Pecan Street Project has acquired a site and will begin construction of a smart grid interoperability research facility soon, it has announced. Researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will lead the programming and technical specification development for the facility, which will be in Austin’s Mueller community.
Pecan Street Project executives leading the development and operations of the lab are John H. Baker Jr. and Ariane Beck.
Prior to joining Pecan Street Project this year, Baker was Austin Energy’s chief strategy officer. He joined Austin Energy in 1994. He served in various roles during his tenure, including vice president of customer care and marketing, process manager of system operations and reliability, manager of distribution system support, and manager of distribution engineering and design. From 2002 until his retirement from Austin Energy in 2010, he served as chief strategy officer, leading the development of the utility’s aggressive long-range renewable energy and energy efficiency goals.
In addition to overseeing the home research lab, Baker will manage the organization’s Industry Advisory Council, a collection of technology and energy companies participating in the organization’s smart grid research. He also will serve as the primary liaison for utilities on the organization’s Technical Review and Advisory Committee, which includes the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, CPS Energy, Oncor and Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
Beck was the assistant chair of the University of Texas Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prior to joining Pecan Street Project in 2011 as the organization’s project manager, Beck served as the assistant chairwoman of UT’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. Her work at UT included managing development of lab facilities and space construction, leading the department’s successful accreditation review and managing the day-to-day operations of the university’s sixth-largest department (with 66 faculty, 30 staff and 1,900 students).
Beck has a doctorate in electrical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. Her research accomplishments include designing, fabricating and characterizing wide band gap UV avalanche photodiodes (APDs) in SiC, GaP and AlGaN/GaN material systems for use in biological agent detection and nonline-of-sight communications under the DARPA SUVOS program, and designing processes for recessed window and thin-metal structures to enhance carrier collection efficiency.
Home Research Lab will serve as a neutral third-party research facility. Researchers from Pecan Street Project, The University of Texas, NREL, multiple utilities and private sector companies will be able to use the lab for testing and evaluating interoperability industry standards along with testing performance and integration of multiple companies’ home smart grid systems with electricity, gas and water utility distribution and back office systems. Specific technologies that will be tested include electric vehicles, home energy management systems, smart appliances, home storage, rooftop photovoltaic and advanced metering. The facility also will include public education programming.
Construction is scheduled to begin in September and active operations to commence in March 2012. Pecan Street Project has contracted with Austin-based custom homebuilder The Muskin Co. to develop the Home Research Lab. Architects for the facility are University of Texas School of Architecture faculty Matthew Fajkus, Ulrich Dangel and Tamie Glass, Department of Architectural and Environmental Engineering professor Atila Novoselac and Austin-based architects Michael Hsu and Kevin Stewart.
Pecan Street Project will build the lab in a three-story, live-work unit site across the street from the former Mueller Municipal Airport’s air traffic control tower. The tower, which was preserved after the airport’s decommissioning, has become an iconic structure in the green-built Mueller community.
“This lab will provide an opportunity for University of Texas researchers and students to collaborate with utilities and the best researchers from the private sector on the technologies that will solve our toughest energy, environmental and economic challenges,” said Brewster McCracken, Pecan Street Project executive director. “Having the lab’s development led by our partners from NREL, an accomplished, visionary utility executive like John and an outstanding researcher like Ariane ensures that this lab will provide significant value.”
About Pecan Street Project Inc.
Headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street Project Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) smart grid and clean energy research and development organization. Incorporated in 2009, the organization’s board includes representatives from The University of Texas, Austin Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, the Austin Technology Incubator, the city of Austin and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.
In September 2009, it received funding from the University of Texas and a grant from the Capital Area Council of Governments through an award from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. In November 2009, the organization received a U.S. Department of Energy stimulus award for a smart grid demonstration project at Austin’s Mueller community. In November 2010, it received an award from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to research the impact of energy efficiency retrofits in older homes.
In March 2010, it released a report of recommendations for how to spur energy system advancements. The recommendations were the product of joint industry-university-utility-public sector working groups. For more information or to download the report of recommendations, visit http://pecanstreetproject.org.