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Store Your Own Juice 415

Posted by Zonk
from the you-know-you-want-to dept.
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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Store Your Own Juice

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  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:28PM (#15216970)
    Store Your Own Juice

    Personally, I use Mason jars.

    But that's just me.
    • by HeavensBlade23 (946140) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:29PM (#15216986)
      I just put the tissues back in the box.
    • 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? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by The Snowman (116231) * on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:57PM (#15217176) Homepage

      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?

      • They wouldn't make as much money.
        • 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.
      • Re:Storing juice? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:31PM (#15217475)
        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?

        They do -- but batteries don't scale well into the megawatts or gigawatts, so they have to do things like fill water-reservoirs high in the mountains during the night and drain the water through a turbine-generator during the peak time. There are lots of other ways to do this, but none of them are trivial.
      • Must not scale well. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadin@NOsPam.xoxy.net> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:14PM (#15217754) Homepage Journal
        Maybe the technology doesn't scale well?

        I'm not sure exactly myself, but it's not so wildly out-of-the-box an idea that nobody can have thought of it before. I assume there's something wrong with the economics of doing it at the generating station. Maybe it has to do with going down from typical generation voltages to something that can be stored and then back up again? (That would be the problem using batteries...) Other large-scale forms of energy storage, things that could store real MWh's, might be impractical.

        Actually, when you think about how hydroelectric power plants work, they do this already: they build water up behind the dam when demand is low, then open the gates further and produce more energy when demand is high. I know it's not the kind of "storage" we're talking about here, but most power plants have some form of output regulation; it seems like the power companies are probably trying to match demand as closely as they can, from their "top down" perspective, but can only get so close.

        By putting small storage devices out at the edge, close to the points of consumption and where voltages are low, you might get a lot more effect than taking the same amount of storage and putting it all upstream.
        • by drew (2081)
          I know it's not the kind of "storage" we're talking about here, but most power plants have some form of output regulation; it seems like the power companies are probably trying to match demand as closely as they can, from their "top down" perspective, but can only get so close.

          They do, but for many types of large scale power generation, output regulation happens at the scale of days, not hours, so absent a technology similar to this, a power company has to generate enough power round the clock to meet the h
          • If they could really change their output levels that quicky, there wouldn't be a "peak price" and "off hours price"

            I agree with the rest of your post, but this statement, set me thinking. Not that I disagree with it out of hand, but if certain types of utilities (say nuclear) had to maintain a certain output all day, the output equalling the peak demand, shouldn't offline hour electricity be higher, since that excess electricity isn't sold, but wasted (I'm assuming).

            Anyway, the statement also encapsulates

          • Especially nukes (Score:5, Informative)

            by ScottBob (244972) on Friday April 28, 2006 @03:19AM (#15219153)
            Nuclear power plants are the hardest to throttle back when the demand is lower. It takes days to ramp a nuke up to its rated output, therefore, once up, they are left running full blast year round as a baseline energy load. They are usually shut down during the spring or fall for maintenance and refueling because the electricity demand for heating or cooling is less. Fossil fired steam electric plants can be brought up and down quicker, but it still takes the better part of a day to bring one online. Gas turbines are the quickest to bring online, taking only minutes to spool up, and are often used for peak load times (i.e. the afternoons of hot sunny days).

            A while back I remembered seeing proposals for storing excess electricity during off-peak hours in huge supercooled superconducting storage rings, but I haven't heard any more about it in years, and don't even know how such a scheme would work.
            • Re:Especially nukes (Score:5, Informative)

              by david.given (6740) <dg@cowlark.cBALDWINom minus author> on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:54AM (#15219487) Homepage Journal
              Gas turbines are the quickest to bring online, taking only minutes to spool up, and are often used for peak load times (i.e. the afternoons of hot sunny days).

              It's possible to bring up a gas turbine in seconds if you're prepared for it; you leave the turbine spinning but with no actual load.

              There's also a special type of hydroelectric plant called a pumped storage power station. What you do is to connect two lakes at different levels via a set of turbines. When you have excess power on the grid, you pump water uphill; when you need power, you let it run downhill. They don't have a great deal of capacity, but you can bring them online from cold in only a slightly longer time than a hot gas turbine. The one I've visited, the Ben Cruachan power station [wikipedia.org], can generate 440MW for 22 hours and can come online in two minutes.

