(USA)

An algorithm developed by researchers in America could ensure homes continue to have access to power when the grid goes down.

What currently happens when the grid connection is lost is that solar panels on the roofs of properties also go down – for safety reasons. The new system, advanced by a team of engineers at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego), would allow houses to still draw on this power during outages.

“We were inspired to start investigating a way to use renewable power during outages after Hurricane Sandy affected eight million people on the East Coast and left some without power for up to two weeks,” said Abdulelah H. Habib, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at UC San Diego.

The innovation pioneered by engineers at UC San Diego is an algorithm which would enable the continued usage – and sharing – of clean energy during outages.

By disconnecting devices from the grid, called solar inverters, which are responsible for triggering the shut down of rooftop solar during grid outages, the algorithm then prioritises supply to those who need it the most. That could be people who have to power medical equipment, or households which have paid more for the service. The algorithm takes into account solar and wind generation forecasts in making its calculations.

To introduce this technology to market in America, researchers would have to demonstrate its reliability in the lab and regulators would need to relax restrictions on the sharing of energy between homes.