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Up to 600 residential electricity customers may participate in a smart water heater emerging technology demonstration project that enables better management of energy. A smart water heater is a water heater with a modular communication interface that will be able to receive and respond to demand response (DR) signals from utilities. By enabling the smart water heater to send and receive the utility's signals, the water heater can help support the grid. By changing the time when, and at what rate, it re-heats water the tank acts like a battery; controlling the re-heat rate has the same effect on the grid as storing or releasing energy from a battery. These small changes in when and how often water heaters run can be a valuable tool in grid management.

Renewable energy such as wind and solar is increasing on the electric grid. However, these intermittent generating resources create integration challenges for utilities. DR can be a cost effective tool to reduce customer's electricity demand for brief periods. It can also be used to help the grid absorb extra energy when needed. Using CTA 2045 communication technology, utilities are able to use the inherent energy storage capability of water heaters to smooth out the intermittent nature of renewable generation. Enabling this low cost communication port on every water heater in the Pacific Northwest could mitigate the cost of renewable integration and provide support to the electric grid.

​Participation Details

Participating in smart water heater demonstration will achieve the following:

  • Demonstrate that low-cost communication technologies can enable broad-scale DR
  • Facilitate better integration of low-carbon wind and solar power generation with the grid
  • Minimize the perceived impact of demand response (e.g., inconvenience, discomfort) to the residential customer
  • Provide data on the benefits of communicating water heaters to a reliable and low-cost grid
  • Provide feedback to product manufacturers on real-world applications

BPA’s goal for this demonstration project is to enlist a total of 600 households across all participating utilities. BPA seeks equal participation of residences with qualifying electric resistance water heaters (ERWH) and heat pump water heaters (HPWH). Eligibility requirements include: 

  •  Residential customers only
    • Single-family or multi-family residences
    • Primary residence that is continually occupied: no seasonal or vacation homes
    • Reasonable expectation of remaining at address for at least 12 months
    • Live in service territory of participating utility
    • AO Smith HPWH,
    • GE Geospring HPWH installed January 2014 or later, and
    • Specific AO Smith ERWH (tanks to be delivered for this project).
  • Strong radio reception of specific FM stations to be used in the project (Seattle/Tacoma: KJAQ 96.5, Portland: KINK 101.9, Eugene: KKNU 93.3, Wenatchee: KKRV 104.7 and KHNW 88.3)
  • Existing home Wi-Fi network that is continually available to the water heater, in order to:
    • Allows the utility-provided communication module to connect to the internet
    • Allow secure communication to the data collection server
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