Green up: Smart grid getting smarter
March 01, 2009
Here are the latest in green application ideas where embedded electronics and software are making a difference in energy and resource usage.
This month, itís all about energy efficiency and the smart
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.
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.