Battelle has granted a license for a home-appliance technology that will help soften the blow for utilities during times of peak demand on the electric grid.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland developed the Grid Friendly Appliance Controller, a coin-sized circuit that can be built into appliances, to temporarily shift when appliances use power. Battelle operates PNNL for the Department of Energy.
Start-up technology firm Encryptor of Plano, Texas, plans to develop the technology within the next two to three years and then market it to appliance manufacturers under a non-exclusive license.
"This technology has tremendous potential as a low-cost way of reducing stress on our nation's electricity system by making our everyday appliances better users of energy," said Cheryl Cejka, PNNL's director of technology commercialization.
The device senses conditions on the grid by monitoring the frequency and voltage of the system and provides automatic responses in times of power disruption or grid emergency.
Within the North American power grid, a disturbance of the nominal 60 Hertz frequency is an indicator of serious imbalance between supply and demand that, if unarrested, could lead to a blackout.
The computer chip can be installed in household appliances and turn them off for a few minutes, or even a few seconds, to allow the grid to stabilize.
The controllers can be programmed to react in fractions of a second when a disturbance is detected, whereas power plants take minutes to respond, according to PNNL. They also can be programmed to delay restart to prevent many appliances from coming on at once after a power outage.
Costs for the chips could be as little as a few dollars per appliance.