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Smart Grid: Where Home Appliances Automatically Day-Trade Electricity

By David Sassoon

Jan 11, 2008

Breakthrough research by the US Department of Energy has uncovered new applications of existing technology that can cut 15% off peak power demand. Over the next 20 years that translates into and 30 fewer coal-fired power plants.

What's the existing technology? Digital thermostats connected to water heaters and clothes dryers, controlled by homeowners via the Internet, and grid-friendly appliance controllers.

The devices allow homeowners to choose simple settings, then the software designed by IBM Research does the rest. Households and local utilities buy and sell electricity in a live marketplace in real time, with prices constantly fluctuating by tiny amounts as supply and demand changes.

"Your thermostat and your water heater are day-trading for you,” Ron Ambrosio, a senior researcher at the Watson Research Center of I.B.M, .

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Smart Grid.

The DOE's Pacific Northwest Energy Laboratory has just which prove the viability of the Smart Grid. In one study, 112 homeowners received new electric meters, as well as thermostats, water heaters and dryers connected via Invensys Controls home gateway devices to IBM software.

The software let homeowners customize devices to a desired level of comfort or economy and automatically responded to changing electricity prices in five-minute intervals. To reduce usage in peak periods, when electricity is most expensive, the software automatically lowered thermostats or shut off the heating element of water heaters to the pre-set response limits established by individual homeowners.

With the help of these tools, consumers easily and automatically changed how and when they used electricity, for their own financial benefit and the benefit of the grid.

The bottom line result? Over the duration of the study, participants who responded to real-time prices reduced peak power use by 15 percent.

In the other study, Grid Friendly Appliance (GFA) controllers were embedded in dryers and water heaters in 150 homes.

The GFA controller is a small electronic circuit board developed by researchers at PNNL. The controller detects and responds to stress on the electricity grid. When stress is detected, the controller automatically turns off specific functions like the heating element in the dryer. This momentary interruption can reduce electricity consumption enough to stabilize the balance between supply and demand on the grid without the need to turn on inefficient gas-turbine generators.

The study found that Grid Friendly Appliance controllers have the technical capacity to act as a shock absorber for the grid and can prevent or reduce the impact of power outages. Such events occurred once a day on average, each lasting for up to a few minutes. The appliances responded reliably and participants reported little to no inconvenience. The vast majority of homeowners in the study stated they would be willing to purchase an appliance configured with such grid-responsive controls.

While the results of these studies are encouraging, so far, there's no great movement to deploy these solutions. The Times reports:

.....how quickly the kind of technology used in the project might be deployed across the country is uncertain. Many utilities are experimenting with this so-called smart-grid technology, but most are using it to upgrade their own networks, not to let households manage consumption.p>

One big hurdle is that in most states, utilities are still granted rates of return that depend mainly on the power plants and equipment they own and operate instead of how much energy they save.

Another aspect is the

Another aspect is the heating efficiency of the new ranges of now available. These teamed up with digital thermostats gives you ultimate control.

Forget smart grid and go off-grid!

Smart grid will cost you more for power while forcing you to use less and have to buy new "smart" appliances at higher costs.

Go off-grid and get out of the slavery you are in to the utility companies.

Fifteen years off-grid, no house payments and no utility bills - life is great!

I would agree

Things are moving fast nowadays. We just recently upgraded all of our appliances in our home to Energy Star approved appliances so that we can save money on our power bills and help save the environment at the same time!

Everything changes so fast

Everything changes so fast that I can hardly face it. I just renewed all my in order to get greener results. Even so it seems that I am few steps behind.

Give me a suggestion

Hi everyone here,

I have started a new shopping portal - where I have made my all endeavors to keep the prices highly competitive. At here, you can find home appliances, cutlery, kitchenware & much more. Let me know what you think about it and anything I should add. I would thank the community here for their suggestion/advices. Please do not consider this is a spam.

Prashant

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