Reducing Energy Usage One Project at a Time

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

How can UC Irvine students help California improve energy efficiency while earning class credit? By participating in a research team for CalPlug – the California Plug Load Research Center – housed in the Calit2 Building. 

A group of about 20 interested students attended an information session at Calit2 this week to learn more.

Initially supported by UCI and the California Energy Commission, CalPlug’s mandate is to help develop energy-conserving solutions, industry standards and incentive programs by establishing collaborations among academics, businesses and government agencies.

Current partners include DirecTV, DISH Network, Motorola, Cisco, VIZIO, Broadcom, Intel, as well as utilities, energy agencies, other academic institutions and energy-focused public interest groups.

The orientation session, led by CalPlug technical director Arthur Zhang, focused on the center’s goals as well as expectations for students, who will participate on one of the center’s six research teams. Those teams include:

  • Energy Efficiency Instrumentation – power analysis, device procurement and data acquisition systems;
  • Set-top Boxes – current issues, R&D, policy and incentives;
  • Web and Data Interface – interfaces between devices, workstations, servers and users;
  • Energy Management Systems – standards, protocols, systems and demos;
  • Behavior and Marketing – consumer responsiveness, attitudes, awareness and adoption;
  • Demonstration and Education – educational game and exhibit design, community and educational presentations, workforce training.

First-time students will receive two units of class credit by registering in a designated 199 individual study course.

Zhang, who has overseen the six research teams since fall quarter 2011, is anticipating continued progress with the nearly 30 student researchers participating this quarter. “We are very excited to continue making headway on this important issue,” he said.  “Improving energy efficiency is critical for reducing energy bills and limiting environmental damage caused by carbon dioxide emissions.”

Recent CalPlug alumnus Abraham Lin, who landed an internship with Broadcom, gave the newcomers some encouraging testimony. “I enjoyed being part of CalPlug’s workshops, where representatives of different companies came to our lab and we were able to show off the research that we had been doing,” he said. “It was a great experience to be a part of CalPlug!"

Zhang introduces the students to the research center.