University of Vermont

Jeffords Hall

Solar Power & Smart Grid Lab @ Votey

Project Timeline: 
July, 2010 to July, 2012
Project Progress: 

Project Category: Infrastructure

The goal of this project was to transform Votey Hall into an integrated, wireless, smart grid and renewable energy laboratory. Specifically, students completed the following engineering tasks (you can view their final presentations below):

  • Design and build two multiple axis solar photovoltaic tracking systems on the roof of Votey Hall.
  • Design and install a battery storage system to mitigate the intermittent nature of the solar power.
  • Design and install a wireless sensor network for Votey Hall that will enable energy system components to communicate with one another, with a central energy management server, and with a smart meter for the building.
  • Design and install a display on the first floor of Votey that will allow visitors and students to see the amount of energy consumed in the building.

This student team required substantial interaction among electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science students.

Project rationale:

Smart grid technology is considered by many to be the technology industry with the largest potential for near-­-term growth. Aspects of smart grid have the potential to make electricity cleaner, more reliable, and, potentially, more affordable. An important component of smart grid is technology that will allow electricity customers to better visualize how and when they consume electricity and to more efficiently manage their appliances. Another goal of smart grid is to better enable the integration of small-­-scale renewable power generation technology into the power grid.

Project Champions: Paul Hines and Jeff Frolik

Clean Energy Fund Award: $27,000
Final Project Cost: $27,000

Project Updates: 

9/16/2011:  From Paul Hines (project leader): We have purchased all of the major hardware for the three solar panels, as well as three 200W solar panels and three micro-inverters. The one fixed axis solar panel will be installed in the next few weeks, and we should be able to start collecting data shortly thereafter.   The tracker systems for the other two panels are being designed by a senior project team.  That team has been assembled, and is starting to work on specifying the requirements for their design.  The normal timeline is that these teams work on their designs for this semester and next and complete their installations in April or May.
We have contacted Burlington Electric about getting a smart meter on Votey Hall in the near future.  Unfortunately our building requires a non-standard meter, which means that we will not be among the first to get smart meters, so that will probably not come until spring of next year.  However, we will integrate Votey energy management into our display once that smart meter is in place.

September 2011- May 2012:  Team 3 works on the Solar Array Lab as part of their SEED (Student Experience in Engineering Design) capstone course. The student team included:
  • Gabrielle DaGama '12 (Mechanical Engineering),

  • Shane Bluto '12 (Mechanical Engineerign),

  • Anthony Lauzon '12 (Electrical Engineering),

  • Lawrence Thurber '12 (Electrical Engineering),

  • John "Jack" Christoforo (Computer Science)

12/7/2012: Presentation of solar tracker design by Tony Lauzon '12 and stand construction by CEMS graduate student Alex Hilshey at Environmental Forum.
The presentation can be found here.
2/9/2012: Progress report from CEMS Capstone team on Votey Project. Report
5/3/2012: Final presentation from senior capstone group, Team 3. Final Presentation.