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Peak Power Reduction with Smart Appliances

Smart appliances equipped with computer chips and an Internet control board help consumers reduce energy use

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California power plants and CO2 emissions Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that providing homeowners with smart appliances and information on how to save money cut their energy costs but also reduced overall power consumption during peak use periods.

Richard Katzev, an expert on social and environmental behavior stresses that providing more information to consumers is ineffective without also giving them incentives to act. Homeowners will readily accept money-saving devices that require fairly easy lifestyle adjustments, he said, like delaying a dishwasher or dryer run to obtain cheaper rates.

Appliances outfitted with computer chips were able to sense when the transmission system was stressed and partially turned themselves off to save critical kilowatts — potentially staving off catastrophe.

A multiagency collaboration dubbed GridWise was a year-long project that tested how smart appliances could sense when the electrical grid system was under duress — about once a day, on average — and adapt by reducing demand house-by-house for brief periods of time. And they did so inconspicuously.

Widespread and routine residential use of the computer chip-based system would run about $400 to $500 per house and potentially less if computer chips can be built into the appliances at the factory. If adopted throughout the country, the energy-saving appliances have been estimated to provide savings of about $70 billion in new power plant construction and power distribution costs over 20 years.

Human Behavior Study

A more involved study that examined human behavior, the Olympic Peninsula Demand Response Project, equipped volunteers with control boxes for their water heaters and new thermostats and grid-friendly dryers linked to the Internet. The setup provided real-time information on electric pricing per kilowatt-hour and gave the homeowners several options for tweaking their energy use.

Researchers found that they could cut the peak electricity load among participating homes by half for three days in a row. The homeowners were rewarded for the inconvenience, but the study suggested that a similar power reduction might be feasible during grid emergencies.

Residents would be able to tell his house to "go to sleep or wake up," simply by logging onto an Internet site and remotely turning heat and hot water heater on or off.

Read the full story: MSNBC

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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