I have been thinking about local microgrids encompassing local generation and local storage recently. Batteries get all the attention, but pre-consumption often open up the best means of storing energy.
For example, making ice-water when power is available, and cooling a building with ice water at a later time is storage based on pre-consumption. You were going to consume electrical power for cooling anyway. You instead consume it earlier than you need the cooling.
Most pre-consumption systems have been set up by utilities. A utility would fund the installation of a system such as the Ice Bear from Ice Energy. The Ice Energy web site talks almost exclusively about dispatch by the utility. This means the Ice Bear charges at night, when consumption is low. Comfort and amenity are barely mentioned on the Ice Energy site. Ice Bears are today sold as dispatchable power sources.
Note – I think Ice Energy is quite likely a best-in-class product. The above is the observed state of the utility-driven market, not a complaint about the technology. An Ice Bear can be installed alongside an existing compressor. A simple valve routes compressor-based cooling to the Ice Bear rather to Air Handler. A simple valve routes cooling from the Ice Bear to Air Handler rather than from Compressor. Retrofits are easy.
As we look to distributed energy, and to home and office microgrids, the Ice Bear-type control strategy changes. Instead of running off remote dispatch, it runs on local power production.
Today, a utility may ask an Ice Bear to be fully cooled overnight, in anticipation of hot day. Decisions are made based on predicted market shortages. Charging (cooling) an Ice Bear happens overnight.
In a Distributed Energy environment, the first rule is to use local power locally. The Ice Bear runs based on current site-based production. If a site has solar power, the Ice Bear will do its charging during the day. In the wind-driven mid-west, the Ice Bear would charge during the overnight wind.
This introduces the pre-consumption to the high-end consumer amenity market. In the steamy summer evenings suburban South, owners may be most conscious of cooling during the evening. Social activities flow naturally onto the back porch, alongside the compressor that is working steadily and noisily. Flow in and out the back door may make the host inch down the indoor temperature.
While I may have a home Ice Bear for efficiency or for distributed energy operation, I now have a new option. I could choose to have the Ice Bear fully charged before my soiree. During the evening’s social hours, the noisy compressor may not have to run at all. I like to listen to the overnight birdsongs, particularly the juvenile mockingbirds, while I sleep. I could opt to have the compressors never run while I am asleep, while still having the house boost the cooling power of the open window.
There are always more value-streams locally then there are for the central authority. This is part of why smart energy will inevitably be driven eventually by what Dr. Stephen Hall at the University of Leeds calls “a transition to a Civic Energy”. Civic Energy prefers decisions made by normal people. Service Oriented Energy is how we will get there. Normal people have their own values, and will be able to use smart energy to support them.
The Preconsumption Agent is one of the eight identified agent types identified in the roadmap of The Energy Mashup Lab.