UTSA Piloting Innovation from Startup Leaptran To Manage Campus Energy Usage

By Iris Gonzalez
UTSA energy manager Dagoberto Rodrizuez (center) worked with Leaptran’s Jeff Xu (left) and Edward Hooks to pilot Leaptran's remote energy monitoring technology. Photo credit: UTSA.

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) is working with Leaptran, one of the startups from its commercialization and innovation program, to remotely manage the energy usage of selected campus buildings in a pilot program.

Leaptran’s innovative technology provides users the ability to remotely track and manage a building’s energy use. UTSA is assessing its use of Leaptran’s electrical metering package to collect, store, transfer, and access energy usage data remotely via meter hardware, a computation and communication device, and Leaptran’s software.

Leaptran has developed an integrated building energy management platform that combines a battery energy storage system, internet-of-things (IoT) platform, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, remotely accessible electricity sub-meters, and energy consumption measurement devices with Leapsmart, their company’s proprietary software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize energy use, explained Leaptran chief executive officer Jeff Xu.

The startup is looking to commercialize the technologies for commercial buildings that typically consume more than 70 percent of total electricity usage in a city, Leaptran’s chief operating officer Edward Hooks said. 

UTSA’s facilities office completed its six-month pilot program in March using Leaptran’s technology to track energy use remotely in some campus buildings. Facilities staff can now monitor building power performance remotely, saving both travel time visiting individual meters and response time to make needed adjustments.

UTSA began using the Leaptran system in its Multidisciplinary Studies Building last fall, said Dagoberto Rodriguez, UTSA’s energy manager. UTSA was able to track how its optimized energy management resulted in a 9% drop in energy usage in the building over the 2019 winter holidays. 

“Leaptran’s solution is much less expensive than traditional ones, and it doesn’t have complicated electrical requirements,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more practical to monitor and it lines up with our requirements—to track power and energy consumptions in easily viewable reports and data which can then be shared and archived.”

The next steps to expand the pilot include using Leaptran’s system in other college buildings to remotely control energy resources, improve power flow efficiency, and potentially, consider installing microgrid projects on campus.

The startup spun out of UTSA and is licensing more than half a dozen patents from UTSA for research based on the work of UTSA assistant professor in mechanical engineering and Leaptran co-founder Bing Dong’s and other faculty members.

Xu, a former Southwest Research Institute scientist, clean energy technology entrepreneur, and expert on battery energy storage systems, recognized the commercial potential in Dong’s research, which led to the duo launching Leaptran in December 2016.

The startup won the international Smart 50 Award for its energy monitoring and control system for buildings in 2019. The Smart 50 Awards, in partnership with Smart Cities Connect (SCC), the Smart Cities Connect Foundation, and US Ignite, annually recognize the world’s top 50 most transformative smart cities projects each year.

Read more: UTSA Startup Leaptran Wins Award for Sustainable Energy Innovation

“Leaptran has been at the leading edge of understanding building efficiency for next-generation energy usage,” said Christine Burke, director of the UTSA Office of Commercialization and Innovation. “Developing a remote energy monitoring feature will only grow in importance given the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

Featured image is of (from left) Leaptran CEO Jeff Xu, UTSA energy manager Dagoberto Rodriguez, and Leaptran COO Edward Hooks working to install Leaptran’s remote energy monitoring technology for UTSA’s pilot program. Photo credit: UTSA.

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