May 20, 2015
NRG Energy, Inc. and Arizona State University are working together to develop a working prototype of a containerized solar and batterystorage solution designed to be deployed for disaster relief or other off-grid applications, primarily in developing countries and emerging markets. Dr. Naz Al-Khayat, chief micro-grid engineer at NRG Renew, and Dr. Nathan Johnson, assistant professor at ASU Polytechnic, are leading a team of student researchers to design and test a containerized micro-grid solution. The purpose of the team’s project is to offer a fast-response to energy demands that emerge from environmental disasters as well as to bring power to areas in the world that do not have access to reliable energy.
The team is currently completing the first phase of the project, which has included initial design, fabrication, and testing of actual components. The container currently sits outside at ASU’s Polytechnic campus and includes 20 KW of solar panels, a diesel generator, lithium ion batteries, and an inverter that can operate on or off-grid. The first phase is expected to be completed during the summer of 2015.
At a recent NRG event at The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, the team highlighted initial successes from the first phase that have led to internal funding for the second phase. The second phase of the project will be focused on commercial demonstration and largely improving manufacturing and speeding up production.
The four Ira. A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students (pictured above) are working with Dr. Johnson for their senior year design project called an eProject. The purpose of an eProject is to bring students and industry together to find innovative solutions to real-world problems.
“The university working with industry has several benefits,” Dr. Johnson says. “The first being transition of academic research into the hands of the public through partnership and workforce development through bidirectional learning. The other is by giving context and industry experience for our students who will join the workforce upon graduation.”
In a world with growing global energy challenges, ASU believes in educating the next generation of engineers through hands-on projects made possible by partnerships with forward-thinking companies like NRG. The training of these young engineers will not only provide the experience and knowledge needed for their future career paths but also provides NRG a way to further facilitate their ability to benefit society and the environment through integrated energy solutions. If that’s not a win-win, we don’t know what is.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks