ASU, SRP partner to research renewable energy, conservation

September 25, 2013

Salt River Project (SRP) and the Conservation and Renewable Energy Collaboratory (CREC) at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) have partnered for a second year to award a $170,000 grant to fund research initiatives in renewable energy and conservation.

This year the SRP-CREC research program selected four projects for funding. Projects include: reliability and performance testing of batteries in hot and dry climates; solar hot water system testing and evaluation; use of algae for bioremediation of water; and evaluation of solar photovoltaic performance and degradation. Download Full Image

“CTI faculty and students collaboratively work with our industry partners like SRP to define important, use-inspired research problems,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of the college. “Industry partners like SRP are the foundation of the college and provide an important component of our project-based learning and applied research model.”

In addition to its sponsorship of the CREC research program, SRP has been a long-standing supporter and sponsor of the iProjects program at the college. The program pairs students with mentors and companies to find solutions to real-world challenges. This year, two student teams will work on projects that will benefit SRP and the electric utility industry.

One team will develop an electrical model that will allow the utility industry to better plan for and forecast the impact of distributed generation and energy storage methods on high penetration utility systems. A second team will work to develop a portable battery impedance tester for battery technicians to monitor battery state of health on solar installations and substations.

“During our partnership with CTI, we have engaged in innovative research with talented faculty and students on important issues affecting SRP and our customers,” said John Sullivan, SRP’s associate general manager and chief resources executive. “We are pleased with the collaborative relationship that SRP is developing with CTI and we look forward to continuing to develop this important partnership in the coming year.” 

Use of algae for bioremediation of water:

Researcher: Milt Sommerfeld

Maintenance and regulation of water quality is an essential tenet of environmental sustainability. This project investigates the feasibility of utilizing algae to capture contaminants from water and wastewater. The project will also evaluate whether the resultant algae can be converted into a usable biomass product such as fuel, feed or fertilizer. The research will be conducted at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, ASU’s state-of-the-art algae test center. 

Solar hot water system testing and evaluation:

Researchers: Brad Rogers and John Rajadas

Over the past three years, SRP and ASU have co-developed a testing facility at the Polytechnic campus to study the performance of solar thermal hot water systems in a desert climate. The primary goals of the research are to determine how much energy can be saved using these systems and to assess the challenges that might be encountered in operating and maintaining the systems over time. This year, researchers will continue to evaluate the performance of commercially available solar hot water systems over a full annual solar cycle.

Evaluation of long-term solar system performance:

Researcher: Govindasamy Tamizhmani

As the number of solar photovoltaic system installations continues to rise, the measurement and prediction of their performance, reliability and availability is becoming more critically important to installers, integrators, investors and owners. Researchers at ASU’s Photovoltaic Reliability Laboratory are developing a model to predict the performance of photovoltaic systems over their life span. The researchers are using data collected from actual photovoltaic system installations to build their model. With a better understanding of how the performance of the systems changes over time, investors and owners will be able to more effectively plan for maintenance and more accurately assess the overall economics of these systems.

Reliability and performance evaluation of batteries in a desert climate:

Researchers: Arunachalanadar Madakannan, Nathan Johnson, Scott Pollat

Batteries represent a promising technology for the storage of energy generated by intermittent resources, such as wind farms and solar plants. To maximize the performance and life span of a battery, it is important to be able to assess its state-of-charge and state-of-health. At elevated temperatures like those in desert climates, states of extremely high or low state-of-charge can lead to irreversible damage in the battery. The focus of this research is to correlate performance measurements typically collected to evaluate battery life to state-of-charge and state-of-health values, so that a more complete picture of a battery’s overall status at a given time can be assessed. Researchers are also working to develop a field tester that measures state-of-charge and state-of-health values, which will allow operators to more effectively manage battery systems.

How do we determine what is 'good' for society?

September 25, 2013

Project Humanities at Arizona State University is challenging economists and government leaders to ponder the rules that shape and govern society.

In economics, public goods are described as services that are available to everyone at no cost. Under this context, the consumption of these goods by a single person does not have an effect on the ability for others to consume this item. A few basic examples of this are fresh air, knowledge and information goods. Download Full Image

With this broad of an outline, who determines what is “good” for society and how do they do so? Kerry Smith, a Regents’ Professor and W. P. Carey professor of economics, says that consumer sovereignty ultimately has the final say.

Under this theory, Smith believes that the public demand for a good is what determines the success or failure. If the demand is high, production will increase and consumers will continue to purchase the good in the future. Reversely, poor demand will result in the production of a good coming to an end.

In government, however, elected officials must find a balance between what the community desires and what is best for everyone.  

“It is our job, in my opinion, to be educated stewards of directional choices. To not simply see the horizon, but see what is beyond it and make choices now that best address future needs. This means sometimes making choices that are not popular with people now, but will show future insight in 20 years,” said Kolby Granville, Tempe City Council member.

Jayson Matthews, chief development officer at the United Food Bank, believes that upbringing, environment and perspective are influential factors in this ability to show foresight.  

“For some, the protection of human life and property is the only key factor and it can only be measured in the amount of police officers that are employed. For others, a strong and vibrant arts community is the only key factor for a 'good' society. In my opinion, a key factor in a 'good' society is comprised of engaged individuals who participate in voting in elections, volunteering for charity,” he said.

To create a more vibrant future, Smith believes that society must use the idea of incentives to persuade the public to act on desired outcomes. For example, promoting sustainable initiatives requires one to think about creating a better future for their children or grandchildren to whom they hold a personal connection.

Granville largely agrees, but adds that society should question ways to sustain future cities based on the problems of today, like oil dependency and population growth.

“Gas prices will continue to rise because of growing oil demand in India and China. The real questions is, knowing that if just five percent of China decides to buy a car there are millions of additional cars competing for limited gas resources, and gas is now $5 or $10 a gallon in today's dollars, what will cities look like?” he said.

What do you think? Weigh in on the discussion by visiting the Project Humanities Facebook page now.