Energy independence is about more than reducing oil consumption; it's about managing our existing resources more effectively. GE announced that dozens of consumers on Martha's Vineyard will receive GE's Profile appliances and Nucleus energy managers with Brillion technology to help them more efficiently manage their energy use and costs, while helping Vineyard Energy Project (VEP) and the Vineyard Power Co-Op understand the role of smart grid technologies in operating a more independent power grid.
Nonprofit organization that promotes the use of clean and sustainable energy, received nearly $800,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus dollars from the U.S. Department of Energy to implement smart grid technologies — including smart appliances.
As part of this two-year pilot, approximately 120 GE Profile appliances enabled with Brillion technology will be placed in 35 households, which will also receive GE's Nucleus energy manager. Fifteen homes will receive just Nucleus and potentially a control switch on a suitable appliance, such as a legacy hot water heater. To help utilities manage growing peak demand, these technologies can receive and respond to price and "demand response" signals from power companies to lower, or delay, power consumption during certain hours of the day.
Demand response programs can help utilities avoid building more power plants by empowering and incenting consumers to lower their demand during "peak" hours. During peak hours, electricity demands and costs are highest — often between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Reducing energy use during peak hours also reduces the island's need to purchase back-up power to meet demand during energy spikes.
"Demand response programs and technologies have proven effective in helping utilities maximize the resources they currently have," said Ted Bayne, Vineyard Energy Project. "As we look to create a more self-sustained and energy-independent island, GE's Profile appliances enabled with Brillion technology and Nucleus energy manager could play a critical role in helping us achieve a more sustainable electric grid. We anticipate these technologies will also help us better manage the use of renewable energy — like wind and solar power."
VEP's long-term vision for the Co-Op is to provide 100 percent of the island's power with wind and solar energy during the off-season, which is home to 16,000 island residents. During the summer, when approximately 110,000 people may be on the island at a given time, Martha's Vineyard would purchase power to supplement wind and solar. Smart grid, and demand response-enabled technologies, could help the island better manage the balance of energy supply and demand — particularly during peak travel season — to maximize the benefit of its sustainable energy resources.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, residential "demand response" programs could affect the largest reduction in U.S. peak demand, helping avoid consumption equivalent to the generation of 108 coal plants over 10 years.
Next-generation smart appliances give consumers more control: As part of VEP's pilot, a centralized computer server will send signals to consumer's Brillion-enabled appliances and Nucleus energy manager to simulate a peak-demand period. Equipped with advanced communications technologies, GE's Profile appliances enabled with Brillion technology can be programmed to reduce their wattage or delay their operation until an off-peak time.
As utilities begin deploying time-based rates, the cost of power could vary throughout the day, with the highest prices mostly likely occurring during peak. As time-based rates become more prevalent, smart appliances will play a critical role in helping consumers manage their energy consumption and their bills.
GE Profile appliances enabled with Brillion technology include ENERGY STAR-qualified refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, and the new GeoSpring hybrid water heater, as well as ranges, microwaves and clothes dryers. VEP pilot customers will receive between three and eight appliances.