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Masdar City to test GE 'smart' appliances

Pilot program in Abu Dhabi's planned carbon-neutral city will test grid coordination with appliances to run nonessential functions during off-peak hours.

Abu Dhabi's planned green community, Masdar City, will be testing General Electric's smart appliances in a handful of residences and coordinating them with its power grid, GE said Monday.

GE's Consumer & Industrial division announced in October 2008 that it was developing home appliances that could ease the strain on electrical grids by coordinating with a grid's off-peak hours to perform flexible functions.

A refrigerator equipped with a "smart" meter, for example, communicates with the local power utility. That refrigerator then waits to run its automatic defrost cycle until it has received a signal from the electrical grid that it's an off-peak period.

A smart meter on a refrigerator at GE's labs. Martin LaMonica/CNET

Masdar City is under construction in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. It aims to be the first carbon-neutral and zero-waste city. It's also home to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The post-graduate research center, a collaborator with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, began offering courses and research facilities in alternative energy and sustainable technology for graduate students in September.

The two-year pilot project with GE appliances will include refrigerators, stoves, and European-style washer/dryer machines that run on 220volt/50HZ platforms and will be installed in 10 residences.

The installation, to be completed in early 2010, will include a communication system between the appliances and Masdar City's utility grid that will allow the appliances to transmit real-time data and run nonessential functions during off-peak usage hours. Since Masdar City is not scheduled to be fully inhabited until 2013, the city's grid will simulate peak usage strains in order to test the system.

Previously, GE began testing its smart appliances in select homes in Louisville, Ky., in conjunction with the Louisville Gas and Electric Company.