New lab focuses on smart meters, energy consumption
Graduate student Jeremiah Dole demonstrates how electricity demand can affect one homes utility costs during the opening of the Smart Meter Integration Laboratory.
The new Smart Meter Integration Laboratory (SMIL) in the College of Technology is part research lab, part education outreach tool, and part show-and-tell. All three parts combine to address efficient consumption of energy.
“Research data shows that if people know about and understand their energy use, they are willing to make decisions to help the environment and utilities,” said Athula Kulatunga, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering technology and director and founder of the lab.
Officially opened in April of this year, SMIL was created with the help of sponsor Landis+Gyr, a global smart meter manufacturer headquartered in Lafayette.
Among its many features, SMIL can simulate 24 hours of a home’s electricity usage in five minutes. Using familiar red, yellow, and green signals to represent high, medium, and low demand times, the simulation can provide a cost analysis based on a time-of-day pricing. As demand for electricity increases, electric utility companies are discussing time-of-day pricing as a way to keep demand in check.
“Right now, your monthly electric bill is a mystery,” Kulatunga said. “With a smart meter and an in-home display unit, customers will be able to see when they use energy and how much it costs. They can know the consequence of their behavior.”
Customer behavior and consumption is the basis for many decisions regarding electricity: price, the amount of electricity generation needed now and in the future, the variety of energy sources needed for generation, and more.
Research conducted in the SMIL will help provide information to utility regulators who set prices. It also will help electric utilities with their own customer education campaigns regarding efficient energy use.
“Our main goal is to make an impact now,” Kulatunga says. “We are using technology that is available now, and others will follow.”
Public demonstrations to teachers, entire school classes, and the general public will be an important part of the lab. Kulatunga will also work with utility companies to develop courses on topics such as smart grid management that will also fit into the general electric power curriculum.
Other plans for the lab include training classes for utility workers and partnerships with appliance manufacturers to assist in making smarter appliances.
Visit the SMIL Web site.