For Immediate Release: May 18, 2011
Media Contact: Sandy Louey - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Awards Nearly $2.9 Million for Research Projects

SACRAMENTO - The California Energy Commission today awarded $2,872,755 for four research projects. The research areas include renewable energy, climate change, and the safety of natural gas pipelines. Funds for the projects come from the Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

The University of California at San Diego received $1,394,298 for a project with four separate components that include developing solar forecasting tools, distributed energy storage systems, using renewable energy to charge electric vehicles, and to better observe microgrid operations.

"Our investment in research on renewable energy projects will help accelerate its development and application in California," said Energy Commission Chair Dr. Robert B. Weisenmiller. "The partnership with UC San Diego expands on the campus' expertise in clean energy."

The California Independent System Operator Corporation (ISO) cannot observe power flow below the transmission level. If the California smart grid is made of a collection of microgrids on the distribution system, the ISO must be able to monitor its operations. UC San Diego, which serves a daily population of 45,000, operates a 42-megawatt microgrid.

The four components will be: a forecasting research project that forecasts, in 15-minute increments for up to one hour, for solar photovoltaics (PV) by using Skytracker devices that will monitor cloud movement near large PV installations; an integrated project that combines PV and electric energy storage to mitigate the intermittency of renewable generation; a project that installs a communication link between UC San Diego and the ISO so the latter can fully observe the operation of the campus microgrid; and the demonstration of a direct current linked charged port at an existing electric vehicle parking garage.

The Energy Commission also awarded funding to the following projects:

  • UC Santa Barbara was awarded $600,000 for a project examining the effects of climate change on fire frequency and vegetation on California watersheds. Fire and altered vegetation can substantially change hydrologic conditions, which have a significant impact on hydropower generation. The project will study the vegetation changes in areas of high fire activity and subsequent changes to hydrologic cycles caused by fire, such as timing and amounts of stream flow in specific watersheds in northern and southern California. The results will be used to help water managers predict the effects that climate change and land cover will have on the water available for hydropower operations.
  • The UC's Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society will receive $478, 457 to develop innovative technologies and approaches to inspect and monitor natural gas pipelines. The project will design, prototype, and pilot test next generation sensors that could improve the safety and security of natural gas pipelines. The three prototypes will be: a gas pressure sensor that monitors the pipeline for overpressure conditions; a laser-based sensor to detect defects in pipeline welds from the inside; and a sensor to detect water accumulation and corrosion. The project will also develop a database and a 3D geographic information system that will be used for the oversight of natural gas lines.
  • UC Berkeley will receive $400,000 to develop new greenhouse gas inventory methods in California by accounting for reduced carbon dioxide uptake and greenhouse gas emissions from decayed forest areas killed by disease or invasive pests. The project, which supports the California Air Resources Board's (ARB) implementation of AB 32, will be a collaborative effort with ARB and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The effort will help produce new estimates of carbon stocks, annual CO2 uptake and GHG emissions of forests, range, and other lands. The GHG emissions associated with forest pests will be used to estimate the potential for forested lands to generate carbon offsets for the energy sectors.

The Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program supports public interest research and development that helps improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, reliable, and affordable energy services and products to the marketplace. For more information, visit

Created by the California Legislature in 1974, the California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The Energy Commission has five major responsibilities: forecasting future energy needs and keeping historical energy data; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency through appliance and building standards; developing energy technologies and supporting renewable energy; and planning for and directing state response to energy emergency.

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