Benton Harbor, Mich. - Whirlpool plans to produce 1 million "intelligent" clothes dryers by the end of 2011 that can save consumers money by responding to changes in the power grid.
The Smart Energy products will be able to turn their heating elements off during periods of peak energy demand in response to signals from the smart grid - the next-generation electricity network that can route power more efficiently by responding to shifts in supply and demand.
The Whirlpool effort, part of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Smart Grid Investment Grant program, could save a typical consumer $20 to $40 per year in markets where utilities offer variable or time-of-use pricing, the manufacturer said, while also benefitting the environment.
"Peak electricity demand drives disproportionately higher energy costs," said Mike Todman, president of Whirlpool North America. "If the differences between peak and off-peak energy costs are passed along to consumers, then Whirlpool believes there are great opportunities for home appliances to shift energy consumption outside of peak hours without forcing consumers to compromise on performance."
Whirlpool, which created and holds key patents for the sensor technology, conducted a smart-grid pilot program three years ago in the Pacific Northwest using 150 Smart Energy dryers. According to Whirlpool technology VP Hank Marcy, power demand by the "intelligent" dryers was reduced by 95 percent with little to no impact for consumers.
Whirlpool further plans to make all of its electronically controlled appliances capable of receiving and responding to signals from the smart grid by 2015. But it said its global commitment is dependent on the development of an open, worldwide standard for signal transmission by the end of 2010, and the creation of appropriate policies that reward consumers, manufacturers and utilities for using these new peak demand reduction capabilities.
Whirlpool calculated that the deployment of 1 million smart grid-compatible dryers could shift the equivalent energy of 10 coal fired, 500-megawatt power plants, and will increase the value of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, which are inherently variable due to weather.
When wind- and solar-generated power availability is reduced, smart appliances will allow for the temporary reduction of energy consumption, helping to ensure reliable performance by the electrical grid even during periods of peak demand, the company said.