Market Research and Insight

Austin-based research group Pecan Street Inc. has started working with several new partner companies to test smart-grid consumer products and advance development of the...

Austin-based research group Pecan Street Inc. has started working with several new partner companies to test smart-grid consumer products and advance development of the Texas city’s smart-grid demonstration project.

Based at the University of Texas (UT), Pecan Street researchers will be working with Best Buy, Check-It, Chevrolet, Freescale, Intel, Landis+Gyr, Sony, SunEdison and Whirlpool.

“This announcement demonstrates once again how a research university-public-private partnership can serve as the catalyst for innovation and provide real world benefits,” said Tom Edgar, UT engineering professor, Pecan Street board officer and principal investigator on the research team.

Among the consumer products Pecan Street plans to test are:

  • Electric vehicles: Chevrolet and Pecan Street plan to provide 100 Chevrolet Volts for lease or purchase to participating residents, giving Austin one of the nation’s highest residential concentrations of electric vehicles. To date, more than 130 residents within a one-square mile area have signed up to buy or lease a Volt.
  • Home services systems: Best Buy and Check-It, along with Intel, Sony and Whirlpool, expect to deploy home services systems that serve as the operating platform for consumer smart-grid products and services. These systems can provide such services as home security, energy management, health care monitoring, home improvement, entertainment and labor-saving services. In many of the participating homes, the systems will be able to measure and report near-real-time use of electricity or natural gas and water.
  • Smart appliances: Whirlpool will test smart appliances and provide guidance and research help on how to integrate smart appliances into home services systems. Whirlpool will work with service installation providers like the Geek Squad to install and provision the smart appliances.
  • Home solar panel charging of electric vehicles: SunEdison will lead the research team’s work to develop home solar panel charging for the Chevrolet Volts. A number of the SunEdison-led home solar vehicle charging systems will also have in-home batteries, and all systems will integrate into home services systems. More than 150 participating residents will have rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV), including nearly all of the residents who acquire Volts.
  • Smart meter integration: Using its smart-grid network platform, Landis+Gyr plans to install several hundred of its E350 FOCUS AX smart meters with Smart Energy Profile for consumer product connectivity. These meters and the associated communication networking platform will make it possible for the home services systems to integrate pricing and demand management information from utilities.

Pecan Street announced its new company partners during its annual retreat for member companies and researchers on The University of Texas at Austin campus.

Field trials of consumer-focused smart-grid products will take place largely in a group of Austin neighborhoods located within three miles of the Texas Capitol, including the newly-built Mueller neighborhood — where all homes are green-built and less than four years old — and older adjacent neighborhoods. The electric, gas and water utilities that serve the test area – Austin Energy, Texas Gas and Austin Water – are each providing help with meter integration and research support.

Dan Ilett