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Store Your Own Juice

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the you-know-you-want-to dept.

415

sfeinstein writes "Power companies using dynamic pricing models to charge more for electricity during hours of peak usage is nothing new. Now, however, one company has decided to take advantage of this by using technology to buy (and store) capacity when rates are low and use that capacity when rates are at their highest." From the article: "The device, called GridPoint Protect, is the size of a small file cabinet and connects to the circuitbreaker panel. (The company also offers a lower-capacity version designed for homes, which costs $10,000.) A built-in computer powered by a Pentium chip will make intelligent purchase decisions, buying when prices are low, then storing the electricity for later use. That will make it possible to run your company during the workday with cheaper electricity that you purchased at 3 A.M."

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The Art of Design is truly dying (-1, Troll)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216962)


A built-in computer powered by a Pentium chip will make intelligent purchase decisions, buying when prices are low, then storing the electricity for later use.

Basically a PC. WTF happened to using small, simple processors which run on tiny amounts of power, rather than rely on something of this level of overkill? Oh, wait, they probably decided to program it in Microsoft .Net which requires a big processor, a fair chunk of memory and all the trappings. All this in your power saving device.

Typical of a decision driven by some nutweed director who doesn't feel empowered unless he's got an 8lb. laptop and a Blackberry.

"we'll save a bundle using off the shelf commodity hardware and having some hack put this together in .net rather than hire expensive embedded systems designers and programmers. who cares if it sucks up the savings? once we've made a sale we're golden."

Re:The Art of Design is truly dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217020)

Windows? I'd balk if they put LINUX on there!

Re:The Art of Design is truly dying (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217063)

Windows? I'd balk if they put LINUX on there!

There are various small embedded operating systems, depending upon what's needed. But I still buy stuff with tiny 8bit CPUs chugging through complex code with plenty of D/A and A/D conversion and such. Why does this thing need something a big as a Pentium unless it's got large code to chew, i.e. Windows.

Re:The Art of Design is truly dying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217221)

A P5 isn't "big." They're small, relatively low-power, and provide sufficient fpu performance to solve diffeqs. You're just a whiny shitbag talking out of his ass.

Re:The Art of Design is truly dying (1)

Chr0nik (928538) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217264)

Hmm, Seems to me lots of operating systems use a pretty good chunk of processing power. Even ones with small footprints. I would blame laziness on the part of the developer rather than blaming microsoft at every farking chance. Hell for all we know, he's running qnx, built the prototype on a pc, and just rushed to development without bothering to have custom hardware built, and only using a very tiny fraction of his processing power. And "PENTIUM" could mean a recycled pentium 75, or 100, in that case, I'd give him kudos.

what in the hell??? (3, Insightful)

extra the woos (601736) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217191)

What the hell? Why is it on slashdot that people feel the need to randomly attack *EVERYTHING* that is posted?!?!?!

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you?!?! A low speed pentium chip doesn't take much power. Maybe the cost they saved by making it used standard off the shelf equipment is so great that you wouldn't recoup the costs as a customer over the life of the product from them using that, vs. a custom extremely low power chip. Really? WTF??

You call these guys nutweeds, and manage to also attack microsoft .net in your post as well! WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? Do you attack any idea that comes along regardless of how much you know about it??? You are the kind of person that randomly attacks any idea that comes along, just because. You are the kind of person that attacks any kind of new technology for any reason they can regardless of if it makes any sense or is based on fact.

What is even sadder is that this got modded up as INSIGHTFUL! God, that is so frelling sad. News flash: it isn't insightful to randomly attack something you know very little about.

The fact is, this is a very neat idea. Taking the utility companies' exploitation and turning it around on them! AND YOU ATTACK IT! Seriously! Go get laid.

I'm posting this logged in, and with +karma, I know I'll get modded down as a troll, but by god...I don't care.

MOD PARENT UP (nt) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217225)

nt

Well, there's a good chance he's right (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217261)

That's why. Currently, I'm designing software for a welder for a client. 99% of the time - all you do push a single button, and off she goes.

600MHz Pentium, Windows CE, .NET. :(

Re:what in the hell??? (1)

Ethan Allison (904983) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217321)

Actually, it seems like he's right (thought you're on point for the part about using a stock chip instead of a custom one and how it saves the cost of getting developers). Other than that, he's just being an anti-Microsoft/Intel troll.

Re:what in the hell??? (1)

hjf (703092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217358)

you must be new here.

Re:The Art of Design is truly dying (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217250)

WTF happened to using small, simple processors which run on tiny amounts of power, rather than rely on something of this level of overkill? Oh, wait, they probably decided to program it in Microsoft .Net which requires a big processor, a fair chunk of memory and all the trappings. All this in your power saving device.
The problem is that Pentia and the software that runs on them is all commodity technology and thus cheaper to use. It may be ironic to use an energy-squandering chip in an energy-saving device. But the sad fact is that economics always wins out over ecology and conservation. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

Storing juice? (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216970)

Store Your Own Juice

Personally, I use Mason jars.

