IN THE NEWS
Stationary Applications Driving Fuel Cell Growth
While marketers once thought refrigerators and dryers would top the list of smart appliances, it now seems thermostats might be the advance troops in utilities’ efforts to bring load control to residential customers. For example, Nest has partnered with energy retailer NRG on a program called Rush Hour Rewards, which sets back homeowners’ thermostats during summer rush hours (which typically match peak demand periods). Opower recently inked a deal with Direct Energy in Texas, which will be deploying WiFi-enabled Honeywell thermostats communicating via an Opower software platform to provide similar load control and analysis for that utility’s customers.
Think Eco’s “modlet” plugs into standard two-socket outlets, offering two of its own sockets that can be monitored and controlled remotely online or via smartphone apps
32 | 06.14 | NET ZERO BUILDINGS
Prime Power Large CHP ResCHP UPS
SMART MONEY ON SMART THERMOSTATS Just two months after Google’s $3.2 billion purchase of Nest Labs, maker of smart, webaddressable thermostats and smoke alarms, the energy-data company Opower launched an initial public offering that has valued the 7-year-old startup at close to $1 billion. The companies share business models increasingly based on partnerships with energy utilities that could lead to clouds’-worth of data on how customers use energy in their homes and businesses.
5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000 0
The market for fuel cell-driven combined heat and power is growing, especially in Japan, the second largest fuel cell adopter for residential CHP. There, the country had 42,700 such systems installed by the end of 2012, such as this one from FuelCell Energy, according to research by Navigant.
When it comes to highly tuned net-zero buildings, though, circuit-level data may not provide the detailed information on individual plug loads that can make or break real netzero performance. A few ambitious start-up companies are offering new devices that can provide outlet-by-outlet measurement and control. For example, Think Eco’s “modlet” plugs into standard two-socket outlets, offering two of its own sockets that can be monitored and controlled remotely online or via smartphone apps. A unit specifically designed for window air conditioners also can be controlled by utility DSM programs—New York City’s Con Edison is one utility using the devices in its customers’ homes to setback room air conditioners during peak periods.
Toyota may have just announced a new emphasis on fuel cells for automotive use, but stationary applications remain the primary driver of this market’s expansion—in fact, global annual revenues are expected to break the $2 billion mark by the end of 2014, nearly doubling 2012’s $1 billion total, according to Navigant Research. Total installed capacity is expect to reach almost 7,000 megawatts in just the next eight years. As the chart above left illustrates, prime power and combined heat and power applications represent manufacturers’ biggest opportunity today. This is driven by U.S. buyers seeking power security for data centers and grid stabilization for electric utilities.
Hull sees the real-time data today’s submeters supply as increasingly important to tuning and maintaining building performance, especially as building operations become more automated and rules-based. “Energy monitoring systems really should be treated as a critical building component—the metering piece allows us to monitor how effectively we’re operating a building and how we can tweak the last five to 10 percentage points in performance,” he says. “It’s just as important as a controls package. Without that data, you’re really kind of fumbling around in the dark.”
Highlighting the Path Toward Net Zero Building Design.