Regen Energy saves power

Regen Energy controller deviceRegen Energy is a Canadian company that uses cloud feedback for energy management. They make a small device about the size of two packs of cards that monitors electricity demand at a single air conditioner or heater, and adjusts the electric use to save energy and money.  It publishes the data to Internet web servers to enable additional savings.  

Regen calls its device a ‘controller,’ and it can connect to any major source of electric demand. Most often, this is an air conditioner or a heating unit, typically next to or on the roof of a building. The device is connected to the electrical power source so that it can measure the amount of power used. It also sits between the thermostat and the heater or cooler so that the device knows when the thermostat demands more heating or cooling. The device can change the thermostat’s signal, delaying or simulating a demand for heating or cooling.

The Regen devices are designed to communicate wirelessly, both to Regen’s Internet servers and to each other. They coordinate with each other so that they don’t all demand electric power at the same time.  (Regen calls this local feedback function “swarm logic“.)  In effect, the controllers delay the demands of some buildings until the other buildings can be satisfied.  Most utilities levy a “peak power” charge on their corporate customers, based on the highest combined demand of the company.  By coordinating power use, the Regen units cut the peak demand and save money on power.

Sample reports of Regen EnergyAll the data is transmitted via a cell phone data network to Regen servers on the Internet.  From there, a website displays it for customers, which offers another way for customers to cut energy costs. They can look at graphs showing how much energy each building uses, and can thereby determine when heating or cooling units need maintenance. They may also discover that some locations are drawing power at times when they shouldn’t (for example a warehouse may be heated all weekend even when no one works there). Regen’s website allows the customer to set schedules and restrict the amount of heating or cooling done during off hours thereby saving more energy.  Regen claims typical cuts in energy costs of 25-30%.  With entry costs as low as $7,200, even small companies can benefit.

Finally, the company promises to add demand response capabilities in the future. Demand response would allow a customer to keep his heating or cooling units off during periods of high electric demand, in response to instructions from the utility. This can earn significant rebates from the utility.

Regen goes a bit further than simple cloud feedback — its “controllers” are more than sensors.  They communicate with each other to coordinate the combined electrical load.  They have a clever “proxy thermostat” that effectively and simply switches an air conditioner or heater on or off.  Regen combines these functions with an easily accessed and extensible Internet service.  The resulting package is simple to install, and can provide energy savings for both small and large companies.

(Note: see comments for updates on controller logic and demand response.)

February 16, 2010 · knovak · 2 Comments
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2 Responses

  1. Mark Kerbel - February 17, 2010

    Thanks for taking the time to add our EnviroGrid controller technology to your blog.

    Just a few clarifications: Our swarm logic is used to smooth out the power consumed by loads within a given building, not between buildings. Also, our customers can already enjoy Demand Response benefits through use of our portal, whereby they can “dial down” loads when the grid is stressed and receive financial incentives from their utility to shed load under these circumstances. Last but not least, our controller observes the power consumed by its attached load in order to make decisions (rather than watch any thermostat request signals), making our devices applicable for far more than simply heating and cooling applications, e.g. lighting.

  2. knovak - February 17, 2010

    Thanks for the details, Mark. Glad to hear that the Demand Response already works, by the customer using the portal. I’d be interested to learn how it controls loads other than heating and cooling. Does it have leads that supply a signal to a relay? Or an interface with building automation systems? Or does the user manually use the load information outside the portal?

    Good luck with the controller, it seems a good fit for many medium and small businesses.

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