Image via IBM screengrab
For the last six months, IBM has been testing a pilot project in Fayetteville, North Carolina, that aimed to find out what kind of energy savings could be realized by utilizing the smart grid and implementing simple habit changes. Yesterday they revealed the results so far, and found that the project showed an average of 15% energy savings at homes and businesses, and as much as a 40% savings in some homes. The trick to success is that very tool we've been watching develop and stake its claim as an invaluable piece of the energy conservation pie: The real-time user dashboard. If You Can See It, You Can Turn It Off
It's become the obvious tool over the last few years - dashboards that allow users to see in real time what appliances, devices and systems are using what amount of energy, and when. We've moved (and must move) well beyond basic home energy monitors. While they're helpful on a small scale, for big changes across the board, user dashboards that are hooked up to an entire building's systems are the route to take. Companies like Agilewaves has shown already what kind of efficiency that can lead to, and now IBM with the big guns is moving it forward even more.
Targeting Vampire Energy Wasters
IBM and Concert worked together on the program, with the goal to highlight the energy used by "ghost" devices, which include air conditioners, water heaters, and other appliances that use electricity even when no one is around. Instant feedback from the smart meters provided participants with the ability to see when unnecessary energy was being used, and turn those devices down or off.
The trick to eliminating vampire power is the personalized, web-based displays for each business or residence. After all, if it can be measured, it can be managed. As the companies state: "Utilizing software by IBM and Consert, participants can set their daily use profiles, check their energy consumption from an Internet connection, select a monthly target bill amount, and authorize FPWC to cycle their appliances off for brief periods during peak energy consumption events. Data is transmitted over the 3G Verizon Wireless network."
Dashboards Put People At the Center of Smart Energy Use
The smart grid is so much more than simply user dashboards - everything from power generation and storage from renewable energy sources, to automated dialogue between utilities and household appliances and systems are included in a fully functioning smart grid - but dashboards have proven themselves again to be a key component because when you get right down to it, people are the ones using the energy and so people need to know where the energy is being wasted.
"The only way we're going make energy grids greener is to add instrumentation and intelligence. Projects like these illustrate that with the right technology and partnerships, it can be done," said Chris O'Connor, an IBM vice president. "Technology is at the core of the next generation of smart grids and IBM is making significant investments into research, skills development and partners to make smart grids a reality."