TexasIsHot – Energy Efficiency

Energy Savings

Oct 07 2011

A Texas Smart-Grid Project Advances

One morning this week, several dozen residents of northeast Austin gathered to inspect three plug-in Volt cars. They peered at the electric and gasoline engine components beneath the hood and took turns sitting behind the wheel.

“I really hate buying gas,” said Joan Neuberger, a history professor at the University of Texas, who is one of more than 140 local residents who have expressed interest in obtaining a heavily discounted Volt next year.

The plug-in cars will be part of the continuing roll-out of an Austin smart-grid study called Pecan Street, which today is announcing partnerships with a handful of major companies, including Whirlpool, Best Buy and Chevrolet, the Volt’s manufacturer. The companies will test how people use new-age products and systems, including solar panels and “smart appliances” as well as plug-in cars, and how it all affects the functioning of the electric grid.

There are about 200 residential participants so far in Pecan Street, which is financed partly by a 2009 federal stimulus award of $10.4 million. Besides monitoring the way participants’ utilize electricity, researchers are also measuring water and natural gas usage.

Very early results from just a few houses are already showing interesting trends — for example, in the spring, electricity usage dips lowest on Thursdays (the reason is a mystery). In the winter, natural gas usage is highest in the hour after 7 a.m.

The project is also looking into whether south-facing or west-facing solar panels work better for the grid. One hundred Volts will be offered to participants with a special rebate of either $7,500 (in addition to a federal tax credit of the same amount) for those who buy, or $3,000 for those who lease, courtesy of federal stimulus money. Researchers aim to measure how and when people charge their cars and how car charging can be integrated with solar panels.

Pecan Street, which is affiliated with the University of Texas, is one of several smart-grid projects in the state. Another, by the Center for the Commercialization of Electric Technologies and also financed partly with federal stimulus money, will run studies on a new Houston neighborhood that people are still moving into. Texas is a good place to conduct smart-grid research, experts say, because the deregulation of the electric market roughly a decade ago means that electric companies are motivated to offer consumers different ways to monitor and pay for their electricity.

“Texas is really leading the nation with respect to promoting a well-balanced approach to smart-grid,” said Jerry Jackson, a former Texas A&M professor who now leads a national smart-grid research consortium based in Orlando, Fla.

More than 4 million “smart meters” are already installed in deregulated parts of Texas, according to the Public Utility Commission, and many more should be installed by the end of next year, said Donna Nelson, the commission’s chairwoman.

The installation of smart meters has been slightly contentious in Texas, but not nearly as controversial as it has been in California, the other major smart-meter state. Smart meters allow many Texans to monitor their electric usage on a website in 15-minute intervals, if they choose. This information allows people to know when they are using more electricity than expected.

For Pecan Street researchers, one of the surprising findings to date is that there is little difference in energy usage between homes in Mueller, a new, green-built Austin neighborhood, and older homes outside that neighborhood.
What that suggests, said Brewster McCracken, the project’s executive director, is that personal behavior appears, so far, “to be much more important than the green building rating of the home.”

Read More From Kate Galbraith At The Texas Tribune

Tagged , , ,

Related Posts

One Comment

  1. marcone appliance parts centerOctober 30, 2011 at 6:51 pmReply

    Wow, superb blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging glance easy. The entire glance of your website is great, let alone the content!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

Testimonials
  • "“As the Texas population continues to grow, so will our energy consumption needs. We must have tools that empower the consumer to choose their products and monitor their usage wisely. TexasIsHot.org is a great resource, which is exactly what Texans need in today’s deregulated market.”" - State Rep. Burt Solomons (R-Carrollton), Chairman of House State Affairs Committee
  • "In order to meet our goals, we need programs like the TexasIsHot campaign to help change the way people think about energy." - State Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Chairman of Senate Natural Resources Committee
  • "Texas leads the nation in wind power because it makes money, not because it makes us feel better. Texans are a practical, penny-wise people who I think will be happy to learn how to save a few bucks on their power bills with the common-sense advice at TexasIsHot.org."-Jerry Patterson, Commissioner of the Texas General Land Office
  • "If every Texas household adopted just a few of the dozens of energy efficiency strategies referenced on TexasIsHot.org, our air would be cleaner, our limited supply of natural resources would be better protected, and our wallets would be heavier..." Kip Averitt (R-Waco), Former State Senator and Chairman of Senate Committee on Natural Resources
  • ”The TexasIsHot campaign targets an important piece of the clean energy effort -- educating Texans on the way we use electricity and quantifying the financial and environmental costs associated with our use. By just reducing the amount of electricity we use and waste, TexasIsHot.org can show people how to save money..." State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin)
  • "Fluctuating energy costs are really hurting Texas families and businesses, but by just making a few easy changes, Texans can cut down on energy waste. TexasIsHot.org is a tremendous resource which arms consumers with the information they need to save themselves money by becoming more energy efficient, and help our environment." State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)
  • "Texas is the third fastest growing state in the nation with a net growth of 1,000 people each and every day. This brings many challenges including providing clean and affordable electricity. That is why I'm excited about TexasIsHot.org. This website is an instructional resource that will help Texans save on their energy bills at home and in the workplace..." State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford)
  • "Now, more than ever, Texans need to work together to conserve energy and to make more efficient use of the energy we consume. The TexasIsHot.org website is an extraordinary resource for people who want to save money and help conserve our precious natural resources..." State Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas)
  • "By partnering with the TexasIsHot Coalition we can extend our effort’s reach, leverage our resources, and ensure that Austin’s energy grid continues to be a test-bed for technologies, products, and services that will transform our state’s energy system." Brewster McCracken, Executive Director, Pecan Street Project
  • "The City of Houston is working harder than ever to make Houston green and energy efficient, but we need the help of every citizen. I would encourage everyone to take a moment to explore the TexasIsHot website to learn what we can all do to make Houston, and the rest of Texas, the green and energy efficient example for the rest of the nation." Mayor Annise Parker, Houston
  • "Energy efficiency is one of our top priorities. Partnering with the TexasIsHot Coalition will help us educate citizens and local businesses about energy-efficient practices in order to meet our goal of reducing residential and commercial electric use." Gavin Dillingham, Chief of Sustainable Growth – General Services Department, for the City of Houston
  • "We are excited about the new partnership that the City of Corpus Christi has entered into with the TexasIsHot Coalition. TexasIsHot.org provides a platform to educate policy makers, city employees and citizens on how to save money and help the environment by conserving energy..." Mayor Joe Adame, Corpus Christi
  • "I am excited that the City of Corpus Christi has joined the TexasIsHot Coalition and look forward to working with them to help Texans become smarter energy users. Energy efficiency is by far the best way for people to reduce their bills and help the environment, but we need education and outreach to make this happen." State Rep. Solomon Ortiz, Jr (D-Corpus Christi)
  • "Because of its fast growth and hot summers, Texas has to get smarter about energy conservation. I applaud the efforts of Corpus Christi and TexasIsHot to help businesses and residents reap the benefits of increased efficiency." Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
  • "Energy efficiency is the cleanest, quickest and cheapest way to get smart about energy use, saving both money and the environment. I applaud the TexasIsHot Coalition in their effort to educate Texans about the benefits of energy efficiency..." Luke Metzger, Director, Environment Texas
Get Connected

Enter your email address and receive tips and helpful info from Texasishot.org