Good to see local T.O. company Regen Energy getting traction in the market for its energy management devices, which use “swarm logic” to coordinate when flexible building loads turn on and off. HVAC giant Carrier has agreed to offer Regen’s product through its global distribution network, giving the technology greater exposure to commercial and industrial customers. Tim Angus, president and CEO of Regen, said the deal is proof that the technology is gaining an industry foothold. Fact is, more commercial and industrial customers are looking for inexpensive ways of achieving dynamic load control, including participation in demand-response programs. Regen’s decentralized approach to load management is truly unique. (For more info on Regen’s tech, check here and here and here).
Toronto-based REGEN Energy, which I’ve written about several times on this blog, has raised $5.5 million from NGEN Partners and BDC Venture Capital. The money will be used to expand the North American marketing efforts of the company’s EnviroGrid product, which is a swarm logic platform that can be used to manage the energy demand of equipment in commercial and industrial facilities. Instead of controlling equipment through a centralized command-and-control model, REGEN can attach its EnviroGrid devices to individual pieces of equipment, which function as part of a cooperative decentralized system. The devices, in essence, “talk” to each other like bees in a hive, hence the term “swarm logic”. This decentralized model is less costly and just as — if not more — effective than centralized approaches. This is a classic example of biomimicry, in and fact I mention REGEN’s work in the biomimicry chapter of my new book Mad Like Tesla.
“This is an exciting time for REGEN as we receive follow-on orders from large corporate accounts. We’re excited to increase our channel partners’ revenues by delivering further value-added services to their customers,” said REGEN CEO Tim Angus. The company has had several successful pilot projects with utilities and is now focusing its efforts on the U.S. market, particularly California, where the company just opened up an office. It also has its eyes on the Northeast U.S., where there are plenty of demand-reduction and incentive programs that make this technology an attractive option.
I mentioned back in July that Regen Energy of Toronto was in talks with a California utility about testing its “swarm logic” technology for the managing of electric-car charging loads on the local grid. At the DistribuTECH conference in San Diego the company announced the utility as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which has an ongoing Smart Grid EV integration prjoect funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Regen says California utilities have serious concerns about the potential for rapid deployment of EVs to overwhelm their local distribution assets, largely because city’s such as Los Angeles are likely to have relatively higher concentrations of EV owners. That is, green-minded California consumers tend to be early adopters of these technologies.
“Our EnviroGrid technology platform has been proven widely for commercial HVAC demand management and demand response applications,” according to Regen chief executive Tim Angus. “HVAC often represents 60 per cent of total building load, however the emerging adoption of EVs will quickly place significant stress on the grid both from a building and city level.”
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.