SPARK Project #1, Post#1

Computers & Mobile Technology

Whenever I start a new project, I find it helpful to define several key items. These typically involve defining what the customer requirements are, and what tools are available to meet those requirements.

The customer for this project is a friend who recently converted a shuttered electronics supply warehouse into an 8000 square foot mixed-used building. The first floor office is designed to be net-zero office space, making it Rhode Island’s first and only net-zero facility. Yes, I do live in a small state. Fortunately, that provides me access to a unique building and its owner for this project. More details about the building can be found here.

You’ll notice that I said “designed to be net-zero.” A claim is only as good as the data that backs it up, and obviously claiming net-zero is only possible if you can show that the office tenants use less energy than on-site renewable generation provides. This provides our primary customer requirement: I must continuously track and display energy generation and usage. I also want the ability to display this information in real-time, or to display historical trends based on stored data.

Electricity for this building is generated by a photovoltaic array, and solar thermal devices provide hot water for building heat and domestic hot water. There is a backup high-efficiency gas boiler in case of an unusually long and rainy winter (which occasionally happens in Rhode Island). These are the energy sources I want to measure. I also want to know what environmental forces were driving energy usage. This requires measuring temperature and humidity, both inside and outside the building, and possibly measuring wind as well. Since this building is grid-tied, it is possible for the office tenants to use more electricity than is generated. I would like to measure power at each outlet, but I’ll settle for a single point of measurement.

For additional details on the plans for this project, see my complete posting on the SPARK Project blog.

Sponsored projects series with Windows Embedded CE

This SPARK Your Imagination Make: Windows Embedded project series is sponsored by Microsoft Corporation.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Kipp Bradford is a technology consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for making things. He is the Senior Design Engineer and Lecturer in Engineering at Brown University, where he teaches several engineering design and entrepreneurship courses. Kipp is also on the Technical Advisory Board for Make Magazine.

View more articles by Kipp Bradford