General Motors and OnStar join Pecan Street

General Motors and its technology subsidiary OnStar have announced plans to join the smart-grid project being led by Pecan Street in Texas.

Pecan Street, a non-profit research and development consortia based at the University of Texas, is testing a clean-energy smart grid in a neighbourhood in Mueller, about three miles from Austin. The project has received some $10.4 billion from the Energy Department and about $14 billion from project partners.

General Motors and its technology subsidiary OnStar have announced plans to join the smart-grid project being led by Pecan Street in Texas.

Pecan Street, a non-profit research and development consortia based at the University of Texas, is testing a clean-energy smart grid in a neighbourhood in Mueller, about three miles from Austin. The project has received some $10.4 billion from the Energy Department and about $14 billion from project partners.

General Motors has already made 100 of its Chevrolet Volts available for purchase on a priority basis to residents involved in the project. The community now has the nation’s highest residential concentration of electric vehicles, and General Motors believes participation in the project will help it to monitor driving patterns and usage. Ultimately, it hopes this will put it in a better position to develop electric vehicle services in the future.

Having agreed to be part of the experiment, residents in the 700-acre Mueller community have already received smart-grid and clean-energy products and services from the likes of Sony, Whirlpool, Oncor and Intel.

Researchers from the University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environmental Defense Fund will study up to 1,000 residences in and around the Mueller community to see how residents interact with the grid.

“We hope Pecan Street’s research will speed up the innovation cycle around smart grid and consumer electronic technology,” said Brewster McCracken, an executive director with Pecan Street. “Electric vehicles represent a significant addition to home’s energy profile and understanding that impact and how consumers use and charge their vehicles is critically important.”

With General Motors joining the project, researchers can now study how Volts used by families in the community interact with the smart grid and other sustainable technologies on a daily basis.

“This partnership provides us with a unique opportunity to observe charging details with many real customers in a concentrated setting,” said Nick Pudar, vice president of strategy and business development for OnStar.

“We are moving our lab demonstrations into the real world,” he said “We’re gathering information from families’ vehicles throughout this community to find out the direct impact the Volt has on the grid and how to get drivers the lowest-possible charging rates. This project will also help us develop future capabilities of the Volt and other plug-in electric vehicles.”

OnStar, which recently made its smart-grid APIs available to utilities and energy companies, has already developed a number of grid-relieving services, including charging with renewable energy, energy demand response, time-of-use-rates, and home energy management. The partnership with Pecan Street will allow OnStar to test these smart grid services in everyday scenarios.

“One of the first demonstrations we will test will be to marry home energy consumption data and the Volt’s vehicle consumption to optimize whole-home energy cost and efficiency,” said Pudar. “We’re also excited to leverage our smart-grid APIs with other partners in this project.”

More than a third of the homes in Mueller have rooftop solar collectors, and Pecan Street will evaluate how solar and electric vehicle charging interact.