March 10: Energy summit a glimpse of future smart grid

By Tina Hilding, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture

ESICSPOKANE, Wash. – Researchers and industry leaders from around the U.S. will gather in Spokane this week for a glimpse of the future smart electric power grid.

Washington State University’s energy summit on March 10 will focus on transactive energy management, in which energy providers use modern power system technologies like sensors and advanced meters to reduce energy costs and improve efficiency, reliability and security.

The summit, sponsored by WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center, will be held in conjunction with WSU’s Power and Energy Automation Conference on March 8-10 in Spokane.

$2.25M collaboration

Last year, WSU became part of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)-sponsored project to research, develop and demonstrate technologies needed to create “smart” buildings, campuses and cities to better manage energy usage. Once buildings and devices are smarter – managing energy resources optimally on their own – they can also be more responsive to the needs of the power grid.

The DOE is matching a $2.25 million Clean Energy Fund grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to support the work.

Led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and including the University of Washington, the pioneering regional partnership brings the three campuses together to demonstrate transaction-based energy management for the first time, testing the large-scale use of transactive controls involving multiple buildings and devices. The transactive idea combines financial signals and control techniques to shift energy usage in devices, buildings and campuses.

Chen-Ching Liu

“This is all about resiliency,’’ said Chen-Ching Liu, director of WSU’s Energy Systems Innovation Center and Boeing Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering. “If there is a major event and major power outage, we want to be able to use photovoltaics, the energy storage battery and WSU generators to form a microgrid to support critical loads in Pullman.”

Solar panels in Pullman

As part of the project, WSU researchers will install solar panels on the Pullman campus for the first time and integrate them into Pullman’s “Smart City’’ test bed and WSU’s microgrid system. A microgrid is a locally based, electricity producing power grid that can communicate with the power company to improve efficiency and resilience throughout the community.

The WSU researchers will be showing how the WSU Pullman campus can power critical city infrastructure in the event of a power outage. They will develop strategies for sharing energy between its smart buildings and the solar modules.

The solar array will be communicating automatically with generators at WSU as well as with a unique, one megawatt energy storage battery in Pullman. The campus system will communicate automatically with electric meters at both the PNNL and UW campuses.

Learn about the energy summit speakers at Learn more about the WSU Energy Systems Innovation Center at


Chen-Ching Liu, director, Energy Systems Innovation Center, (509) 335-1150,
Tina Hilding, communications coordinator, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture, (509) 335-5095,



Next Story

A conversation with Anne McCoy

WSU Regent Enrique Cerna sat down with the university’s new athletic director for a wide-ranging discussion about the future of WSU Athletics.

Recent News