But that's just me.

Re:Storing juice? (4, Funny)

HeavensBlade23 (946140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216986)

I just put the tissues back in the box.

Re:Storing juice? (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216991)

Store Your Own Juice
Personally, I use Mason jars.

But that's just me.

Bumper Sticker seen around Santa Cruz:

Save Gas - Fart In A Jar

Re:Storing juice? (4, Insightful)

The Snowman (116231) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217176)

Joking aside, I think this is a great idea, especially for areas subject to brownouts or rolling blackouts. Some areas of the south have power issues during summer months due to high energy demands from thousands of businesses and homes running AC on top of their normal consumption. By storying electricity during non-peak times, this smooths the load difference between peak and non-peak hours, which reduces peak load on the energy grid.

Besides the cost, I see this being a huge benefit to reducing power load on the grid. I suppose the real question is, why don't power companies do this further up the pipe, at the generating stations?

Re:Storing juice? (1)

pboulang (16954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217304)

They wouldn't make as much money.

Re:Storing juice? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217367)

They'd save a ton. Right now, the power grid has to be capable of handling the peak loads applied during the summer months when everybody and his monkey has the air conditioning running full blast, not to mention the increased demand from refrigeration equipment. If load-leveling equipment was widespread, the grid could be sized for the average load instead.

With intel inside (2, Funny)

Gates82 (706573) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216973)

With intel inside, it's going to drain enough power to make the offest cost for the power about the same.

--
So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?

Re:With intel inside (4, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217049)

With intel inside, it's going to drain enough power to make the offest cost for the power about the same.

Just think about this thing for a moment... $10K for a home unit. How much power are you using to make that worthwile? Electric at that, not your gas bill for heat and hot water. My electric is about $20 a month and that includes running a fridge, computer (an hour or two a day, plus a few hours a day on weekends) and occasionally cooking up some sort of dinner (since I eat cereal for breakfast and eat lunch away from home on weekdays.)

I'm sure a family can make the meter spin, but still, that beast is going to take some serious effort to offset, particularly with it's own built in inefficiencies.

Smells like snake oil, by YMMV.

Re:With intel inside (2, Interesting)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217073)

Just think about this thing for a moment... $10K for a home unit. How much power are you using to make that worthwile?

Assuming it cuts my electric bill to nothing, the $10000 home model will pay for itself in...just under 25 years.

No thanks.

Re:With intel inside (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217121)

The other problem being that if enough people go to this, then there suddenly IS no off-peak period, and no slack in the system that can absorb a jump in demand.

End result - a more fragile power net for everyone.

This post brought to you by the law of unintended consequences - just like almost everything else in life.

Re:With intel inside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217300)

Except that won't happen, so what does it matter? It's bad to take advantage of pricing, because if everyone took advantage of it then it would disappear? In other news if everyone in the world wanted lobster at once the cost would skyrocket. Better not eat any lobster.

Not to mention removing peak demand essentially mean evenly distributing the daily load across the entire day, instead of having everyone running their AC off of the grid at the same time. When equilibrium is met, small peaks will form where a number of units store power at the same time given uniform cost, thus shifting when units store power as they accomodate the pricing of the peaks. This would minimize cost savings but would make the grid more robust.

Re:With intel inside (2, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217341)

No, if enough people do this, then the system will become balanced.

If EVERYONE went onto this, then the peak period would simply shift into the middle of the night and the pricing plans would change accordingly.

If half the people used it then the peak would not be as peaked and the energy companies could relax a little.

What I do see as a bigger problem however is running your entire daily usage down the wires in a couple of hours.

Electric fires could occur in none optimal dwellings.

Re:With intel inside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217178)

Well, up here in Canada, I pay about $200 every two months. My household uses the average amount for a family of two. But ever since our government handed over the reigns to private industry, the rates go up whenever the hydro company decides that it isn't making enough to pay for another gold-plated back scratcher or whatever.

If this thing was a lot cheaper, it might very well be an investment worth making for some people.

Re:With intel inside (1)

CFTM (513264) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217213)

This is something that I believe is probably for businesses, not really a home-use thing. Plus, ya'll didn't have Enron fucking you over on your powerbill for a few years. California got ass raped....

Re:With intel inside (2, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217266)

This is something that I believe is probably for businesses, not really a home-use thing. Plus, ya'll didn't have Enron fucking you over on your powerbill for a few years. California got ass raped....

Ah, how I remember the rolling blackouts. Our plant diesel generator would kick in shortly after we got a phone call telling us it was us on the next blackout.

Yes, I do live in California and I was working in San Jose when it was happening. You could tell the president of the US didn't give a rat's ass about the technology sector.

