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Old 07-05-2013, 02:56 PM   #104 (permalink)
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Another interesting article: Swiss Warehouse Helps Buffer the Grid - IEEE Spectrum. The gist being that a warehouse-sized freezer which typically consumes ~500,000kWH/month can be used to balance the demands of a power grid which includes wind and solar power by automatically managing the warehouse refrigerators, using it kind of like a big battery. The warehouse saves money by consuming less electricity (article didn't mention how long it would take to recover the cost of the automation implementation though) and the power company has a way to handle peak demands (or reduced generation due to the renewables) without constructing another power plant.

Of course, the concept is not new news... our local power companies (SMUD and PG&E) - and likely any power companies where this makes sense - have had programs for at least the past 20 years where residential customers can sign up to have their AC unit controlled by the power company (using a remote control box on the unit) during peak demand times... the day before the power company expects a peak demand day (like our recent string of 100+ F days), they will contact the participants of the program (via automated phone, sms, email messages) so that the participants can opt out for the day. If the participant doesn't opt out, the power company will disable the AC unit for up to 1.5hrs on the peak demand day, giving them a 'buffer' during the peak usage times. In return for being a participant, you get a small monthly credit during the summer months, even if your AC never gets cycled off.

All the misguided hullabaloo about Smart Meters notwithstanding, I think the Smart Grid is the direction we *must* go in order to more intelligently manage the power grid so that we can take maximum advantage of power generation, which we know will include more and more renewables. Great opportunities for young folks entering college, BTW...
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