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Store Your Own Juice 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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Store Your Own Juice

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  • 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.
  • by snib ( 911978 ) <> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:32PM (#15217011) Homepage
    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.
  • 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!
  • 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 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.

  • by thetorpedodog ( 750359 ) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:43PM (#15217078) Homepage

    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.

  • by linuxkrn ( 635044 ) <[moc.nigolxunil] [ta] [nostawg]> 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.
  • 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!
  • Re:Storing juice? (Score:5, Insightful)

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

  • by extra the woos ( 601736 ) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @07:58PM (#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.
  • 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 fm6 ( 162816 ) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:04PM (#15217250) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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...
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @08:14PM (#15217341) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • 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.

  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) * <> 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.

  • 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 [] 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.
  • Re:Storing juice? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Baloo Ursidae ( 29355 ) <> on Thursday April 27, 2006 @10:28PM (#15218110) Journal
    Since when are governments interested in anything besides acquiring more money and more power?

    1776-1999. Things kind of broke down after that.

  • by drew ( 2081 ) on Thursday April 27, 2006 @11:26PM (#15218351) Homepage
    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 highest level of demand at one point in the day. If they could really change their output levels that quicky, there wouldn't be a "peak price" and "off hours price"
  • Re:Storing juice? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @12:29AM (#15218653) Journal
    Since when are governments interested in anything besides acquiring more money and more power?

    1776-1791. Things kind of broke down after that.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @02:44AM (#15219064)
    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 a type of optimism about the freemarket that energy companies are immune from, they are usually monopolies where they operate. Ever since the deregulation madness of many industries in the 90s, I think the statement should be closer to - they charge whatever they damn well can get away with. They set the rates 59% higher near my area just recently: l []

    Along with the oil companies, who edge up the prices probably just to see what the consumer can bear - basically "pricefixing" in the same way airlines do it. (Gasoline prices don't simply fluctuate with oil prices, otherwise their profit would be more or less the same + moderate growth percentage and increased revenue would cover costs. They were making about TWICE on gasoline just in refining charges when it was at around $2.50 gallon last year than when gas was around $1.75 gallon several years back. They are posting record profits this year....)
  • by YesIAmAScript ( 886271 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @03:25AM (#15219171)
    Instead, I'll mention you cannot store shit for power in a file cabinet. And batteries are a terrible way to store large amounts of power. You could store 7KWh of power in this thing. That's about $1.00 worth of power, at the highest rates. And lets say you can get it for $0.10 at night. So you can save a whopping $0.90 per day. To pay back the $10K cost, it'd take 11,000 days, or 30 years. And that doesn't count batteries which aren't included in the price and will go out every 2-3 years.

    Look at it this way:
    The utilities like to make money. If they could effectively store their power at night when it isn't worth as much and sell it the next day when it is worth more, they'd do it.

    They don't, because it is not effective to do this. There are only a few ways to do this, and none of them fit in a file cabinet. lectricity []

    Your blind defense of a stupid idea is worthless. This is being attacked because it doesn't make any sense. By defending it, you fail to make sense also.
  • by Ihlosi ( 895663 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @08:53AM (#15220042)
    $2500 is the price of the utility bill.

    Any household with a monthly 2.5k$ electricity bill is probably making at least ten times this amount by selling the weed grown in the basement, so there's no need to lower the electricity bill.

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