Sometimes central electric grids can't meet demand and have to turn to peaker stations for help. Peaker stations are basically back-up power plants that can be up and running within minutes and help grids during temporary shortages. These peaker stations are pretty expensive, though. They are only used about one percent of the time, but they account for 15 percent of overall costs. Ohmconnect helps individuals reduce their own energy usage to ensure peaker stations don't need to be used.
With Ohmconnect, users will receive a message when there is a spike in energy prices, which usually represents a shortfall in supply. Ohmconnect will ask users to moderate their energy use, which can include turning down the air-conditioning, or delaying a washing machine cycle. It works together with Internet-connected devices through the home, such as a Nest thermostat, Tesla vehicle, or Belkin WeMo light switch. Ohmconnect turns down devices for 15 to 30-minute periods, and rewards users with cash.
"[Peaker stations] increase the cost of electricity on the grid pretty significantly," says co-founder Curtis Tongue. "Sometimes the price goes from $40 per megawatt-hour to $500 per megawatt hour, or more. That price volatility is what we're trying to shift back to users, so they can balance the grid and also get paid for reducing their environmental footprint."
Ohmconnect makes money by gathering the spare capacity from its users and selling it back to the grid operator. Users are able to collect portions of the revenue, and the company keeps the rest.
"We're looking to stabilize the grid," Tongue said. "Solar and wind power are phenomenal, but they also introduce a little intermittency. What we're able to do is foster an ecosystem where we can have renewable resources but at the same time we have a grid that works."
Ohmconnect launched in February and is currently only operating in California. The company has plans to expand to other deregulated markets, like Texas and areas on the East Cost.
Learn more about how Ohmconnect in the video below.