The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and power management company Eaton have announced a collaborative demonstration fielded by EPRI with utility providers across the U.S. to test a new Eaton circuit breaker designed to improve utility service reliability and optimize the grid.
EPRI will test and evaluate the impact of Eaton’s energy management circuit breaker (EMCB) in the field, and the data from the testing will be provided to the participating utilities. The research results are anticipated to help participants better understand how to manage demand for electricity with the potential for more effective integration of new energy sources, such as solar, onto the grid while also enabling homeowners to strategically manage their energy usage.
The field test will involve the installation of EMCBs by 12 utilities in approximately 500 homes across the country. EPRI will evaluate and analyze field test data as part of the collaborative research and development project with utilities, including American Electric Power, CenterPoint Energy, Dairyland Power Cooperative, Duke Energy, Exelon subsidiaries ComEd and Pepco, Nebraska Public Power District, Salt River Project, Seattle City Light, Southern Co., and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc.
“The EMCB technology puts some of the benefits of a smart, integrated grid in the hands of homeowners and could transform the way consumers interact with electricity,” said Arshad Mansoor, EPRI senior vice president for research and development. “This field test also provides a real-time, in-home assessment of how the EMCB can improve utility service and optimize the grid by supporting demand response, distributed energy resources, solar installation monitoring, energy storage and energy management.”
According to Eaton, the EMCB combines circuit breaker technology, which provides circuit protection in the customer’s load center, with Internet connectivity and on-board intelligence. The EMCB makes a home’s circuits “smart” and provides better energy use information for residential energy management and for utility optimization of grid reliability, the company adds. The devices can be used in new installations or retrofitted into existing home electrical panels without additional hardware.
“Eaton engineers reimagined fundamental power management technology, including the circuit breaker, to help utilities and consumers more actively and intelligently manage power,” said Joanne Edwards, senior vice president and general manager of the residential and wiring devices division at Eaton. “The field test will help us accelerate the development of the energy management circuit breaker, while also providing data on device lifecycle management, over-the-air firmware updates, and communication architectures that can be applied across our solutions for residential and utility customers.”