First SmartGrid House Goes Online
Energy monitoring, solar panels and smart-charging plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to become commonplace?
SmartGrid House
Rep. John Hall (D) New York speaks with John Bryan of Xcel Energy about the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle at the Chancellor’s residence.
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September 03, 2008 by Steven Castle

How would you like to live in a house that is powered partly by solar panels, can smart-charge your electric car at off-peak hours to save you electricity, and has an energy monitoring system so you can see your electricity usage?

If you had this today, you might be the chancellor of the University at Colorado in Boulder, CO. The chancellor’s house has been equipped by Xcel Energy, GridPoint and other partners in a Smart Grid Consortium that is building the nation’s first SmartGridCity in Boulder. The chancellor’s residence is the first to be equipped.

The project aims to provide residents services such as online energy monitoring, instant backup power through advanced batteries, plug-and-play solar system integration, and smart charging of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles at off-peak hours when the utility rates may be lower.

GridPoint, for one, sees the market for smart charging of electric vehicles as the killer app for a nationwide smart electric grid. “Plug in hybrids are of huge importance to utilities because there’s a push for them,” says Karl Lewis of GridPoint. “That market’s only two years away, and you know everyone will be plugging in their cars at peak times.”

To reduce those dangerous and expensive peak loads, utilities are considering and implementing variable pricing plans, in which electricity is more expensive during peak periods such as daytimes, and demand-side management (also known as energy demand management), in which customers volunteer to have the utility turn off certain large electric loads such as a clothes washer or dryer during peak usage times, likely in exchange for a discounted rate. Such a smart, two-way communication between a home and utility requires advanced, “smart” meters and technologies such as those touted by GridPoint.

The chancellor’s residence was fitted with an energy management system that will allow the family to set up an energy profile to automatically reduce energy consumption according to their preferences, track solar production, and view environmental data about their conservation efforts. For instance, the four thermostats in the residence are controlled by the online energy management system, enabling the family to easily and automatically change temperature settings based on their preferred schedule, Xcel says. The system will ultimately allow Xcel to respond to energy signals and relieve stress on the system automatically.

“We see this as a living laboratory that will give our customers and us a better understanding of the most promising technologies in the energy field today,” says Ray Gogel, Xcel’s chief administrative officer and vice president of customer and enterprise solutions. “The applications at the chancellor’s residence have already demonstrated that providing people with knowledge is the answer to conserving power.”

Here is a list of what has been installed at the chancellor’s residence:

  • Solar PV Integration—“Plug-n-play” integration of the home’s six-kilowatt solar panels, installed by Namaste Solar Electric, and monitoring of solar production.
  • PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) Smart Charging—Charging the plug-in hybrid through a dedicated outlet in the garage during off-peak periods, regardless of when it is plugged in, enables Xcel Energy to offer reduced rates for off-peak charging.
  • Online Energy Management—Password-protected web portal enabling the family to automatically reduce energy consumption by scheduling multiple appliances and devices according to their preferences, track solar production, and view environmental data about their conservation efforts.
  • Instant Backup Power—Instant, clean backup power through advanced batteries.

Other Smart Grid Consortium partners include Accenture, Current, OSI Soft, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx. Each partner is providing expertise to help build a concentration of smart grid technologies.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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