My Clean Break column today revisits Toronto-based Regen Energy, which I first wrote about a couple of years ago. The company has developed a wireless device that uses “swarm logic” to manage the operation of large energy-consuming appliances. Some energy management systems are based on a central control model that tells individual devices when to turn on and off. Swarm logic, on the other hand, relies on these individual devices to work it out themselves. This collective negotiation process achieves a superior outcome, and much cheaper than using a complex command-control system. Hell, it works for bees, right?
Regen has since realized that its devices could be ideal as a way to manage the charging of electric cars. The fear utilities have is that a number of people in a neighbourhood will plug in their cars at the same time and overwhelm a transformer, causing a community to brown out. Affluent communities in California, where homeowners are most likely to adopt the first generation of electric cars, are particularly vulnerable. Regen is in talks with one California utility and several engineering colleges to test out its swarm logic devices as part of a pilot project, to see how good the devices are at managing EV charging. I look forward to seeing the results.