Re:With intel inside (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217232)

Um, the thing is, THIS ISN'T FOR HOME USERS! I'm sure if you wanted to use it in your home they wouldn't stop you, but you aren't their target market. Their target is businesses, ie the ones who are using power during the day which is why the power companies charge them peak rates. Businesses have to run lots of computers and lots of lights etc. Their power bills are much bigger than yours and could get a ROI much quicker than a single user ever could.....

But don't let that stop you from slinging the term "snake oil" around....

Re:With intel inside (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217286)

Um, the thing is, THIS ISN'T FOR HOME USERS!

The $10K unit for home users isn't for Home Users?

What'll they think of next ...

But don't let that stop you from slinging the term "snake oil" around....

Wouldn't hear of it. my my my...

Re:With intel inside (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217299)

Yes, but what they're offering is nothing new. Giant battery banks for off-peak energy storage are used in a lot of places, and have been for years. Flywheel storage too, for that matter. I guess I don't see what this outfit is offering that makes it so special.

Re:With intel inside (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217361)

I'd kill somebody to get your electric bill. I live in a house with just myself and my fiancee. The cheapest our bill EVER gets is $150, and it hit $400 last summer with the A/C running.

In eastern PA there's basically no electric choice anymore - you get to bend over for PECO/Exelon at 15/Kwh, or choose even more expensive "green" energy, and that's it!

They do have a time-of-use plan. I thought about using something like this, basically a huge UPS, to charge when it's cheap and flow when it's expensive. I figure even at $10k I could break even in 5 years, and I could probably build something for a fraction of that.

Re:With intel inside (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217194)

So who is hotter? Ali or Ali's Sister?
DELETED!

juice? (1)

Dragoonkain (704719) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216977)

steroids? :(

Company name? (3, Funny)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216985)

It's not Shipstone, is it?

Re:Company name? (1)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217104)

Hahahaha! Great Heinlein reference!

Here's a link [wikipedia.org]

That'd be cool :D

-WS

Savings? (4, Funny)

David Hume (200499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216996)

Corsell, 28, estimates that his device will shave a business's electric bill by about 15%. Assuming monthly charges of $2,500, the system would pay for itself in less than four years.
What makes me think the warranty on the device is three years? :)

Re:Savings? (3, Insightful)

aaarrrgggh (9205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217276)

They are using VRLA batteries, so if they last through four years of deep-cycling you would be lucky.

Since the article is so lacking in details, based on the footprint, I would assume they have a 10kW inverter and 16-22 hours of battery run-time. This isn't bad, and I can imagine coming close to getting a payback with it, although once you replace the batteries you start the payback cycle all over again.

Also, variable pricing offers a discount at periods of low demand not becuase of the idea of supply and demand, but because the most efficient generation capacity likes nice, level loads. If the utility's demand profile was perfectly flat, they wouldn't need any of the oil-fired peaking plants which are cheap to build, but expensive to operate. There "should" be a net savings to the consumer if load profiles are flattened.

The other potential cost savings is in reducing peak demand charges. If the system can share load with the utility, it would be possible to constrain your peak demand. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like it is designed that way. Since peak demand charges are in effect for a year, being able to drop 5-10% for the peak period can translate to real savings. (Most of this is done demand-side today-- letting the Air Con setpoints drift higher, dropping lighting levels, etc.)

I would guess that most businesses would be better off putting PV panels on the roof with a net-metering agreement so they don't have the hassles of batteries. You could combine the two...

Nice idea, but the cost... (4, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15216998)

10K for the home version? Even if it made the electricity free instead of just cheaper, that wouldn't be worth it. If you have a 200 dollar bill per month, that would still take 5 years to pay off. And thats not counting loss due to inefficiency in storage and running a frigging pentium to control it! (On a side note- this type of app does not need a pentium. This should be a simple microcontroller. All you need is a clock, a schedule of when to store power and when not to. A simple app that a much slower chip can do). I wouldn't be surprised if the true repayment time at that price is 10-15 years.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

marktoml (48712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217038)

200 Dollars? That would be a sweet electric bill. I think you'll find a good many pay a good bit more.

It still might not make as much sense everywhere...yet. We don't yet have power billed (residentially) by time, it is still a flat rate per/kWh. That isn't going to last and I well know it. There may well come a time where this typ eof device would help defay your bill enough to make a difference over say 3-5 years.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

jsight (8987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217059)


200 Dollars? That would be a sweet electric bill. I think you'll find a good many pay a good bit more.


Details? I'd be really curious to know the per kw/hr rate for this area, and if it that is just a peak or a constant rate.

It seems to me that you'd need a pretty large house to consistently consume that much energy.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217174)

It seems to me that you'd need a pretty large house to consistently consume that much energy.

I have a 3BR apartment with electric heating. The previous occupants left it turned up relatively high (~70 Fahrenheit). The first bill I got was about $200. I can see it being much higher for a freestanding house with more space, washer/dryer, etc.

