March 26, 2012
Volume 1, Issue 8
Have you ever wondered how much energy it takes to watch television? Play a video game? Or do your homework on your computer? User-friendly, energy sensors can pick up individual activity patterns to calculate how much energy your devices are using.
A map of the Earth at night from space. Lights show energy usage and thus, population centers. Photo courtesy of NASA.
These sensors can provide information in real time and wirelessly – innovations enabled by computer science research! When a device is turned on or off, the switching process generates changes in the overall electrical signal in your house. The noise in the electrical signal, like static on a radio, can be detected and analyzed to determine what appliance has just been turned on or off. When this record is compared with electricity usage, you can see what device uses the most energy.
Learn how two students changed the energy consumption at their school by smart monitoring and find ideas for what you can do at your school at http://www.smartpowered.org.
What is the Smart Grid? Click here to watch the video at:
Throughout the nation: We create a large demand for electricity at varying times throughout the day. For example, when we go to bed, much of our energy use subsides. In addition to variable demands, some energy sources - like wind and solar - have uneven availability. The changing demand and availability of energy makes it difficult for suppliers to make sure that the electricity we want is there when we want it.
Smart Grid technology is a new way to manage and distribute electricity based on availability and consumption, thereby enabling energy to flow where and when it is needed. These digitally enabled electrical grids can deal with downed power lines, uneven production, and spikes in energy use. They can even incorporate energy storage (like car batteries) to take advantage of intermittent energy sources.
Smart Grids require access to real-time production and usage information. As a result, many utility companies are moving to smart meters, an electrical meter that records consumption in small time increments like 1 hour and reports the information to the electric company at least once a day, to give more feedback about energy usage.
Professor Shwetak Patel. Photo courtesy of Shwetak Patel.
Who thinks of this stuff? Shwetak Patel is a Professor of computer science and electrical engineering at the University of Washington who is working to make energy consumption information easily accessible. He develops sophisticated, user-friendly energy sensors for homes and offices. Some of the technology he has developed is now being put to use in Belkin power strips. His sensors can also be used to monitor human motion in a building, with applications in elder care and home security. He was recently recognized as a 2011 MacArthur Fellow, receiving a five-year $500,000 grant. Professor Patel likes to travel, snowboard, work on cars, and build and race remote control cars and planes.
Learn more about Smart Grid technology at: http://energy.gov/oe/technology-development/smart-grid.
Read about energy devices at: http://www.usnews.com/science/articles/2011/10/14/device-to-measure-energy-use.html.
Learn more about Professor Patel’s lab at: http://ubicomplab.cs.washington.edu/wiki/Main_Page.
Visit www.coolschoolchallenge.org for more ideas to reduce energy usage at your school!