Smart energy technology

Thursday, 28 May, 2009 | Supplied by: EcoEnergy Innovations Pty Ltd


La Trobe University’s Centre for Technology Infusion and Melbourne-based semiconductor developer Semitech Innovations have joined forces to deliver a cost-effective solution to energy management through joint venture R&D company EcoEnergy Innovations Pty Ltd.

The technology developed empowers householders, business and industry to monitor and manage their own power consumption from intelligent touch screens that deliver real-time meter readings, updated every half-hour.

It deploys powerline communication technologies that allow communication between appliances and electrical meters over existing powerlines and the seamless integration of other technologies (wired and wireless) to facilitate remote control options from computers, mobile phones and other handheld devices.

Based on networked and bi-directional communication technologies, the centrepiece of the system is a home- or business-based intelligent touch screen that keeps consumers constantly in the picture about their energy consumption — offering alternative options for reducing it.

With each screen invisibly networked to smart meters that read energy usage in real time and system-on-a-chip technology which will eventually be embedded in most household and business-based electrical appliances, the system delivers remote control options to switch appliances off, or reprogram them to turn on at different times.

The technology will also help governments and the community at large as it will enable better load management by flattening out peaks in consumer demand and redistributing these across lower demand periods.

Developed and successfully piloted in a commercial precinct of the university’s research and development park in Bundoora, the technology has already demonstrated its capacity to consistently deliver usage, cost and emission data in real time.

The pilot involves complete automation of energy measurements and load management of the university’s Technology Enterprise Centre in real time using 30 smart meters and a data concentrator powered by SiMAC (system-on-a-chip) technology. The smart meters and the data management concentrator measure and record power consumption in real time for each suite in the building as well as the energy consumption history of the entire building at 30-minute intervals.

Privacy constraints prevent the university revealing individual tenants’ energy usage, but the system offered 30 on-site users, during the first five months of the pilot, options for reducing their collective energy consumption by a minimum 25% — simply by switching off all electrical appliances overnight — with commensurate cost and emissions savings. Users had the option of substantial further savings by switching off or reprogramming air conditioning and other electrical appliances during business hours.

This pilot is ongoing, not only as an experiment in reducing energy demand but also as a prototype for the development of a next-generation smart living environment.

“This is the most exciting aspect of this technology,” says Professor Singh. “It is not the technology per se, although it IS smart technology, it is the application that is exciting — the persuasive power of the technology to change people’s behaviour and to make an impact.”

The partners have filed patent applications for two key components of the technology — Semitech’s smart system-on-a-chip embedded in the meters (which drives the monitoring process) and the Centre for Technology Infusion’s persuasive integrated software (the intelligence embedded in the touch screen that targets consumer behavioural change).

Now a single entity, EcoEnergy Innovations is actively seeking commercial partners to deliver the technology.

Online: www.latrobe.edu.au/EcoEI
Phone: 03 9479 5628
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