, and conduct research to enhance the technologies deployed in support of future microgrid applications.

“This is at the cutting edge of the next generation of home developments,” said Scott Samuelsen, Professor of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Environmental Engineering and the Co-Principal Investigator with SunPower.  “For homeowners, the digital and connected future and home ‘fueling’ of electric vehicles demands the enhanced home energy security provided by microgrid technology.

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APEP was integral to the design of the project and serves as a facilitator in the engagement of SCE.  APEP will also explore, test, and demonstrate the future of “vehicle-to-home” wherein the energy stored in the electric vehicle is available to extend the energy readiness of the home in the event of a grid outage.  

Overall, APEP will assure that the microgrid controller meets the national standards (IEEE 2030.7) that evolved from prior research conducted by APEP for the DOE using the UCI Microgrid as a platform for both the development and demonstration. 

The UCI Microgrid is a 20MW-class microgrid that serves a community of more than 50,000, a wide array of building types (residential, office, research, classroom), transportation options (automobiles, buses, shared-cars, bicycles), and an array of distributed energy resources. Through prior and current research programs, APEP has teamed with the UCI Administration and Facilities Management (FM) to integrate key microgrid hardware, software, and simulation assets into the UCI Microgrid. In partnership with UCI FM and SCE, APEP successfully seamlessly islanded and reconnected the UCI Microgrid from the utility grid.

During the 75-minute islanding demonstration, the event was transparent to the campus community even though load demand on the local generation resources changed appreciably.

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