Researchers Looking for “GREEN” Residents to Take Part in New Study

SAN FRANCISCO — (Nov. 10, 2011) Researchers at the University of San Francisco and the University of Arkansas have been awarded $400,000 from the National Science Foundation to develop new technology to ease the burden of managing energy in homes fully or partially powered by renewable sources, and are looking for residents living in homes with solar panels or wind turbines who are willing to participate in the study by sharing information on energy generation and consumption.

“More home owners are choosing to augment or replace their connection to the power grid with these renewable energy sources,” said Sami Rollins, associate professor of computer science at the University of San Francisco.  “Our goal is to make it easier for users to manage the energy generated by these sources. With this study, we aim to better understand their energy needs so that we can develop new technology that helps environmentally conscious homeowners to better match energy supply and demand."

Residents of off-grid and grid-tied homes may participate in the study in three ways.  First, residents are asked to fill out an online survey about their experience installing and working with renewable technology in the home.  Second, residents may choose to provide raw data on energy generation (e.g., KWh produced by solar panels or wind turbines) and consumption (e.g., power consumption of appliances) in the home if this information is available.  Researchers will use this data to learn more about energy needs of users as well as patterns of use.  Third, the project seeks up to 15 residents in the San Francisco Bay Area or the Fayetteville, Arkansas, area to install a measurement and energy management system.  The system analyzes energy usage patterns and recommends improvements to the user. 

Participants in the third portion of the study will have energy meters installed that collect readings on power usage of individual devices in their homes such as lamps and televisions. Researchers will also install a small PC that collects data on the total energy generation of participants’ renewable energy sources (e.g., solar panels) and the total energy consumption of the home. The system includes an iPhone application and web-based user interface that provide access to raw data and alerts the user when the system has recommendations. The recommendations can help users save money by minimizing the use of an AC generator (in an off-grid home) or maximizing the amount of electricity sold back to the grid (in a grid-tied home).  All the technology necessary for the in-home data collection will be provided to the participating houses.

“We are fortunate to partner with well known author, campaigner, and award-winning documentary-maker Nick Rosen, who is helping to recruit home owners in the off-grid community,” said University of Arkansas’ Nilanjan Banerjee. Banerjee hopes this broader call for participation in data collection will lead to the creation of a system that includes a measurement infrastructure to track power consumption in the home. “Our goal is to garner and analyze information from a diverse group of environmentally conscious homes, then use that knowledge to improve the energy usage in homes across the board.”

“We are hopeful that grid-tied and off-grid homes will take part in this study,” said Rollins.

“The participants will directly benefit by becoming more aware of energy use, and implementing our recommendations will lead to reduced energy consumption in their homes.”

Those interested in participating in the study should register for more information by visiting http://www.greenhomestudy.com/ and clicking the Participant Information Form tab at the top right.

About the University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas was founded in 1871 as a land-grant university and is the flagship institution of the University of Arkansas System. The university is located in Fayetteville and is the state’s foremost partner and resource for education and economic development. The University of Arkansas offers 213 baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, professional and specialist degree programs. It is in the top tier of research universities in the nation. More than 23,000 students attend the University of Arkansas.

About the University of San Francisco

The University of San Francisco is in the heart of one of the most innovative and diverse cities and features a vibrant community of students and faculty who achieve excellence in their fields while building a more humane and just world. With dedicated professors and diverse academic programs to choose from, the university offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional students the knowledge and skills needed to develop into ethical leaders who are sought after in their professions. USF’s diverse student body benefits from direct access to faculty, small class sizes, and a broad array of programs and co-curricular opportunities. Informed by the university’s 156-year-old Jesuit Catholic mission, the USF community ignites students’ passion for social justice and the pursuit of the common good. For more information about the University of San Francisco, please visit www.usfca.edu.