Energy Usage Measured on the Circuit Level

Ever wonder exactly how much energy a microwave oven or big screen TV uses, whether you left your refrigerator door open, or how much money can be save...

Admin
|Aug 20|magazine10 min read

Ever wonder exactly how much energy a microwave oven or big screen TV uses, whether you left your refrigerator door open, or how much money can be saved by turning off a home computer while at work? The answer to those questions may not be that far off.

A new San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) research study plans to test technology that can measure in-home electricity consumption down to the individual circuit and appliance level. The research will be supported by the Pecan Street Research Institute, a consumer energy research organization headquartered at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Approximately 30-50 SDG&E customers living in the Civita master-planned development in Mission Valley will be selected to participate in the study.  Civita, a Sudberry Properties development, is an SDG&E "Smart Community" project where smart grid technology is being integrated including solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, fuel cell generation, battery storage and enhanced energy management tools for residents.

The research, which launched in August, will last for several months, and potentially longer.

"This research will take smart grid technology to a new level by providing among the most detailed energy usage data to customers through technology that is not even on the market yet," said John Sowers, SDG&E vice president for generation and resource planning. "Through the research study, SDG&E will learn how this in depth data can help customers to make smarter energy decisions and save money."

By understanding how customers use electricity at the circuit level, SDG&E hopes to identify ways to help tailor future utility programs related to home area networks, energy efficiency and demand response. Demand response programs signal customers when to reduce usage in order to meet resource demand when the grid is reaching capacity. This new knowledge could also allow SDG&E to recommend specific measures customers can take to both reduce usage and cost.

Pecan Street will provide volunteer participants with a free website and mobile application that provides real-time information on the customer's electricity use down to the appliance and circuit level as well as information on appliance, rooftop solar panel and home energy performance.  The service is powered by an "energy data router" installed at the customer's circuit panel. The router is manufactured in California.

Pecan Street already operates this technology in nearly a thousand homes, apartments, businesses and public schools throughout Texas and, starting later this summer, in Colorado. Its work began in the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, built on the land of a former airport and redeveloped into a ground-breaking mix-used, sustainable urban neighborhood. A decade later, the 711-acre Mueller community is a bustling mini-city and among the world's largest LEED-ND certified communities.

Pecan Street researchers are particularly excited about the unique advanced energy technologies that SDG&E and Sudberry have built into the Civita community.

"If there is any place in the United States poised to define the energy system of the future, it's Civita," said Pecan Street president and CEO Brewster McCracken. "By participating in testing this new consumer energy service, San Diegans who live in Civita will have unprecedented real-time access to information on their home and appliance electricity use.

“They will also be playing a personal role in advancing public interest research on how to integrate cutting edge consumer energy services into a technologically advanced, highly efficient, low carbon energy system."

"This project is part of Sudberry's commitment to make Civita a regional example of a sustainable community," said Colton Sudberry of Sudberry Properties.

The Pecan Street Research Institute is a non-profit university-based scientific research organization. The Institute's public interest research focuses on advancing understanding and solutions addressing utility system reliability, climate change, renewable energy integration and customer needs and preferences. 

Photo by Mark, Vicki, Ellaura, Mason