              A while back I remembered seeing proposals for storing excess electricity during off-peak hours in huge supercooled superconducting storage rings, but I haven't heard any more about it in years, and don't even know how such a scheme would work.

              The problem with superconducting storage rings is that if anything goes wrong all the energy gets liberated as heat... very, very suddenly. If you had a storage ring the size of the pumped storage station described above, you'd end up dissapating 6x10^11 joules of energy... about the equivalent of 150 kilotonnes. Yum!

      • Re:Storing juice? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Flashbck (739237) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:00PM (#15217986) Homepage
        The long term problems with this type of system should be obvious to everyone. The power companies have a different rate schedule for a reason. Their prices are based off of demand. If enough people start using this system, then the peak times will alter and therefore the prices will become essentially a flat-fee.

        Down here in the oven(New Orleans) our power bills skyrocket during the summer because of added cooling costs from the AC and fridge. As a consequence, the price of power is actually lowered to allow people to survive. There are even laws in place that prevent the power company from cutting off power due to unpaid bills because people can die without AC(it's a sad world we live in that people depend on this so heavily). During the winter months our power costs more because of lowered usage. This past winter, our rates actually were lowered a bit because it was such a hot winter. I know this seems counter-intuitive but it is in fact the case. Supposing that the end user had the capability to store very substantial amounts of power during the summer, when rates are lower and therefore used less power during the winter(a very hypothetical case), then the prices during the winter would increase because of the lowered usage. So this system seems highly worthless to me.
      • Re:Storing juice? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Myself (57572) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:18PM (#15218064) Journal
        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?
        Take a look at the various peak shaving [google.com] technologies available.

        In various ways, this is already done. But as another poster pointed out, doing it upstream requires that the distribution grid also be upsized to handle the peak loads, whereas doing it in a more distributed fashion also time-spreads the load on the grid.
  • 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?

    • by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:38PM (#15217049) Homepage Journal
      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 (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Carnildo (712617)
        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 (Score:2, Interesting)

          by tomhudson (43916)
          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.

          • 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.
            • I guess this is a stupid question, but how does the electric company know when you're using your power? On my house there's just a meter that gets read once a month. Subtract amount A from amount B and that's your energy usage for the month. How would they know if you used it during the day or not? I guess businesses must have different meters.
            • Re:With intel inside (Score:4, Informative)

              by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:13PM (#15217749) Journal
              We've been scammed.

              I went to their web site, and your $10,000 doesn't include batteries.

              All you get is a rectifier and switch, that will, if you connect enough betteries to it, give you 1 kw for 10 hours. So you can only expect to run a couple of computers off this. Nothing else. For less than $2,000 you can get a 5000 watt inverter that will put out 230 volts. Connect that to the same set of batteries. Plug your computers into it. Charge it up at night. Run your boxes off it during the day. You've now saved $8,000 + the cost of an installation into your mains box, and its a lot easier to maintain.

      • 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 (Score:2, Interesting)

          by ackthpt (218170) *
          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 abo

      • by antifoidulus (807088) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:02PM (#15217232) Homepage Journal
        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....
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow.wrought@g m a il.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:29PM (#15216985) Homepage Journal
    It's not Shipstone, is it?
  • Savings? (Score:5, Funny)

    by David Hume (200499) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:30PM (#15216996) Homepage
    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? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by aaarrrgggh (9205) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:07PM (#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...
      • Re:Savings? (Score:3, Informative)

        by rcw-home (122017)
        based on the footprint, I would assume they have a 10kW inverter and 16-22 hours of battery run-time.

        I don't see how you can squeeze 576 megajoules (16*3600*10000) into something the size of a filing cabinet using lead-acid batteries. According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], the batteries alone would weigh 5333kg.

        One other critical thing is that for every joule you pump into a lead-acid battery, you can only get about 0.7 joules out. In addition, rectifiers/inverters for that power range are usually only about 90% effic

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:30PM (#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.
    • 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.

      • 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.
        • 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.
    • by toetagger1 (795806) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:37PM (#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?
      • You clearly didn't bother to read the article. Why are you complaining about the summary?
      • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:56PM (#15217660) Journal
        Not only is the summary wrong - so is the friggin article.

        I went to their home page and downloaded the pdf.

        Here's the deal - BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED!!!

