How AI devices will tackle load shedding, the comeback load solution

A major consequence of load shedding is when power returns to not only switch most electrical appliances on but also the harsh reality of a surge of power that at times has unintended negative effects on household appliances.

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We refer to the amount of electricity returning when households are powered back on which unintentionally affects geysers due to the surge in returned current.

This is known as the comeback load, and we appreciated CEO of Pletify, Jon Kornik’s explanation, and solution to the challenge.

He details how one of the unintended consequences of load shedding is when the power is turned back on in an area, and has most geysers turned back on, working hard to reheat water that had cooled.

This leads to more power used to reheat water that had cooled and translates to a sudden surge in power demand.

“This is called ‘comeback load’, and a new study shows that this phenomenon pushes up maximum geyser energy consumption across some areas by 90%. Considering that geysers are responsible for approximately half of household electricity use, this creates havoc for local municipalities and the grid operator, and impacts consumers as well.”

Comeback power loads increase electricity costs and this means power cuts do translate to higher household energy bills.

Not only are comeback electrical loads damaging cumulatively, but they do contribute to some long term electrical issues in the future.

As many municipalities grapple with the problem of which areas to switch back on first, as there are often complaints about inequity and unfairness due to some town power being switched on up to two hours after the first due to technicians traveling to substations to manually turn the power back on, it’s clear that a clear solution to this challenge is necessary.

A recently concluded pilot project showed that there is a better way to deal with this problem, Kornik says.

“Under Project Smart Geyser, a 30-month-long study, Plentify partnered with the City of Cape Town, Hessequa Local Municipality, residential estates and retirement villages to gauge what impact artificial intelligence-enabled geyser-management devices would have on curbing comeback load and trimming household energy bills.”

“We installed 500 of these devices, called HotBots, in households around the municipalities and in multi-family properties. They were coordinated in such a way that the geysers drew power at slightly different times from one another, only turning on those geysers that actually needed to serve hot water, and avoided using energy at the worst times for the grid. This was done only to the extent that homes still had a reliable supply of hot water.

The devices reduced each geyser’s electricity use during peak periods by up to 80%, and cut maximum demand at any point in time across the entire fleet of water heaters by up to 60%.

This slashed demand charges roughly in half, and yielded substantial energy cost savings for participating households while ensuring that all participants still had hot water when they wanted it.

The project also demonstrated how these devices, when coordinated, can prevent damage to distribution infrastructure and defer the need for major investments in substations and transformers.

The solution helps to address the cost of living crisis by improving each geyser’s overall energy efficiency by up to 24%, simply by switching them off when they do not need to be consuming electricity.

Also read: Run a country with simulator game Point of Order featuring Zapiro

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