OnStar and General Motors are partnering in the Pecan Street Inc.’s smart grid research project in Austin’s Mueller community, the Pecan Street Demonstration. Headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street Inc. is a research and development organization focused on developing and testing advanced technology, business model and customer behavior surrounding advanced energy management systems.

Chevrolet made 100 Chevrolet Volts available for purchase on a priority basis last September to residents participating the Pecan Street Inc.’s demonstration project, which now has the nation’s highest residential concentration of electric-drive vehicles in place. OnStar and GM are now signing on as an official partner of Pecan Street Inc., to help shape future electric vehicle services.

Pecan Street provided an additional rebate of $7,500 for the purchase of a Volt and a $3,000 rebate for residents who leased a Chevrolet Volt for three years or more. Pecan Street also offered a limited number of rebates for the Nissan Leaf and Prius PHV.

Pecan Street is part of Austin’s 700-acre sustainable Mueller community, where residents agreed to be part of a test bed for sustainable living. Other partner companies such as Sony, Whirlpool, Oncor and Intel provided Mueller residents with forward-looking smart grid and clean energy products and services.

Supported by a $10.4 million smart grid demonstration grant from the Department of Energy (and more than $14 million in matching funds from project partners), researchers from the University of Texas, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Environmental Defense Fund will study these products and systems to learn how they interact with the grid. Over five years, researchers will test up to 1,000 residences in and around the Mueller community.

GM and OnStar’s official partnership allows researchers from Pecan Street and GM to study how these families’ Volts interact with the smart grid on a daily basis and how they interact with other sustainable technologies.

OnStar, which recently opened its Smart Grid APIs for utilities and energy companies, has already developed a number of grid-relieving solutions, 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.

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. This will allow customers a new, cost-effective way to generate energy, potentially powering their Volts at low or no cost while relieving some of the burden from the electric grid.