        The ten grand buys you a switch. That's it. A switch controlled by a computer, and an inverter. You still need to buy batteries (that will give you a grand total of 1 kw for 10 hours, so forget about running more than a couple of computers off this).

        They're trying to sell you on buying a bunch of solar cells (NOTE - NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE EITHER) that you connect to the switch, and depending on their output, you either suck off the sun or the power grid.

        Their big marketing scam - TAX CREDIT of $500 - $2500 for Solar Power Systems.

        In other words, you can do this yourself with off-the-shelf parts - buy one of these http://www.apcc.com/resource/include/techspec_inde x.cfm?base_sku=SU5000UXINET&tab=features&ISOCountr yCode=us [apcc.com]for under 2 grand, and with the other 8 grand, buy a sh*tload of batteries for it, and you're ahead of the game cost-wise. Heck, buy two, phase-lock them, and you can run your washer and electric dryer at the same time - something you can't do with their $10,000 system (which is really a lot more after you add the batteries).

    • 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 us

      • 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

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

    • 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. Gim
    • 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 s

    • I heard this idea proposed about 10 years ago, using a gravity battery that's almost certainly (1) cheaper (2) less likely to fail (3) of greater capacity (4) of comperable efficiency:

      Move water uphill via a screwgear to a resivoir at night, when electricity's cheap. During the day, let the water run downhill, powering a generator.

      No complicated electronics, or nothin. Nice, big, user-servicable parts.

      Of course, you would need pleanty of land, and a resivoir at the top of a hill.
  • by Omicron32 (646469) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:31PM (#15217002)
    and possessing a dirty mind isn't the best thing to have when reading a title like "Store your own juice."
  • How does it know? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the linux geek (799780) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:31PM (#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? (Score:2, Informative)

      by celardore (844933)
      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.
    • 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.
      • I imagine the system would have enough juice in it at any given time to buffer against a brownout. Although I don't know if it is programmed to act as a UPS. I would think that kind of functionality would be trivial.

        -matthew
      • Now, if only there was some sort of copper wire between the customer and the electric company which could transmit pricing information. If only...
    • Re:How does it know? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by superdoo (13097) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:20PM (#15217380) Homepage
      Why wouldn't it check an online service like http://www.theimo.com/imoweb/marketdata/marketToda y.asp [theimo.com]

      ?
    • Re:How does it know? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Matt Perry (793115)
      The companies where you buy your electric power from provide this data, usually as some kind of feed on a web page, and I'm sure in a machine readable format as well. I know that during the summer our energy manager person in facilities will be watching this number change about every 5 to 10 minutes and will shed load via some method like turning down the AC to avoid peak. During the summer we generate about 50% of our electricity via a cogeneration unit that's powered by natural gas. That heats water to
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:31PM (#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.
  • by Myself (57572) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:35PM (#15217027) Journal
    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 (Score:2, Funny)

    by AjStone (743464)
    Why not just unplug your UPS on your PC during the peak hours?
    • 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.
  • Mass Usage issue? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashbob22 (918040) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:37PM (#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? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by linuxwrangler (582055) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:54PM (#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.
    • 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 whe

    • by evilviper (135110) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:18PM (#15217369) Journal
      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.

    • a hydro company aware of such devices may charge a premium in order to offset "lost revenue".

      load balancing is in the utility's interest. much cheaper, surely, then buying or building to meet peak demands,

  • by Sethra (55187) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:37PM (#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.
  • by tfurrows (541222) <tfurrows AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:43PM (#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]

  • 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

  • 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
    • 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".
  • by linuxkrn (635044) <gwatson@linuxlogin.CHICAGOcom minus city> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:46PM (#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.
    • 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 tim
  • by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:46PM (#15217098) Journal
    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.
  • by Mr. Protocol (73424) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:47PM (#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.
  • by HiyaPower (131263) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:49PM (#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? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by deacon (40533) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:49PM (#15217118) Journal
    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.

  • Alternatively... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:50PM (#15217126) Journal
    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!
  • by ScrewTivo (458228) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:59PM (#15217193) Homepage
    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.
  • by linuxwrangler (582055) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:59PM (#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.
  • 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.

    Th
  • 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?

