An LCD screen dissolves from green to blue… a timer begins counting down as the screen starts pulsing, finally shifting colors to a crimson red. Something from the latest sci-fi epic? No, just an easy way to conserve energy. ConsumerPowerline is giving out digital units that display visual cues of peak energy usage hours, allowing participants to conserve power during that time and to get a nice kickback for it.
This is possible simply because utility companies have to ramp up their electricity production during peak times, which is expensive and inefficient. ConsumerPowerline seized this as an opportunity by notifying businesses, apartment complexes and any other participants to conserve their power, selling the reduced demand in electricity to other utilities. They did this previously by using common forms of communication like e-mail and voice mails, but with these new digital gauges they can give a visual cue to people in their program. The gauges receive updates on energy usage times from a satellite pager network.
The units, called the Joule, are made by ConsumerPowerline and Ambient Devices, and isn't the first time Ambient Devices has made something like this. Ambient created the Energy Orb, "a glass sphere that changes color to indicate the state of the grid," which has been tested in California since 2004. Pacific Gas and Electric even gave 2,000 Orbs to their customers that promised to reduce their energy during peak times.
The ConsumerPowerline hopes to expand their program to homeowners eventually. Humphrey Wong of ConsumerPowerline says, "If one home turns off their air conditioner, that's one kilowatt. But if you get 1,000 homes, all of a sudden you're talking about one megawatt."
Check out the full article at TechnologyReview for more power gauges coming to market.
written by Caster, December 29, 2008
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