<p>Green tech was sprinkled in various places at CES, and there was an emphasis on how a smart home can bring energy savings. </p>
Greenwave Reality CEO Greg Memo shows off how a grid-aware home energy system can be controlled and monitored either from a smart phone, PC, or Sony TV. Devices are connected to a home network by using smart plugs, seen on left, and a smart meter. The company is testing its system with utilities in Europe.
LED bulbs, too, can be controlled from the Greenwave Reality application when equipped with a home networking radio. The company uses color-coded numbers on the bulbs and its software to make the interface easy for consumers. A person could, for example, put one set of lights on a schedule from the software.
NRG Energy, which owns utility Reliant Energy, showed off a smart, grid-aware home that included an electric vehicle and an in-home energy display, accessible from a TV, PC, or smart phone. Consumers can choose to have time-of-use rates where utility rates vary on the time of day. People can view energy information and schedule home usage with this under-development iPad application, a PC, or a smart phone.
Seen here are some of the components of Reliant Energy's "smart energy home." They include a home energy management application, accessible over the Internet. The application lets consumers track electricity usage and schedule the thermostat and when to run power-hungry jobs, such as charging an electric car and running big appliances.
Tablets were hot at this year's CES, and solar-bag maker Voltaic was on the case. It introduced a solar-powered bag designed for iPad-size tablets, which it plans to make available this spring for between $250 and $300. The 8-watt panels can charge the iPad in about six to seven hours in the sun. Inside the bag is a lithium ion battery to store the charge.
You don't need a smart meter if you want more information on your home electricity use. This set up from Freelux and FutureDash uses smart plugs and a Web application to let people control plugged-in devices and view power consumption. A kit with two smart plugs and a networking hub, which works with a few different protocols, costs $100.
Goal Zero introduced a combination solar charger pack and battery system at CES. It includes a 10-watt solar panel charger made of three small folding panels and a battery pack that uses rechargeable AA batteries for storage. The combined price is $140.
Fuel cells to charge small electronics continue to develop as a way to have a portable power source. Horizon Fuel Cell is now selling the MiniPak which can supply anything which needs up to two watts of power, such as a smart phone or digital music player. One of the cartridges, which hold hydrogen, is the equivalent of about ten AA batteries. The company is trying to bring down the cost of the cartridges, which it says can be recycled. It also includes a USB flashlight.
Appliances manufacturers already have touch-screen interfaces and are adding networking capabilities. This prototype Kenmore washer, expected in 2012 or 2013, will have a USB and memory card slot which will allow consumers to upgrade the appliance or have Kenmore provide remote diagnostics. If a consumer has variable utility rates and a smart meter, the washer can also communicate with the grid to operate at less expensive, off-peak times.
Soulra radios from Eton are equipped with solar panels to charge an iPod, which fits inside the case. The radios can also run off of an AC outlet. This week, the company also introduced hand-crank operated radios and lights designed for emergency situations or off-grid use. The hand-cranked equipment also comes with a USB port to charge a phone or other small gadgets.
Panasonic showed an entire line of home equipment geared toward energy efficiency and on-site power generation. It includes solar panels, home batteries made with lithium ion cells, a fuel cell for making electricity and heat for hot water, and a home energy management system accessible from a TV. Shown here are a concept electric vehicle charger and a number of the components.
Would you expect a consumer electronics company at CES to show off an air conditioner and park bench? As part of its environmental display, Toshiba showed LED bulbs, a home energy dashboard concept, and TVs and PCs that meet the EPEAT rating for environmentally aware electronics. The air conditioner, done with Carrier, uses a variable speed motor for greater efficiency. The park bench is made from recycled printer toner cartridges.
This display from Sharp exemplifies how energy efficiency, sort of like fuel economy in cars, has become an expected feature in consumer electronics. Experts say that efficiency on the individual appliance level continues but the improvements are less dramatic than in years past.
Small wind turbines aren't just for green building conferences anymore. Urban Green Energy showed off its Eddy turbine, which it says can generate about 1,500 kilowatt-hours per year in a place with good wind.
The big news in electric vehicles from CES was the unveiling of the electric Ford Focus. But there were a few other electric vehicles on display, including this Uno electric scooter from BPG Motors. The company plans to introduce this scooter, which can operate as a Segway-like unicycle, in about a year in the U.S.