Green up: Smart grid getting smarter

March 1, 2009 OpenSystems Media

This month, itís all about energy efficiency and the smart grid. SSTI Weekly Digest did a nice analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, better known as the ìstimulus packageî) looking for energy-related items. The Digest came up with an overall figure of $39 billion allocated to the Department of Energy for upgrading the U.S. energy infrastructure. This includes items like $2.5 billion in R&D on advanced energy technologies such as biomass and geothermal, $6 billion in loan guarantees for the development of renewable energy and transmission technologies, and $3.25 billion in loans to help the Western Area Power Administration fund improvements in grid access for renewable energy projects. Smart grid investments mean that more sensing, networking, and computing technologies are needed – good news for embedded electronics.

We heard from the folks at the ECR Initiative about their framework to measure the energy consumption of networking and telecom products, which have become big energy hitters in this information age. ECR stands for Energy Consumption Rating, and the organizationís premise is interesting: ìÖ the more energy-efficient network system [is] the one that can transport more data (bits) using the same energy budget (in Joules).î Measuring the actual performance of a packet-based system that heavily uses statistical multiplexing under loads typical of the environment takes some thought. The ECR Specification goes into considerably more detail on how the organization is doing this.

Figure 1: Advanced Telemetryís EcoView

Savings at the consumer and small business level are important, too, because they can be scaled across millions of users. Advanced Telemetry is rolling out its EcoView line of monitoring platforms to help. EcoView (Figure 1) presents a real-time view of energy consumption on a simple touch screen or using a Web interface. According to Gus Ezcurra, CEO of Advanced Telemetry, ìQuick service restaurants that use EcoView are realizing, on average, at least a 12 percent decrease per month in energy consumption, without compromising quality temperature control.î EcoView integrates into the sensor and control network to monitor HVAC systems, and can extend to water and other systems of interest to provide an overall resource consumption picture.

Don Dingee (Editorial Director)
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