USF, FSU join in energy solutions development

USF signed the first agreement between members of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium (FESC) pledging to coordinate research activities and resources toward energy solutions.

The University’s Power Center for Utility Explorations (PCUE) and Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS) signed the Intelligent Energy Alliance memorandum at Florida Smart Grid Workshop on Monday at USF’s Embassy Suites Hotel.

“(This agreement will) help combine … capabilities at FSU and USF so we can develop new courses, and we can pursue grants together that are possible only if we combine forces,” said Alex Domijan, director of PCUE.

Domijan said PCUE receives $7 million a year from grants, which makes it the “highest funded group in USF’s College of Engineering.” That money goes toward a combination of smart grid technology and educational efforts, he said.

Smart grids are systems that bind all the elements in a power system together, said Domijan, who co-chaired the workshop with CAPS Director Steinar Dale.

Smart grids will “provide an efficient electricity distribution system that uses digital technology to eliminate waste and improve reliability,” according to GridWise Alliance, an organization of individuals and companies that specialize in energy ideas.

“It will affect everybody,” Domijan said.

Implementing the new technology is “probably one of the greatest challenges that mankind will face in the next 20 or 30 years,” he said.

Other energy experts from companies and organizations around the state attended the event to discuss and promote the future of smart grid technology, an emerging energy alternative to the outdated power grids currently in place.

The workshop was in conjunction with the 2009 FESC Summit and the Florida Energy and Climate Commission (FECC) meeting today and Wednesday in the Marshall Student Center (MSC).

The Smart Grid Recovery Act Funds that President Barack Obama signed into law in February contained $4.5 billion that was allocated toward smart grid technology, said Katherine Hamilton, president of the GridWise Alliance.

The Waxman/Markey Bill, which focuses on energy and is working its way through Congress, also has potential consequences for the future of smart grid technology, Hamilton said.

The bill includes improvements to electric vehicles, energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction, according to a release.

Hamilton said smart grid technology is necessary to move forward and “a means to an end” on the development of smart grid technology.