This is in Seattle, just north of downtown.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217075)

There may well come a time where this typ eof device would help defay your bill enough to make a difference over say 3-5 years.
At which point, everyone would buy them, and there would soon be virtually no individual benefit having them, as the price fluctuations would be mostly levelled out.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

pboulang (16954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217342)

So you should be encouraging OTHERS to get this.. just don't be a first mover yourself...

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217040)

This clearly isn't for home use. As far as I know, utility companies don't offer residential customers variable pricing, the way they do businesses.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217134)

When I lived in Phoenix and in Hunstville, AL, both places had time of day billing.

In Phoenix you can buy boxes that will make your appliances "smart" in an attempt to minimize the power you use during peak times. Kinda like a dishwasher you turn on when you go to work, but it comes on when the midday price drop occurs.

According to the article, time of use metering is going to be a requirement soon.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (4, Informative)

toetagger1 (795806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217044)

The summary is wrong! The $10,000 unit is targeted at small businesses with an electricity bill of $2500 a month. Also, would this count as a UPS and surge protector as well? Then this might work well for a small data center, maybe?

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217055)

You clearly didn't bother to read the article. Why are you complaining about the summary?

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217047)

All you need is a clock, a schedule of when to store power and when not to.
Ahh, yes - highly intelligent. You do know, that the reason electicity is cheaper at 3 AM is that hardly anyone is buying it, right? Guess what happens if LOTS of people start buying electricity at 3 AM? It'll get more expensive.

If you're the right type of customers, you can (well, with some providers at least) get hour by hour quotes on prices as they change. That's (well, one would think) what an intelligent buying scheme would use.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217317)

Ahh, yes - highly intelligent. You do know, that the reason electicity is cheaper at 3 AM is that hardly anyone is buying it, right? Guess what happens if LOTS of people start buying electricity at 3 AM? It'll get more expensive.
People in the UK have been getting a large discount for buying electricity at night for at least 3 decades -- it does not seem to have stopped the system from working.

There are a number of major ways to use off-peak electricity without high tech gizmos:

1. Storage heaters: heat an object with high thermal capacity at night and allow the heat out only during the day. These are very common in the UK in places where mains gas is not available.

2. Delay timers on applicances. Run your dishwasher/clothes washer at night.

3. Water heater: with a large enough (and well insulated) storage tank, you don't need to heat water during the day.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

pboulang (16954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217364)

Hour by hour? I want real-time! and to spend extra cycles doing folding@home, too...

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (2, Informative)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217054)

You're right about the purchase price not being worth it for home users.

About the chip, you can use cheap p2 chips that take 10 watts. It's actually not completely stupid. Maybe have the controller monitor prices to take advantage of on-the-fly pricing. The plant I work at pays continually variable pricing. Intel even has info [intel.com] for embedded systems.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (1)

glesga_kiss (596639) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217111)

The efficency thing was my first thought, though the idea of storing cheap night electricity does hold potential. Many power sources aren't easy to power down each day and at night lots of capacity is idle. Storage heaters use this night surplus, but deliver it in a way that IMHO is pretty crap. Storage heaters cannot be turned up and down as you feel like it, and to me that's pretty wasteful. If you are not in all day, why have your house heated? And when the wind picks up, you need to put on a jumper. Gimmie a gas-fired radiator system any day.

One smart way of storing this energy is hydroelectric. At night, they reverse the turbines and turn the surplus grid energy into stored potential energy. However, this approach is limited; I doubt anyone would build a dedicated plant for this purpose, and with hydroelectric most of the best sites have been either constructed or discounted for whatever reason.

A local storage system makes a lot of sense. It could also cut down on coffee-break surges. There are noticable spikes in the usage here in the UK during commercial breaks of many popular shows. Everyone switches on the kettle!! So, a system that could buffer energy at the local level could save on a lot of unnessesary capacity that exists only to power the worst-case scenario.

As you say, the economics of this on a personal level just can't work out. However, scaling this up could be interesting.

Oh, and did your repayment time guestimate consider replacement batteries? :-) We're talking about a daily charge/recharge cycle here, that's going to take it's toll on the batteries, some sort of pre-existing "gel technology" is as far as the article elaborates. Perhaps some sort of hydrogen cell / elecrolysis system would offer more efficency and cheaper maintainence in the future.

Last thing; this also works as a UPS, where as most backup generators don't kick in for a few seconds at least. Computers like that sort of thing...

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217163)

I wouldn't be surprised if the true repayment time at that price is 10-15 years.

I would be surprised if the batteries last 10-15 years.

Re:Nice idea, but the cost... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217219)

10K for the home version?

How many solar panels does $10K buy? Although this product may make sense for some situations, I'd bet small-scale solar or wind would be a better choice for most homes. You can use batteries, or, better yet, a hydrogen-based system to store your excess power and run your own version of a time-of-day utility.

5-15 years to pay off? (1)

spagetti_code (773137) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217247)

And the problem with that is that all batteries have a lifespan. You might be able to pay it off in (as the parent suggests) say 5 years. But since it charges and discharges every day, 5 years equates to over 1800 cycles.

