Energy Smart Community
With an eye on a future with smaller electric bills and fewer power plants, Cornell researchers will use a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to engage energy consumers in creating, testing, and optimizing new residential electric storage systems.
Todd Cowen is the Atkinson Center's Faculty Director of Energy
The cutting-edge collaboration aims to bolster grid flexibility, integrate distributed renewable energy sources, and reduce household electricity costs. Based in Tompkins County, the Energy Smart Community initiative will empower local consumers to take direct action in their homes to reduce energy consumption, shrink their carbon footprint, and save money.
“Smart meters—which measure and manage residential electricity in real time—are already in about half of U.S. homes, but they have not yet met the pledge of smaller electric bills and engaged consumers,” said Todd Cowen, the project’s principal investigator. Cowen is the Atkinson Center's faculty director of energy, a position recently endowed by Kathleen and Curt Marble.
The team will test whether adding rechargeable batteries to residential smart meters can produce significant benefits. The project will virtualize the storage, allowing tests with large numbers of battery-equipped homes at very low cost.
“Ideally, we’re looking to help homes create a reservoir of energy, so that when electricity prices are low, the smart meters will automatically charge their batteries with the cheaper energy to use at a later time,” Cowen explained. “While we’re trying help consumers, this can create potential business opportunities, such as electric storage providers, smart-system service software, and residential-sector financing—not to mention creating an infrastructure for the emerging retail energy market.”
The grant is funded through NSF’s Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity program, which supports university-industry partnerships. Cowen leveraged the energy industry’s focus on New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision plan to collaborate with Avangrid, Iberdrola’s U.S. subsidiary, along with BMW North America, SolarCity, and Distributed Sun. The Atkinson Center built these external partnerships by bringing together Cornell faculty and connecting the team with the industry partners.
Content: Cornell Chronicle