San Diego Introduces Smart City Initiative

February 16, 2011 – Jen Noelken

San Diego, California hopes to set a new standard for renewable energy use.  The area is currently prepping for one of the country’s largest initial deployment of electric vehicles.  San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders stated the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) is the first facet to San Diego’s overall Smart City initiative.  Hopes are high that Smart City will prove to make San Diego and its surrounding area the “foremost resource-conscious community in the United States.”

The Smart City initiative focuses on five electrical vehicle goals established by collaboration efforts from government, academia and industry.  The initiative’s focus works to:

•  streamline EV charging to identify placement of charging stations and work to manage efficient charging loads

•  development of an efficient electrical vehicle permitting process which will offer easy deployment of EV chargers for home and public-access

•  test the feasibility of zero tailpipe emissions

•  study the economic impacts of EV initiatives on job growth and training

•  consumer focus using an EV infrastructure to develop EV charging needs

Along with the five core initiatives, Smart City San Diego has established several efficiency and renewable energy strategies to propel the clean energy evolution.  The primary goals are:  support California’s goal of local electricity generation and 33 percent renewable energy by 2020, empower customers through knowledge and technology so they can manage their own energy usage, minimize additional infrastructures by optimizing electrical grids with two-way communication and monitoring technology, and show the value and impact of innovation through public smart grid displays.

Smart City pulls from a combination of resources relying on a mix of organizations to help create developments that will improve San Diego’s energy consumption.  Company collaboration efforts include:  The City of San Diego, SDG&E, GE, UC San Diego and CleanTECH San Diego.  With a collaboration of different skills and ideas the region will be able to more quickly adapt to needed technology.  Organizations had a slew of challenges to overcome.  One such challenge was grid reliability.

Grid technology “allows utility companies to manage the impact EVs have on the local and regional electric grids.”  UC San Diego acted as test site while the university, GE, and SDG&E tested different ways to charge electric vehicles.  Research helped determine how much energy could be saved by avoiding “conversion from direct current to alternation current and back to direct current.”    

UC San Diego, GE, and SDG&E established a five-point program studying how people charge EVs.  Findings allowed the three partners to successfully integrate smart technology into everyday charging.  The program resulted in EVs go-ahead to drive on local streets and freeways.  Continued collaboration from UC San Diego, GE, and SDG&E include creating a true zero tailpipe emissions solution.  The solution would focus on using solar and renewable fuel cell technology to charge vehicles.

University of California San Diego’s participation was rewarded with 50 plug-in cars that GE bought.  The cars will be paired with professors, staffers and students.  Companies hope to collect data on how owning EVs changes behavior.  Byron Washom, the man behind the university’s sustainability efforts, said by using mainstream people instead of technology fans or environmentalist, a more realistic picture of what the general population needs will be created.

Jessie Knight Jr., SDG&E chairman and CEO said the collaborate companies and community are working together to create an “innovative and sustainable energy future.”  Knight Jr. goes on to state by doing so customers will be provided with the use of new technology which will help save money along with providing environmental benefits.  

The San Diego region hopes the initiative will help establish itself as energy independent, along with empower consumers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and drive economic growth.  Mayor Sanders said the use of electrical vehicles will benefit consumers and the city.  Reduced oil importation in the US could reach as high as 52 percent with the use of EVs.

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