This is a project to develop and build open source energy monitoring, control and analysis tools for energy efficiency and distributed renewable generation.
These technologies are at the heart of sustainable energy systems, monitoring and controlling how energy flows between the various parts of the system. These tasks can be achieved using a low cost, modular, open source microcontroller system known as an Arduino, powerful and flexible enough to form the basis of a wide range of systems.
PV installation monitors, solar hot water controllers, household energy monitors etc, can be assembled from a selection of modules linked together with an Arduino and configured using simple to use software libraries.
The diagram below gives an overview of how these applications can fit together:
The potential advantage of a modular system is that it allows users to customize their energy systems. For example dynamically linking a variety of energy sources with their demand enabling all sorts of interesting increases in functionality while also economizing on parts. The diagram below is how we see this working:
Sensing energy in external environment
Analysis and visualisation of energy over periods of time to increase our understanding of energy flow
Actuators respond to environment and also act as inputs via feedback loop
Remote interaction also possible via internet or wireless links
Software in micro-controller allows a wide range of adaptability in behaviour
- Open source hardware and software allows changes to be made easily without the reliance on closed proprietory systems. This allows maintainability and flexible integration in the long term.
This project is an open source project. Following the principles of the Free Software Movement the software source code and hardware designs are available at no cost to everyone under the GNU General Public License. This makes it possible to do more than just use the technology; you can learn how it works from the physics of AC and DC electricity to electronic circuit design and software programming. You can build it yourself (and with others) and modify it to your needs. You can take part and benefit from a collaborative effort to develop and improve it. If it breaks you can learn how to repair it and when it comes to the end of its useful life it is easier to take apart so that different components and materials can be recycled in to new technologies.
At the heart of every commercially existing electricity monitor, central heating controller, solar water controller, wind and PV monitor is a proprietary microcontroller system and closed protocols. Replacing this with open source hardware, software, firmware and communications protocols leads to a more integrated system that ultimately yields significant overall benefits to the user in terms of convenience, usability and maintainability. Read more..
As part of this project we would like to explore and work towards the potential of local manufacturing (often called decentralized manufacturing or desktop fabrication) The idea of being able to make the things we want and need either in our own homes or in labs/workshops and small businesses in our local communities. To learn more have a look at the following projects that are working on the idea: RepRap the project to build an open source 3D printer and MIT FabLab’s; 100kgarages; a book by Kevin Carson and more resources on p2pfoundation manufacturing page. Read more...
Please feel free to join in and share your thoughts and ideas on this project. The scope for developing new applications and real world case studies/installations is limitless; posting your findings here is most welcome in this collaborative project. Hope to hear from you soon!