  • by misleb (129952)
    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
  • by nixon (12262) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:28PM (#15217459)
    I work at a company which manages the power grid for all or parts of thirteen states. This device would work to even out the load curve. I know the dispatchers in the control room wouldn't mind a flatter load curve during traditionally high load periods. That said, I don't see this being very useful for single family homes at the price points mentioned. Multi-tenant units could benefit if they would be willing to aggregate their metering.
  • by sshore (50665) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:36PM (#15217511)
    I scanned through the article, but didn't see this mentioned:

    What kind of power storage technology is used for the $10k "filing cabinet" model? How much capacity does it have? What's the round-trip efficiency?

    If it uses batteries, what is the lifetime of the batteries? Many battery technologies have a severely limited charge-discharge cycle lifetime.

    I answered some of my questions from Gridpoint's site:
    - Gridpoint sells these in 7kw and 10kw capacity
    - Price is between $9k and $19k MSRP. The 7kw model is likely the $9k model
    - The batteries are VRLA (Valve Regulated Lead Acid)
    - Rated capacity is 10 hours at 1kW AC Avg Load. That's 1000/120 ~= 8A load, about half of a single 15A household circuit. This unit isn't rated high enough to run a typical hair dryer.

    I couldn't find details on what kind of lifetime to expect out of the batteries.
  • by DieByWire (744043) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:43PM (#15217565)
    Discover magazine had an interesting article [discover.com] years ago about an outfit (US Flywheel Systems) working on flywheel power for autos.

    The flywheels were made out of composites, spun at incredible speeds, were housed in a vacuum and supported by magnetic bearings.

    The auto makers didn't pick up on it, but they said stationary power storage was another possible market.

    I can references to US Flywheel Systems on google, but no site for it. Curious as to what happened to them.

    Battery maintenance is a PITA. Sure would be nice to see something like this work out.

  • by dinther (738910) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:49PM (#15217604) Homepage

    What a stupid way to sell a big UPS. As they already comment you need a power bill in the thousands $ before you save money but the specs tell me that this thing can only supply 1KW for 7 - 10 hours. Therefore it is only capable to run 2 PC's (oh make that one because it already has one itself) and a few lights. I consider that nothing compared to what you normally use if you have a thousand + power bill.

    Let's run some numbers:

    Say you save 50% on a power unit (1 unit = 1Kwh). Assume a unit costs $0.20

    The unit can store 7 Kwh which is worth in savings a massive $0.70 per day.

    I am going to be generous and allow these savings to run through the weekend thus saving $4.90 per week or $255 per year.

    Based on $10000 that is a return on investment of 2.5% per annum

    CNN Money reported: "The company features an all-star board of advisors, including tech guru Esther Dyson and Bill Bradley, the former presidential candidate and longtime member of the Senate Energy Committee."

    Whoooaaaaa ha ha ha ha, these clowns can't even count. Yeah, I'll have the stainless steel door upgrade. Ha ha ha, this thing is a stupid investment that will have no practical benefit unless you want a UPS or solar power solution in which case there are much better and cheaper alternatives.

    No wonder sensible USA energy policies are non existent. What a morons.

  • by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:33PM (#15217850) Journal
    It becomes much more economic if you already have the batteries sitting around for other purposes - i.e. in your hybrid car. Plug your car into the mains when you're at home, and let the computer decide when to charge and discharge the batteries. (This isn't an original idea - it is from a recent Scientific American article.)
  • by Goonie (8651) * <robert.merkel@benamb r a . org> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @09:47PM (#15217910) Homepage
    Consider a thought experiment. Very large batteries and inverters have to be cheaper to buy (per unit output) than small ones, right? So, let's pretend I'm the power company. Rather than having my customers buy batteries to store off-peak power and use it at peak times, I'll get a great big room full of batteries and do it myself.

    But, funnily enough, power companies don't do that, for the very simple reason that having hydro turbines and standby gas generators are cheaper than batteries.

    Other schemes, like running your washing machine in the middle of the night to smooth out demand, make sense. But at present prices batteries don't.

  • Nothing big. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dcapel (913969) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:13PM (#15218040) Homepage
    This is nothing big -- the Swiss have been doing it for years. They simply buy power off the French grid at night from the nuclear plants, and then use it to pipe water up a mountain. Once the peak hits, they let it down to power hydroelectric plants, selling energy back to the French -- for profit.

    Clever bastards those swiss ;)
  • by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher.gilliard@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:01AM (#15219392) Homepage
    (The company also offers a lower-capacity version designed for homes, which costs $10,000.)

    Just what I need a $10,000 device that saves me $5 - $10 a month.

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