The California Energy Commission has funded a “clean energy” proposal made by Jae Wan Park, an associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. The project, titled “Demonstration of Community-Scale, Low-Cost, Highly Efficient PV and Energy Management System,” has received a grant of $1.24 million.

Jae Wan Park (center), associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with lab researchers (left-right) Kenny Fung (Ph. D student), Antonio Tong (post doc), Matthew Klein (Ph. D student), and Nathaniel Cooper (Ph. D student).

Jae Wan Park (center), associate professor in the UC Davis Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with lab researchers (left-right) Kenny Fung (Ph. D student), Antonio Tong (post doc), Matthew Klein (Ph. D student), and Nathaniel Cooper (Ph. D student). Photo by Katherine Lim/UC Davis College of Engineering

The project addresses the major challenges faced as our nation attempts to increase its reliance on solar power: the intermittent nature of solar generation, and resulting grid instability; the imbalance between energy demand and production; and the expense of existing energy storage models. Park and his team plan to develop a smart electrical energy storage (EES) and management system that could reduce a community’s daily average energy demand, during peak times, by up to 87 percent.

The system will integrate second-generation batteries retired from electric vehicles, and repurposed for this secondary application. The system will be tested at UC Davis’ Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, which already employs 120 kW of photovoltaic (PV) panels and an 800 kW diesel generator, and plans to add an additional 100 kW of PV panels and 250 kWh of EES units that will utilize second-life lithium ion batteries.

Park completed his undergraduate work at the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in Pohang, South Korea, where he also earned his master’s degree and PhD. After completing post-doctoral work at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, he joined the UC Davis College of Engineering in September 2008.

His research interests include green energy systems with batteries and proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. His research team at the UC Davis McClellan Nuclear Radiation Center recently developed a neutron radiography/tomography system for fuel cells and batteries. Park also is director of the UC Davis Green Transportation Laboratory, the U.S.-South Korea Transportation Study Program at the campus’ Institute of Transportation Studies, and the UC Davis Formula Hybrid Racing Team.

Park’s project was among several proposals accepted for funding by the California Energy Commission, which on November 14 released a competitive solicitation to fund technology demonstration and deployment projects that establish clean-energy solutions that will enhance the state’s industries, environment and electrical grid. Up to $21 million in Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) funding was made available for awards under this solicitation.