Posted on September 18, 2019 by Klesse College

(Sept. 18, 2019) — Beginning in the Fall of 2019, faculty members at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) will conduct research to enhance green power generation and smart grid security. Through the strategic alliance between the Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute (TSERI) at UTSA and CPS Energy, three new projects totaling approximately $750,000 will focus on improving grid security and resilience, solar energy generation and more efficient technology for power generation.

“We are thrilled to embark on these three new projects that aim to contribute to CPS Energy’s position as a key player in the new energy economy,” said Krystel Castillo , TSERI Director.

“We have been able to build knowledge and grow innovation through our partnership with UTSA over the past decade,” said Cris Eugster, CPS Energy’s Chief Operating Officer. “We expect these new projects to also bring new insights that will help us plan for the future of energy.”

The first project will develop a solar tracking system made of soft silicon rubber for building- integrated photovoltaic applications.

“This light-weight robotic system can be integrated into buildings’ facades, rooftops or windows to optimize solar energy collected by solar panels while regulating energy flow between indoor and outdoor environments. It will also provide privacy,” said Wei Gao , project lead and assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Mechanical Engineering. Gao will partner with Yongcan Cao , assistant professor in the UTSA Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering to complete the project.

The second project will produce a prototype of a clean energy technology for steam turbines, which currently generate over 80% of the nation’s energy. UTSA researchers set a goal to replace the water used in this cycle with supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2).

“A supercritical fluid behaves like both a gas and a liquid at the same time. The phases are indistinguishable and sCO2 happens to have some very convenient properties for power generation that lead to higher efficiency and smaller turbines compared to steam,” said Christopher Combs , the assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who will lead this effort along with his co-investigators, Karan Bhanot (Finance), Sara Ahmed (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and Kiran Bhaganagar (Mechanical Engineering).

The third project will design data-driven and artificial intelligence approaches to better identify and mitigate cyber threats occurring on edge-cloud applications. The UTSA researchers will, particularly, focus on Internet of Things (IoT) devices including smart meters to verify the correctness and identify any security vulnerabilities in existing IoT devices as they interact with the smart grid. This project will be led by Paul Rad and Kim-Kwang Raymond Choo , associate professors in the UTSA Department of Information Systems and Cyber Security in collaboration with Krystel Castillo.

CPS Energy has collaborated with TSERI for close to a decade on multiple efforts such as smart grid cybersecurity, solar forecasting, energy storage, smart buildings and clean energy technologies. These research projects have created learning and workforce development opportunities for UTSA students through summer internships that help them better transition into next-generation energy jobs and sustainability fields. CPS Energy employees will also serve as mentors to the professors and students who will be participating in these newly-announced projects.

TSERI was founded by UTSA in 2010 to leverage the university’s diverse knowledge in energy and related areas. The institute integrates scientific discovery, engineering innovation and policy deliberations with pragmatic implementation to realize the promise of tomorrow’s America as a global energy leader.

— Klesse College