May 20, 2009 AT 11:06 am

CE smart grid using Tweet-a-watt

Pt 1949
This is interesting…

The CE Smart Grid in Jackson Michigan is home of Consumers Energy’s Smart Grid and Meter Test Farm. This site will receive responses from the meter groups updating their status real time.

They’re using the Tweet-a-watt!


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1 Comment

  1. This is fantastic!

    There seems to be a gap between the utility people and their ideas on SCADA deployment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCADA) and the environmentalist or consumer advocate promoting energy conservation.

    On the utility side, providing the end customer with information and control is an afterthought; SCADA is meant to replace meter-reading and to manage power distribution (i.e. create a ‘smart’ grid.) It ends at the meter or the power drop to a building; consumer-side equipment is usually off their radar. There’s mention of pricing electricity by time-of-day to level out peak demand and reduce the need to buy power from other utilities or fire up gas turbine ‘peaking’ units (high fuel costs), but the plans talked about 15 years ago haven’t gone anywhere. Some utilities provide programmable thermostats that temporarily lock out residential air conditioning during times of peak demand (usually for ~15-30m); it’s a minor inconvenience but it beats the alternative of rolling blackouts.

    On the enviro/consumer side, there’s a lot of advice and exhortation to ‘be green’ by reducing consumption, but no tangible means understanding one’s actual consumption so one can make sensible choices. Often this side considers the utilities to be their enemy which is really unproductive because the utilities have a vested interest in reducing peak demand (i.e. to reduce capital and fuel costs for peaking units or reduce what they pay for power from another provider.) Regardless, they don’t leverage what technical skill they might have into enabling consumers; they talk a good game but ultimately it doesn’t help much.

    This is where the Kill-A-Watt and Tweet-a-Watt come into play. They’re perfectly functional (if not industrial SCADA quality) instrumentation, cheap and easy enough to use by the end consumer. You don’t need to be a hardcore home automation geek to use them and they’re perfect as technical demonstrators, more than just a proof-of-concept lab project. A few design iterations to reduce the size, complexity, and cost and the Kill/Tweet-A-Watt would provide the home user with a kinder, gentler, cost-effective power monitoring system. Set up (say) an RSS feed that takes a utility customer’s account number and spits back a $/kW-h result and you’ve got a system that lets consumers conserve where it counts the most. Bonus points for poking the utilities & public utility commissions to allow price breaks for off-peak residential use.

    Anyway, congrats on having CE work with your hack. There’s a lot to be said for small engineering; IMO we don’t see enough of it.

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