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Swansea Engineering team pioneer Smart Electricity Meter

The Power Electronics team from Swansea University’s School of Engineering has developed one of the world’s most advanced Smart Electricity Meters.

And the team is now supplying nearly 1.5MWh per year of free ‘Green electricity’ to the University, helping to reduce its carbon footprint.

The team, based within the Electronic Systems Design Centre, implemented their prototype Smart Meter to highlight the potential of electricity metering technologies in the near future.

The Smart Meter is to be the focal point for a consumer’s personal energy queries. It monitors their energy consumption, giving information not just through a traditional power reading, but in a user-friendly way by displaying animated graphics of money on a large clear screen on the meter.

It also goes one step further than most other potential Smart Meters in that it monitors individual power circuits in the home, including upstairs lighting, downstairs lighting and kitchen sockets.

The team believes there is also the possibility to monitor individual appliances when the technology is adopted further.

The presentation of consumption information is complemented by the ability to show power generated from micro-renewable technologies in a ‘plug and play’ manner, similar to the wind turbine currently commercially available, and generic solar panels.

This is an effort to provide a simple, easy to set up method for people with no expertise in Power Electronics.

The Smart Meter is linked to a number of solar panels on the roof of the University’s Engineering building through a power converter.

The power delivered from the solar panels is monitored within the meter to allow the ‘Green energy’ produced to be reviewed in an easy to understand way.

This allows clear indications whether the renewable technology has been a beneficial purchase and the likely financial performance from the initial investment.

The meter also has communication abilities, allowing the readings of power consumption and generation to be instantly available to the supplier and to the consumer via web pages, wireless in-home displays, or potentially even a television channel.

Richard Lewis, a leading researcher on the Swansea Smart Meter team, said: “The time for complacency is over! Swansea University, through its team and initiatives, is leading the effort in making energy awareness a top priority and is working to provide the tools to do it.

“We are currently looking to create a fully functional prototype from the current demonstration unit and plan to begin residential trials within the next 18 months.”

Interest in Smart Metering technologies has been sparked by a number of television commercials highlighting the availability of Smart Meters to business, but the residential sector still has some way to go.

Small scale trials are still underway and the adoption of Smart Metering in the residential sector could be a few years away.

The Swansea team are looking to be the UK pioneers, by offering metering technologies to those who wish to be early adopters.

Dr Petar Igic, who is leading the Energy and Power Electronics research within the University’s School of Engineering, said: “The project is one of a number of Welsh Assembly Government Knowledge Exploitation Fund research projects being undertaken in Wales and facilitated by the Welsh Energy Research Centre (WERC) to ensure Wales is at the forefront of current energy technologies.

“Smart Electricity Metering is a key part of the Energy Efficiency research theme, since making more efficient and more responsible use of the electric power generated is as important as finding renewable energy sources.”

Mark Durdin, Energy and Environmental Engineer in Estates Services at Swansea University, added: “This is an important development in metering. Each one of us needs to do our bit to reduce consumption and costs, but we can only do this if we know what is consuming the energy.”

Bethan Evans | alfa
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