The Green House People were out of town, so they let us be them for a few hours (deep apologies to the Pike Power Labbers for the uncontrolled and constant flatulence, but we had to remain in character...). This allowed us to tour the Pike Powers Lab during its grand opening celebration for program participants!
Pike Powers Lab is part of the Pecan Street Project which is part of the Pecan Street Research Institute. The vision of the institute is to "re-imagine Austin’s energy distribution system in a way that could support and accelerate the installation and management of smarter and cleaner electricity services." The purpose of the lab is to develop, test, and validate "consumer electronics and applications that incorporate metrology, building controls, solar PV, natural gas fuel cell, machine-to-machine, vehicle charging and disaggregation technologies." I had to look up the meaning of "metrology", which is simply the science of measurement (thought they has misspelled "meteorology"...). The Project also monitors energy usage at real homes around Austin (and now, I believe, Dallas). This real-time/real-people observation is important because it's the efficacy and efficiency of technology in the real world that really matters, and people can act and react in randomish ways to technology unrelated to lab assumptions.
Testing lab on the second floor.
The building is at the Mueller development (a redevelopment at the old airport) and is made up of labs that allow testing and monitoring of various devices, including solar cells. Given the number of water, drain, and dryer vents in the place, the place could serve as a laundromat if things don't work out. The building also receives and processes data from participants around town in electric usage studies (something the Green Housers [and us!] hope to get hooked into [someday...]).
Evidence of horrible experiments being conducted on Nests. It appears they've killed this one...
The building is rather gorgeous and includes a second-story deck with a canopy of solar cells (which caused the bride to swath her arms across the neighborhood and dream of rooftops covered in photovoltaics and caused me to question not pressing for a rooftop deck...). Michael Hsu was one of the architects and showed us the design of the lab structure way back when we were interviewing architects. I mentioned earlier that the building could be a laundromat if things didn't work out; in fact the place was designed to be converted into a house if need be at a later date (it would be a sweet sweet pad...).
I asked about water-usage monitoring and testing water-using products (something that's really needed in addition to power usage [and given the energy-water nexus and all...]), and the chief technical officer said that's something they're considering for later. It wasn't until later, while researching and writing this post, that I realized the Project is purely focused on energy. That's a shame because water usage and energy usage go hand in hand.
We'd love to be part of the program, so we're going to try to talk our way in. The Green House People talked their way in, although they don't have the equipment yet (the installers may be waiting for a windy day...). After our lingering visit, the Lab might want to install air quality equipment as well to test the efficacy of these.
More about the lab here!