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Scientists at Sandia Create Self-Monitoring Smart Outlet

The researchers envision the technology to develop into microgrids that can reconfigure themselves while being integrated into a larger electrical smart grid hierarchy.

The technology is based on four receptacles that are integrated into the outlet and include "voltage/current sensing; actuation (switching); a computer for implementing the controls; and an Ethernet bridge for communicating with other outlets and sending data to a collection computer."

Microgrid-enabling smart outlets could become invaluable devices as electricity supply from alternative energy sources such as wind and solar energy is less predictable and could benefit from a outlets that can manage demand on-the-fly and compensate for production variations. According to the researchers, the smart outlets will support bi-directional monitoring of electricity flow and can turn each energy-producing location to turn into an "energy island" if the main power grid goes down.

Scientists also believe that such a system would be more reliable as it reduces the chance of a single-point failure and it would be more secure as it could identify malicious control actions and prevent their distribution in the grid.

There was no information when such devices could be available commercially and how much they may cost.

  • fuzznarf
    Yay, now with smart-meters on your house they will not only have the ability to restrict your amperage in your house, but also the ability to turn of specific devices that 'use too much' electricity. Smart-meter restrictions are already happening. Can't wait for this.... :(
    Reply
  • danwat1234
    I don't like this. The idea of having large appliances (if consumer enables the feature) be able to ease grid load during peak times by cell-phone tower communication is enough for me. I'm all for smart grid and electric cars (come on nanowire Li!) but highly regulated power outlets would be a pain in the butt. I'm sure it would all be optional so no worries.
    Reply
  • unther
    Great, more electronics in household wiring. At this rate harmonics will start to become a problem in houses as well.
    Reply
  • jgutz2006
    I would assume as smart as this is, there would be programmable thresholds and not just a standard that is enforced by the power companies. That being said, maybe on top of the total power used, they will cap your maximums like a DSL connection so you are allowed a total of X watt hours per month but no more than Y watts at any given time. That or maybe things like your DVR or anything other than your AC/freezer/refridgerators would be able to shut down automatically during peak summer hours.

    Ultimately i dont like the idea of having to limit my power consumption but it could make people smarter and choose to turn off anything that they dont absolutely need to have running 24/7 which could ultimately lower the demand on the grid and maybe consumer prices (haha yea right, lower prices)
    Reply
  • fuzznarf
    jgutz2006I would assume as smart as this is, there would be programmable thresholds and not just a standard that is enforced by the power companies. That being said, maybe on top of the total power used, they will cap your maximums like a DSL connection so you are allowed a total of X watt hours per month but no more than Y watts at any given time. That or maybe things like your DVR or anything other than your AC/freezer/refridgerators would be able to shut down automatically during peak summer hours. Ultimately i dont like the idea of having to limit my power consumption but it could make people smarter and choose to turn off anything that they dont absolutely need to have running 24/7 which could ultimately lower the demand on the grid and maybe consumer prices (haha yea right, lower prices)
    Correct.. there will be no lower prices. There will instead be a 'monitoring fee'. So not only will they limit your power consumption during low-cost times, and potentially shut off your AC during high-consumption times, but they will also tell you it costs more to manage your consumption for you. It is already happening with smart-meters. Utility companies are metering off-peak consumption forcing you to use it when they can charge more. So if you want to charge up your car at midnight, they meter it, so that when you wake up in the morning you don't have a full charge, thus forcing you to charge up your car when they make more money,..i.e immediately after work. It is already happening. Don't be fooled, anytime someone tells you it is 'for your own good' it isn't.
    Reply
  • hardcore_gamer
    untherGreat, more electronics in household wiring. At this rate harmonics will start to become a problem in houses as well.
    Ever heard of filtering ?
    Reply
  • scuba dave
    hardcore_gamerEver heard of filtering ?
    Realize how expensive that can get? Personally, I severely doubt it would get that bad. Usually harmonics don't really come into play until higher freqs, and the like. The noise at 115x60 is laughable.
    Reply
  • bloc97
    In the future, everyone's solar panel on the roof will power together the entire city...
    No need for power plants anymore. :)
    Reply
  • livebriand
    fuzznarfCorrect.. there will be no lower prices. There will instead be a 'monitoring fee'. So not only will they limit your power consumption during low-cost times, and potentially shut off your AC during high-consumption times, but they will also tell you it costs more to manage your consumption for you. It is already happening with smart-meters. Utility companies are metering off-peak consumption forcing you to use it when they can charge more. So if you want to charge up your car at midnight, they meter it, so that when you wake up in the morning you don't have a full charge, thus forcing you to charge up your car when they make more money,..i.e immediately after work. It is already happening. Don't be fooled, anytime someone tells you it is 'for your own good' it isn't.Not necessairly. PG&E has a "smart ac" program where if you opt-in, they get to throttle your air conditioner's compressor on days with excessive energy usage. It's cheaper for them if you put less load on the grid because then they don't have to upgrade the infrastructure as much.
    Reply
  • upgrade_1977
    How much electricity do they use when they don't have anything plugged into them? Might not be a lot for a single person, but for a whole nation that would be a lot of wasted energy. Not to mention if one goes bad and over volts and fry's out something expensive, or start a fire or something. Ethernet bridge? Does that mean people are going to be able to hack into them over the internet and shut down someone's life support system?
    Reply