Echelon working with microgrid projects in India, South Africa

San Jose, Calif., March 28, 2012 — Echelon Corp. is planning two microgrid deployments in India and South Africa that integrate distributed generation to compensate for disruptions in utility-supplied power.

The deployments are built on Echelon's open standard, multi-application energy control networking platform powered by its Control Operating System and incorporate application software and services from its local partners Grene Robotics and Power Meter Technics.

The model microgrid deployments are at Palm Meadows in Hyderabad, India, and Clearwater Mall in Johannesburg, South Africa. Palm Meadows is an 86-acre integrated gated community with 335 homes and residential services. Clearwater Mall in Johannesburg is a retail building with more than 240 stores.

Such microgrids are likely to be a best practice in emerging countries grappling with intermittent power supply, and are also applicable in environmentally conscious countries that are aggressively incorporating renewable and intermittent energy sources into the distribution network. 

The Palm Meadows community ties into the grid at a dedicated substation and sources energy in bulk from the utility. The community also runs diesel generators and will incorporate solar generation in the future.

Residences within the community are equipped with Echelon smart meters that connect into data concentrators at distribution transformers and feed near real-time usage information to Echelon's Networked Energy Systems system software.

Echelon partner Grene Robotics' Skynet management application automatically turns on local generation if utility-delivered power is inadequate. The Skynet software interfaces with the NES system software and creates a bill for the customer that reflects the customers' actual use of lower cost grid power and more expensive locally generated power.

Customers have the option of reducing usage at times when the more expensive energy is being supplied. The Palm Meadows microgrid is providing reliable service even during frequent utility grid outages and enabling the customer to make intelligent trade-offs between comfort and cost.

The frequency and length of blackouts in South Africa can have devastating effects on its commercial sector. For example, the local South African public utility had to institute a system of rolling blackouts over a period of four months to balance electricity demand, in which supply was interrupted at least once or twice a day on an average of four hours at a time.

The Clearwater Mall tenants, which consist of nine anchor stores, and more than two hundred other local and international fashion and quick serve food outlets, restaurants, banks, electronic goods and other specialty stores, require reliable electricity so they can continue to run their business.

The mall's new retail microgrid solution, based on Echelon partner PMT's Meteringonline energy management application, employs Echelon smart meters, data concentrators, and NES system software to submeter individual tenant usage, so they can pay only for their actual energy usage rather than the industry norm of paying for energy on a square footage basis.

Furthermore, tenants can opt-in to power supplied by local back-up generation when blackouts occur. PMT's Meteringonline application interfaces to Echelon's system software and reconciles usage with energy source, allocating tariffs based on actual use. The on-demand energy services allow the store owners to manage their energy usage and associated costs and maximize revenues.

According to Pike Research, interest in implementing microgrids is spreading among educational, commercial, government, healthcare, industrial, and research campuses. A new report from Pike Research forecasts that total installed generation capacity for campus microgrids will increase by 164 percent between 2011 and 2017, rising from 620 MW to 1.6 GW. By the end of the forecast period in 2017, the clean tech market intelligence firm anticipates that the campus microgrid market will reach $777 million in annual revenue.

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