25/11/2010 - 00:00

AI component helps Metro manage power

25/11/2010 - 00:00

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FOR a business that is five years old and has only five staff, Metro Power Company is punching well above its weight in terms of its clientele.

AI component helps Metro manage power

FOR a business that is five years old and has only five staff, Metro Power Company is punching well above its weight in terms of its clientele.

Metro Power, which created the energy management system e2m, is currently working with BHP Billiton and Synergy, and was recently invited to tender for a contract with the Australian Defence Force.

The company, which last month won the growth category at the WA Innovator of the Year Awards, is competing with two much larger international companies that are developing similar smart grid technology.

e2m’s creator, Timothy Edwards, left his job as chief electrical engineer at Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine in 2005 and formed the company with a plan to build gas-fired power stations.

The system grew out of Mr Edwards’ frustration with the inability of current technology to predict lulls in demand and future energy use, meaning operators are unable to sell excess power to the grid because 24 hours’ notice is needed before any sale.

Sustaining the company by doing consulting work, Mr Edwards began working on system that could predict energy demand.

The result was e2m – an energy management system with inbuilt artificial intelligence, able to learn the behaviours and patterns of energy use and predict future results.

e2m can collect and analyse data from all facets of a system, be it onsite at a mine, in a high-rise office tower, or at a suburban shopping centre

“It brings a lot of data back in real time from the building management systems, and starts learning what influences the energy use for that building,” Mr Edwards told WA Business News.

The system can predict spikes in energy use, prompted by things like temperature and air-conditioning use, and take action to offset those spikes; for example by dimming lights or temporarily recycling air rather than cooling hot air from outside.

Without this technology, energy management audits are done retrospectively, and another audit needs to be done after changes are implemented before results can be gauged.

e2m’s real-time data feeds mean that changes and their results can be seen instantly.

BHP is using e2m to manage energy efficiency at its Pilbara iron ore mines, as well as the power grid it operates in the region.

Mr Edwards said being able to predict future power use was important to BHP, which was totally reliant on its own power supply for its operations.

“When they run out of power they can’t just ask someone else for some. They have to build another power station,” Mr Edwards said.

Mr Edwards sees the company’s recent innovation award as a valuable stamp of approval for his technology, and an important tool when approaching clients who may have trouble understanding the service.

Currently the company manages e2m for its clients, but the end goal is to teach self-management of the system.

“The intention is that they do run it themselves in the end,” Mr Edwards said.

“The approach we’re taking is that we get it going, we learn their system, implement it, and when they’re comfortable with that we train a new type of energy manager.

“We’ll train them with how to use it, how to change it, how to run it and then our role becomes more of a support role.”

 

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