New chip to make appliances "grid-friendly"

April 11, 2011
Grid Friendly Appliance Controller technology will go into a new IC that can be easily built into appliances.

The Battelle Memorial Institute that runs the Dept. of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has granted a non-exclusive license for a technology that will further the goals of the smart grid by temporarily shifting when smart appliances use power.

Battelle licensed the technology to a start-up technology firm called Encryptor Inc. in Plano, Tex., which plans to incorporate Grid Friendly Appliance Controller technology, developed at PNNL, into a new, low-cost IC that can be built into appliances. Encryptor plans to develop the technology within the next two to three years and then market it to appliance manufacturers as a highly capable, low-cost chip.

PNNL invented the controller with funding from DoE and Battelle patented it in 2008. 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.

The PNNL chip basically looks at the 60 Hz power line frequency and power level and notes any discrepancies from the norm. If it detects something amiss, it can turn off the appliance in which it resides for a few minutes, or even a few seconds, to allow the grid to stabilize.

Battelle says the controllers can be programmed to autonomously react in fractions of a second when a disturbance is detected, whereas power plants take minutes to respond. They can even be programmed to delay restart to prevent all of them coming on at once after a power outage.

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