If the batteries [directron.com] were:
  • NiCad they would last about 700 cycles = 2 years
  • NiMH = 400 cycles = just over a year
  • LiON = 400 cycles = just over a year

They say that they use:
...safer gel-style batteries, similar to those that back up cellphone towers...

But backup batteries are rarely cycled. These suckers are just going to die before you get a chance to repay your investment.

Re:5-15 years to pay off? (1)

spagetti_code (773137) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217270)

Much smarter to use one of these residential windmills [cnn.com] . This actually creates power so the savings are higher. And the costs are similar and it wont run down in a year or two.

Being tired... (4, Funny)

Omicron32 (646469) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217002)

and possessing a dirty mind isn't the best thing to have when reading a title like "Store your own juice."

Re:Being tired... (1)

dominick (550229) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217051)

and possessing a dirty mind isn't the best thing to have when reading a title like "Store your own juice." ... you mean they are not talking about my mojo?

How does it know? (5, Interesting)

the linux geek (799780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217003)

How does it know when prices are "low"? Does it have a hardcoded database that will be inaccurate in a few months, or does it observe-and-compare prices?

Re:How does it know? (2, Informative)

celardore (844933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217058)

In the UK there is a rate called "economy seven", which if I remember rightly is low rate at 0000 to 0700. And has been for the last ten+ years, and will be for the forseeable future. While the prices may change, the times don't.

Re:How does it know? (1)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217197)

In Phoenix they have a schedule, and it changes with the seasons. The goal there seems to be to reduce peak comsumption, so it's tied to things like everyone coming home from work in the summer and turning on the AC.

A truly smart system would be one that was variable in realtime with communications out to the consumers. If peak consumption is threatening brownouts, raise the realtime rate a little so that systems know to turn off or run on batteries for a while.

Now, that's all well and good, but ... (3, Funny)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217007)

I think a better service would be one that makes intelligent decisions and tops off my car when gasoline is cheaper.

Oh, wait ... it's not getting cheaper. My mistake.

A lot to make up for (2, Insightful)

snib (911978) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217011)

This seems like a good idea but it's definitely an investment. At $20K (or $10K for the smaller one), you've got to use a lot of electricity for this to make up for itself, and it'll take time as prices change. This is definitely not something that will appeal to anyone outside a large facility that uses a lot of power consistently.

Greenies have had this choice for a while. (4, Informative)

Myself (57572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217027)

Anyone running a grid-intertied home power system [homepower.com] [PDF] (typically photovoltaic, but wind and hydro also apply) with battery storage has had this ability for years. If they're not producing enough of their own power to meet demand, they buy from the grid. Since the process of rectifying, storing, retrieving, and reinverting the power has some efficiency losses, buying power at off-peak times isn't always a no-brainer, but it's frequently economical to do so.

And of course, even if you don't have a battery-based storage system, scheduling your laundry to run in the middle of the night is smart. You get cheaper electricity (assuming your utility meters it that way), and you ease the burden on the wastewater treatment system by not dumping your effluent into it during peak demand periods.

UPS anyone (2, Funny)

AjStone (743464) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217030)

Why not just unplug your UPS on your PC during the peak hours?

Re:UPS anyone (1)

Karma Farmer (595141) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217116)

Why not just unplug your UPS on your PC during the peak hours?

Why is this modded funny? Thats exactly what the device described in the article does, except they've added a computer to unplug the UPS automatically.

Re:UPS anyone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217257)

Most UPSes have only a few minutes of run time. Many trigger an automatic system shutdown on the protected computer. So, while the system described in the article is following the same concept as unplugging the UPS, actually unplugging the UPS is not practical. Some people are amused by wildly impractical ideas, especially those that seem like a good idea at first. Apparently you are not.

Mass Usage issue? (3, Insightful)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217042)

Wouldn't the mass adoption of this product just shift the peak usage time - therefore negating some of the benefits of using it?

The other problem which may arise is that a hydro company aware of such devices may charge a premium in order to offset "lost revenue".

These are concerns I have. That being said, this appears to be an advantage to both the producer and the consumer. Lets face it, producers want people to reduce consumption at peak hours and thereby reducing the need to import power (I realize this is contrary to my statement above, but the hydro companies are capitalist profit monsters anyways). Consumers like the advantage of saving a little money on hydro - but you will have to save a lot in order to justify the cost of the system. It was going to happen eventually, kudos to GridPoint!

Re:Mass Usage issue? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217100)

yes... we "consumers" LOVE to save money on the dro.... 20 bucks a gram??? thats CRAZY!!!

Re:Mass Usage issue? (4, Interesting)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217152)

It's worse than that. My former roommate used to work for a company that built high-tech meters that would report use, outages, etc. in near-real-time and, conversely, the spot rates could be reported back to the meter.

Now imagine what happens when big industrial users start up and shut down based on spot pricing. Demand increases -> rates increase -> plants shut down -> demand drops -> rates drop -> plants start up.... Rinse, lather, repeat.

