Graduate student rides the solar curve to a Master of Sustainability Solutions

Devon RoodDevon Rood completed her Solar Duck Curve and Sustainable Storage Options project in April 2018 as the culminating project for her Master of Sustainability Solutions (MSUS) degree. Working with Arizona Public Services (APS), Rood’s goal was to evaluate the most sustainable energy storage option out of the three potential options APS was considering. These included pumped hydro energy storage, compressed air energy storage, and Lithium-ion batteries. APS helped to provide guidance on the research, namely the solar duck curve, and helped Rood arrange meetings with utility experts who have experience in the field of storage. The duck curve is a graphed representation of the gap between when the most solar energy is captured during any given day and when the peak demand load for electricity occurs (a graph is included in the previous link). Although there was technical project support by both APS and the community, there were many project challenges to face. Rood recalls the scope changing in the middle of the project. Although the change was minor, she says it threw her for a loop and disoriented her but did not halt her work. Rood was also able to call on ASU faculty members with experience in energy storage. She met with these experts when she got stuck. Rood also found guidance through APS, “APS worked with me to come up with the idea for my project. I wanted to work with APS on a project that interested me, would provide me with experience beneficial to my professional career, and helped APS find a solution to a current problem they experience.” After the four months of work, Rood presented a final report and presentation to APS staff in which she recommended compressed air energy storage as the best storage option for APS from a sustainability perspective. Her sustainability assessment matrix, created by using knowledge gained while in the MSUS program, was the main decision making method employed. Although she already had a standing knowledge of energy storage, there was quite a bit to learn, as Rood found early in the project. Something that surprised Rood during this process was how experts and professionals in the field were much more willing to speak to students than she thought they would be. It is important to schedule meetings in a timely manner when dealing with professionals, but they are more than willing to speak to students they do not know about their work. Rood says, “Storage is a very popular topic right now, so working on a project regarding storage will give me an advantage in the professional world. I hope to stay working for a utility company in the renewables/storage area.” When asked about advice she would give to others planning their own project experience she said, “Ensure that your project is doable in the time allotted, make sure that you are truly passionate about the topic, know who/where to go for help regarding the project, and be confident in your abilities/skills gained throughout your time in the program.” There are many opportunities to expand or extend the project. For example, in the future one may look at related literature or new technology that takes the options beyond the three types of energy storage in which APS was interested. Others might be interested in working on some of APS’s pilot projects where they are studying computer participation in battery efficiency.