18:00 PM

Perspective: Innovative Electricity

A few years ago, some mechanical engineering students built a shoe that used the energy produced when walking to power an LED light. Now, they’re using that kinetic energy to charge cell phones, smartwatches, GPS devices and other portable electronics asking users, “How much power will you make today?”

Obviously, you couldn’t walk long enough to run your air conditioner in August, but having a tool available that can charge your phone while you’re hiking might give you the boost you need to make an important phone call.

This month we’re spotlighting some of our own thoughtful engineers, charged with thinking innovatively about how to approach situations and seize opportunities that best benefit our members.

One area where our engineers are thinking ahead is a pilot program for a new electric water heater that works with our load management system. We’ve been using water heaters with our load management program for more than 20 years to reduce our peak demand and save members money. New Department of Energy regulations require any new electric water heater larger than 55 gallons to connect to a load management system. We see this as an area where we can assist our members as the inventory of large tanks are depleted. So we have 50 people testing a new water heater that ties into our grid which we can cycle off as needed when we reach peak demand.

We want to make sure if you need these appliances, we can offer them and support the technology. This program could not only reduce peak load and help avoid the need for additional electric generation, it could give you greater control over your appliance through mobile applications.

Another opportunity Jackson EMC’s engineers are developing is providing you with solar power. If you want to install solar energy at home, you can get assistance from engineers in planning, as well as loans and rebates to make it possible. But, roof-top solar panels don’t work for everyone, so through our partnership with Green Power EMC we’re investing in large-scale solar operations to benefit all of our members. Two large solar installations in Hazlehurst cover hundreds of acres and feed enough electricity onto the grid to power nearly 10,000 homes.

Through our Sun Power for Schools program, middle and high school students learn about energy conversion and study the real-time strength of solar power generation—I’m sure students are already thinking about how to build better solar arrays. I’m excited to think about the next generation of engineers and the innovation that they will bring.

Have an innovative idea? Send me an email to [email protected].