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Finding solutions to the world’s most difficult problems

Smarter power for a better future

Imagine technology that lets you know which appliances are operating most efficiently. That allows your house to run on lowest-carbon energy. That reminds you to charge your electric car and tells you precisely when you will have access to the cheapest, cleanest energy.

The idea of a smart or "connected" home has been a futuristic vision for years, but an Austin consortium of university researchers and private-sector companies is taking the smart grid out of the lab and putting it in people’s homes. 

Headquartered at The University of Texas at Austin, Pecan Street Inc. is using rooftop solar panels, smart appliances and electric cars in the green-built Mueller neighborhood to collect and analyze power usage data on university supercomputers. 

What they’re learning could change the way we use and pay for energy and lead to entire new products and services.

The staggering detail of Pecan Street's granular data and its ability to tap the supercomputing capacity at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) have made this one of the country's hottest energy initiatives. 

Paul Navrátil, TACC's manager of Scalable Visualization Technologies, leads the university's data analysis team.

“We are generating the most robust set of consumer energy data on the planet," he says. "Taking readings every 15 seconds with our first 100 homes generated more data points than a utility’s standard 15-minute readings generate for 100,000 homes.”

It’s not surprising this model for the future would be put to the test in eco-friendly, tech-savvy Austin. But the folks behind this initiative seek to expand this beyond the Lone Star State. They aim to shift the paradigm of energy use, creating a new model for the nation — and the world.


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