The University of Southampton

Intelligent fuse boxes could manage energy in homes

Published: 17 August 2005

The University of Southampton has announced details of an intelligent fuse box which could manage domestic energy needs and result in significant daily savings.

The announcement comes in the wake of energy minister Malcolm Wicks' consultation paper on how to boost "micro generation" by homes, businesses and public buildings, on the basis of generating their own power and selling the surplus.

According to Dr Peter Wilson from the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton, such schemes do not always allow domestic users to be self-sufficient and to control their own energy requirements and can be problematic in terms of ensuring adequate power quality, reliability and safety of the generator.

Dr Wilson and his team have been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to research renewable energy further and have come up with an intelligent fuse box which could be installed in homes in parallel with existing domestic wiring and allow users to configure it to suit their needs.

A test project has begun locally where wireless sensors are being installed to monitor energy usage and collate this information centrally. The idea is that the fuse box will begin to adapt to the outside environment and become predictive; the researchers are also applying evolutionary algorithms so that the box begins to learn and respond to different scenarios, so that it makes the best use of energy. For example, the system would provide emergency power in the event of a local power outage enabling essential appliances to continue to be operated (telephones, refrigerators).

Energy will be generated through solar panels which are soon to be installed and a wind turbine which will be fitted on the research site. The plan is to analyse performance and results over a 12-month period; early predictions indicate that daily energy savings of 20 per cent will be made.

Dr Wilson commented: 'We have set out to keep this initiative as simple as possible so that it is accessible to the end-user. Ordinary people don't want to get involved in huge micro-grids; they just want to be self-sufficient and have a reliable supply. The intelligent fuse box will enable this - this is technology that is intended to be obtained and used by average domestic electricity users.'

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