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May 2010 | Volume 13 / Number 5
Convergence Corner

Turning Peak Energy into Anytime Energy

We’ve heard an awful lot about smart meters as part of an increasing number of Smart Grid initiatives that are being developed to help offset rising energy costs, the growth in energy demand that will, at its current pace, soon see utility companies unable to meet requirements, and an increasing negative impact on the environment. In fact, if you were fortunate enough to be in Miami for the Smart Grid Summit, you saw firsthand the interest Smart Grid technologies are generating.

The migration from older analog to newer digital smart meters will allow utilities to measure usage wirelessly in real time, as opposed to taking monthly aggregate readings, which allows them to better predict and accommodate peak usage periods. It also means they can implement time-of-use billing strategies, which ArcAngel Technologies’ vice president of sales and marketing Joe Jackson points out is something with which we are all familiar through peak and off-peak minutes from our cellular carriers.

The principle is exactly the same with energy consumption – users pay a premium per kWh during peak demand periods, and significantly less during off-peak demand periods. But, what if you were able to take your off-peak energy and turn it into peak energy – think Anytime Minutes on your cell phone plan.

ArcAngel has taken that principle to heart and developed technology that will allow businesses to leverage lower rate off-peak periods, typically the overnight hours, during the daytime, or peak demand hours.

It has developed what it calls an Intelligent Power Controller, called Energy Harvestor, which fundamentally performs a very simple task: It collects and stores off-peak energy that can then be used during peak periods, reducing the amount of peak demand energy that is required for businesses to function.

The Energy Harvestor itself is a relatively small unit, approximately two feet tall and a foot wide, which sits between the power meter and the A/C distribution panel in a building, routing all the power coming into a facility through the controller. The unit works in conjunction with a storage subsystem, effectively a large battery pack that stores the energy overnight for use the next day.

The Energy Harvestor determines when off-peak periods are in effect and collects energy at those times, which it stores in its subsystem and, the next day, explains Jackson, blends that stored energy from the battery with grid power.

“The net effect is it takes the energy stored during off-peak hours and releases it back into the office during periods when rates are higher,” he says. “This can reduce net cost for electricity 20, 30, or even 40 percent per month.”

According to Jackson, the monthly savings the Energy Harvestor creates results in a quick ROI on the unit, typically 6-12 months.

Then there’s the Green factor. By using less energy during peak periods, businesses can reduce the demand on power plants during peak periods, instead harnessing energy produced during low production periods for use later. The typical storage capacity for a single unit can provide power to a business for 2-5 hours. Imagine the impact on peak demand production if every business was able to reduce its power draw by 3 hours’ worth each day.

But, the Energy Harvestor doesn’t stop there. Many businesses are ideal candidates for deploying renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines. ArcAngel has included direct inputs for both solar and wind energy units, so those energy resources can also combined with stored and grid energy, further reducing the strain on the grid and reducing costs. In fact, each Energy Harvestor also includes a third input for future expansion for other alternative energy sources, like wave or hydrogen energy.

The controller unit constantly monitors and manages all of the available energy sources, blending them into a single, regulated, and seamless output into the building.

Of course, the other benefit of stored energy, especially a source that can power an entire business of building for up to five hours, is to eliminate the impact of power outages. If power goes out, the controller unit recognizes a lack of supply from the grid and immediately starts drawing from its battery subsystem. Jackson notes that for those businesses that might require more stored energy for longer backup supplies, adding additional battery subsystems is simple and inexpensive, making it an ideal option for telcos and ISPs, for instance, who will be able to ensure network uptime even during power outages.

Jackson says the primary target today is the SMB market, though he predicted there are also plans for a lower density, lower cost model that will be an ideal solution for smaller IT and residential applications.

During a trip to Dallas a few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with him in the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas. Check out the video interview ( and, if you’re an electrical contractor interested in learning more and possibly becoming an ArcAngel channel partner (Jackson says the company is taking the Energy Harvestor to market purely through the channel), please contact the company through its Web site ( And don’t miss the next Smart Grid Summit, collocated with ITEXPO (News - Alert) West in Los Angeles, October 4-6, 2010. IT

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