Each customer will have different profiles of price sensitivity, startup/shutdown delays, costs of production pauses and such. It's impossible to quick start/stop a refinery or chemical plant, hard to switch your manufacturing plant on and off, but if your building air conditioning uses an ice storage system (make ice when rates are cheap, melt it when costs are high) then you can flip on and off pretty much at will.

Managing the effect on the grid turns out to be a difficult problem.

But at $10,000/home, this thing isn't going into mass usage.

Re:Mass Usage issue? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217168)

Wouldn't the mass adoption of this product just shift the peak usage time - therefore negating some of the benefits of using it?

Because of efficiency losses, using such devices will necessarily increase total energy usage; it will tend to level out demand the more widely they are adopted, so in the limit case they increase overall prices and eliminate price fluctuations.

Though, if you could really save money this way in the long run, I'd expect the energy companies themselves to build storage systems and use them to store energy when demand was low and deliver it when it was high. What this really seems like is a clever way for the manufacturer to make money off people's perception of the potential to save/make money by playing volatility.

Re:Mass Usage issue? (4, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217347)

Because of efficiency losses, using such devices will necessarily increase total energy usage;

The more energy you're pushing through the transmission lines at once, the higher the line-losses, so that works in your favor.

so in the limit case they increase overall prices and eliminate price fluctuations.

Electricity would be cheaper if plants could be kept running at a constant level all day and night. When you have to build a couple power-plants that only need to be operated during peak demand, that's wastes a lot of money.

I'd expect the energy companies themselves to build storage systems and use them to store energy when demand was low and deliver it when it was high.

It's entirely possible that this is something which will only work in a distributed fashion, and can't be centralized very well. Again, line-losses may be a factor.

Re:Mass Usage issue? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217189)

Wouldn't the mass adoption of this product just shift the peak usage time - therefore negating some of the benefits of using it?
But the peak time will shift gradually, because it'll take time for enough of these to get installed to make a difference. As the usage pattern changes, the discount periods will shift too, and people will have to reprogram their gadgets. Perhaps the utility will provide a SOAP service that the gadget can call and find out what the cheap times are.

The real problem will come when all this load balancing succeeds, and there are no peak times....

Re:Mass Usage issue? (4, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217369)

Wouldn't the mass adoption of this product just shift the peak usage time - therefore negating some of the benefits of using it?

No, actually it would ELIMINATE peak-usage time, making it average-out over the whole day.

100% charging efficiency? (5, Insightful)

Sethra (55187) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217043)

Doesn't this assume that the device can store power with 100% efficiency? Seems like a 15% cost savings would be lost upfront unless the charging efficiency is at least 85%. And this doesn't even take into account the capital investment in the device itself.

The question is... (1)

mikerm19 (809641) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217061)

In the off-peak time, when it is recharging the batteries, does the cost of recharging the batteries make up for the off-grid use during peak time? If the system takes 2 hours of off-peak time to charge the batteries, wouldn't it cost the same as 2 peak hours, or would the cost difference between peak and off-peak still help?

Why bother? Pump power BACK into the grid instead (5, Interesting)

tfurrows (541222) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217076)

Why even bother offering a home product at $10k?

Besides, people should be thinking about generating their own power and pumping the surplus back into the grid, running their meters backwards (a legally protected action in most states) at a cost to the power company.

These are called intertie systems, and power companies are federally mandated to allow them:

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=solar+interti e [google.com]

Re:Why bother? Pump power BACK into the grid inste (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217313)

Here's an idea: Pull energy off the grid during peak hours and store it, then pump it back onto the grid during peak hours.

Be your own power company, without actually producing power!

Good for power companies too (2, Insightful)

thetorpedodog (750359) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217078)

These devices are also (theoretically) good for power companies too. Most people use much of their electricity for a few hours in the day (right as they wake up, and after they get home from work). They have to be able to supply this amount at that time, and they can't really change that capacity easily. This means that power companies have to have a lot of extra generation capacity that goes unused during the night and (less so) during the day. (This, incidentally, is the reason behind the variable pricing scheme, and why you pay more for electricity at home than you do at work.)

By allowing the user to store up electricity during non-peak hours, this device not only saves the customer money but also relieves the power company of some of that spike when you get up and when you go home, meaning less extra capacity that needs to be kept in place to handle the peaks, and therefore more efficient power generation. It's a win–win situation.

Build your own (1)

MDMurphy (208495) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217084)

Just like building your own "Tivo", if these guys come up with a scheme that works, way too many people will just build their own.
It sounds no different than a whole-building UPS.

At night when the rates drop, plug it in to charge.
When the rates are high, unplug it.
If unplugged during the day and running too low, beep so someone knows to either cut usage or plug it back in ( probably on bypass so you aren't consuming and charging at the same time during peak time )

The only tricky bits would be if in addition to time of day billing you were billed on a scale that increased if your peak consumption crossed a line. In that case you'd want to share the load between the UPS and the incoming power. But rather than doing something fancy to actually share the load you could probably just have a portion of your equipment running on the UPS and the rest on incoming power.

If your consumption was primarily with PCs, an integrated UPS/PC Power Supply might do the trick. Charge it at night, run directly off the battery ( no re-conversion to AC) during the day. Bascially a laptop with a really big battery that you only plug in when you leave the office at night.

Re:Build your own (2, Funny)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217352)

Just like building your own "Tivo", if these guys come up with a scheme that works, way too many people will just build their own.
I hereby name the project "MythPower".

What is there to save? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15217087)

My electric bill was $12.34 last month. Not much to save there.

Re:What is there to save? (1)

olego (899338) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217217)

Mine was $123.45.

Won't work for many home users (2, Insightful)

linuxkrn (635044) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217093)

I don't know about other people, but my electric meter is still the old analog standby that rotates. Unless you have something newer digital model with a clock, how could they charge different rates?

If I use 20KW during the day, and 5KW at night or the other way around, my meter will still read the the total used. So unless you can have the electric co install a new meter and agree to charge you rated on time of day, this won't help you at all.

P.S. I live in the Denver Metro area, 2.5million people, so it's not some tiny remote town in Arkansas that's 20 years out of date.

Re:Won't work for many home users (1)

Gaima (174551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217227)

I don't know about other people, but my electric meter is still the old analog standby that rotates. Unless you have something newer digital model with a clock, how could they charge different rates?

Good question.
I've always had the old analog rotating meter. Every once in a while someone would come out to read it, or more recently we can input the readings online (I still think they'll come out to check it, just a lot less often), and we've always been changed at different rates, for usage at different times.
So, it can be done. It's just all by estimation. In the UK, at least.
A while back we were being charged way too much, after moving into a new house, so we complained. Powergen got us to keep a record of the reading at roughly hourly intervals for a week. After that the bill dropped dramtically.

I wonder how that'd work up here (4, Interesting)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217098)

Here in NH, our power company, PSNH.com, is overburden by its customer base. Lately they have been doing free energy audits to locate places people are losing money on heating and cooling. Both my residence, a 200 year old mill building, and my employer, a large interoperability lab, were audited by PSNH for heating and cooling, and in the case of the lab, other weird places we waste power. At my residence, they paid 80% of the replacement costs for new windows, in an effort to avoid new infrastructure. They simply can't afford to build anything new that generates power. And the overages that they have to supply all come from Canada, which costs them enough that it isn't worth it for them. So I would have to suspect that they would love it if people in their customer base were to install these, as it would just put their peak output down and give them some breathing room. I have to admit I don't know what it's like elsewhere in the world, but maybe some other people would share too.

When your schedule agrees with the power company's (3, Informative)

Mr. Protocol (73424) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217101)

It's nice when your own schedule coincides with the power company's.

I'm a customer of the Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power. They don't advertise the fact very widely but they have a three-tier time-sensitive rate structure for residences, which is optional. I signed up for it. They came out, replaced my electro-mechanical power meter with a computerized model, and I was off and running.

No one's home during the day. That's key. From 1-5pm my electric rate is about double what it is from 8pm-10am. But since no one's home then, I make out like a bandit. My electric bill fell by one-third while everyone else's was going up.

If your place is empty during the day you should see if you have such a rate where you live. No need for power-storing file cabinets if so.

Great, now please talk to me about those gel cells (2, Interesting)

HiyaPower (131263) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217114)

Real good for the environment. The impact on digging up the lead is real small and the problem with disposing of them afterwards is real low. (Yeah, right) Oh, by the way, you gotta use a lot of lead in a deep cycle battery like that. This is not something that you float along and do backup off of every once in a while. This is the kind of stuff you have to use in a golf cart. Better known as marine batteries, these things need real thick plates or they warp under the charge/discharge cycles. And while you are at it, please remember that your number of charge/discharge cycles even on a wet cell (and a gel cell is a wet cell in the end) is reasonably limited.

Not exactly a friendly way to deal with things. A better usage of the money would be to put up some solar panels and do a little cogen.

Wastes energy? (2, Insightful)

deacon (40533) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217118)

So this saves money for the consumer.

But it uses more total *electricity*, since any storage system must have an efficiency less than 1.

I wonder if the off peak electricity is generated with a more efficient power source than the peak electricity.. which might make the the system as a whole (from generation to consumption) more energy efficient, thus using less energy (not less electricity) in total.

Re:Wastes energy? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217207)

Well, it would make sense that the most efficient generating system would be used at all times, with less efficient ones activated to meet peak needs. Though, clearly, there may be limits to that where the most efficient is wind or solar and peak need doesn't coincide with availability.

Hydroelectric plants already do this (1)

gomoX (618462) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217125)

Here in Argentina I've been to at least a few hydroelectric plants that already do this. Besides working as a "normal" hydroelectric plant, and because the artificial lakes that power them are small, they pump water up during the "cheap" hours and let it go through the turbines on the "expensive" ones, selling power back to the grid and making a profit. A neat way of speculation if you ask me :)

Alternatively... (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217126)

Instead of playing games with the power company, you can buy small-scale wind turbines for roughly $1/W. That also pays off after about three years, except unlike a battery bank, it actually reduces the real load on the electric grid, and will keep working for 20-30 years rather than 5-10.

Oh, sorry, lost my head for a minute, forgot I live in the USA. Can I "upgrade" my >45MPG TDI (diesel) Beetle to a <10MPG Explorer? Uhhh... Go Yankees!

just saw this a Universal Studios Orlando (2, Interesting)

ScrewTivo (458228) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217193)

I chaperoned my daughter's 5th grade class field trip there. The HULK roller coaster uses 2 15,000lb flywheels to store energy and then blasts out electricty when a coaster is launched. This keeps their peak value lower than it would be otherwise. Best part is we got to go to the front of the line after the back lot tour.

I also read that the NYC subways were testing flywheels for breaking energy storage. The flywheels are to be located at the stations, this way the trains didn't have to carry the flywheels.

It is way past time we made flywheels do more work.

Won't compete with PV (2, Interesting)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217204)

For $10,000 they offer a marginal reduction in rates. (Hell, if borrowing money were free and this thing saved 100% and needed no maintenance and was 100% efficient it would still take me a decade to recover the cost.)

If I had $10,000 to throw at the problem I'd install $10,000 of photovoltaics. No batteries, just run the meter backwards during the day when power is needed most anyway. And I'd be contributing to production not just shifting my consumption.

This Article is Advertising Copy (1)

wintermute1974 (596184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217222)

Alright, so when we strip away the breathless excitement of this advertising copy, what do we have?

There are only so many ways to store electrical power: You could pump it into batteries, drive a flywheel, work against gravity by pumping water into a tank, or top up a huge capacitor bank.

My guess is that this is simply an uninterruptable power supply system. Essentially, you have a rectifer on the input, converting alternating current to direct current. The direct current then is pumped into batteries.

Then, to get power out, there's an inverter that's also connected to the batteries. When the algorithm governing the invertor decides to run on batteries, power will be drawn from them instead of from the mains.

Most modern inverters are always on. They switch from the mains to the batteries and back again when the AC crosses at zero volts, with both inputs perfectly in phase. Even your most demanding loads (like the switch-mode power supplies that run a typical PC) will never notice the difference.

So, in summary:
AC Mains --> Rectifier --> Batteries --> Inverter --> AC Output

(Yet Another) Stupid Question (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217265)

If this is economical for the customers, why wouldn't it be economical for the power companies as well? In other words, why doesn't the power company do the power storage instead of the customers?

And if it's not economical for the power companies to carry out this kind of storage - taking advantage of far greater economies of scale - how can it be economical for the individual customer?

UPS (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217283)

So it is basically a big UPS which simulates a power outage every day. Hmm, I dunno. I can barely get a UPS setup for a couple racks of servers for under a few thousand dollars. And that only runs for like 30 minutes, forget about a whole business for a day.

Seems to me that just having that kind of power backup would be a boon in and of itself. If it can really save money, all the better. But I'm skeptical.

-matthew

Old idea - pumped storage reservoirs (1)

cinnamoninja (958754) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217318)

The idea of this is pretty old. There are actually pumped storage reservoirs in production that will pump water up a hill during non-peak hours, and generated electricity during peak hours by letting the water flow back down.

Here's an example:

http://www.darvill.clara.net/altenerg/pumped.htm [clara.net]

This article is just talking about making that kind of technology accessible on a smaller scale. I'm skeptical of being able to do this at good enough efficiency for small-scale use. If it does, though, that would be fantastic!

Power plants can't generally speed up or slow down production quickly enough to handle electrical use variations. Thus, plants burn more energy than they need to, to account for the maximum possible demand. If this kind of research can make this technology more accessible, that we can get more energy-efficient electricity.

Fool Proof ? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217326)

Just as fool proof as investing in the stock market right ?
How long do you think it's going to be before power companies notice they're not making as much as they used to & shuffle things around a bit ? Hopefully after you've saved $10,000 on your electric bill.

I don't see theese being residentially viable. (other than maybe condos)

Just a lot of waste. No saving here. (1)

viking2000 (954894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15217329)

The company gives the spec for the 'Big' commecial version at 7kWh. The rate difference here in San Jose,CA is ($.31-.$17)kWh or $0.14/kWh, so the device can store $0.98 woth of electricity. The battery is not likely to survive much more than 200 charge cycles, and even at 2000 recharge cycles the bill would only be reduced with $1960. Much less than the >$10000 price tag. So, you waste money, and create quite a bit of pollution in the form of lead, a toxic heavy metal.
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