Nov 13, 2013

Solutions for a Better Future / Feature Story

Products & Solutions

High Technology and History Meet in Tomorrow Street

Hello, this is Cameron, a native of Auckland and Panasonic’s reporter on the scene. Genesis Energy’s Tomorrow Street was launched in June 2012, renovated part of the old North Shore of Auckland, New Zealand into a smart town. Initiated as a test case by local power company Genesis Energy, the project lets participating families track and control their electricity consumption through smart monitoring technology and energy-efficient products. Panasonic and other technology companies helped bring the concept to reality with the assistance of 15 participating families. Today, I visit the home of one of the Genesis Energy Tomorrow Street  families, the Claytons.

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Old villas renovated with do-it-yourself pride

New Zealand was founded about 160 years ago by immigrants from the U.K. As residents of an island nation 3,000km away from neighboring Australia, New Zealanders developed a do-it-yourself (DIY) attitude toward fixing things that break and renovating homes. Many residents purchase old wooden houses with small yards and reform them on the weekends with their own hands to suit their preference. This is a classic Kiwi (New Zealander) approach to life.

The Claytons, together with their two young children, gave me a very warm welcome when I arrived at their classic Kiwi villa-style home, which was built in 1904. They showed me around so we could see how they live, use the latest technologies and protect their old home.

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    This Row of Old North Shore Homes has been Lovingly Renovated and Does not Look 100 Years Old. It’s Easy to See Why the Homes are So Cherished.
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    The Claytons’ Home was Reborn as a Smart House but Retains Its Classic Style.
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    Even on Cloudy Days, The Roof-Mounted Solar Panels Generate about 50% of The Electricity The Family Consumes.

Solar panels power the entire home

When the opportunity arose to participate in Genesis Energy’s Tomorrow Street project, the first thing that caught the Claytons’ attention was the Panasonic solar panels. Auckland offers fewer hours of sunshine than the Gold Coast in Australia, where they previously lived. But the panels on their roof generate 12.5kwh of clean energy when the weather is nice. The Clayton’s say this is 1.5x the average amount of electricity they consume every day. “Knowing the panels generate enough electricity on sunny days to power our refrigerator, other home appliances and DIY power tools makes us happy indeed,” says Mr. Clayton.

Eco-friendly appliances for a busy family

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    The Display Panel on the Refrigerator Door Helps Mrs. Clayton Keep Track of Power Consumption.

Electricity generated by the solar panels is efficiently used within the Claytons’ home. Their Panasonic Econavi refrigerator, for example, is extremely energy efficient even though it is used with barely a break between breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. Using sensors that track temperatures and light levels in the room, the refrigerator monitors family activity patterns, determines the most likely hours of usage, and automatically fine-tunes power consumption to efficiently meet demand. Mr. Clayton keeps close track of the home’s power consumption and says the Econavi refrigerator “has twice the space of our old fridge but uses half the power, and you can’t complain about that”. His wife has also noticed that vegetables stay fresher and crisper than in their previous refrigerator. They are both extremely pleased with its user-friendliness and performance.

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    The Econavi Washing Machine Can Automatically Run at Night When Power Rates are Low. 

The washing machine in the laundry room is another appliance used on a daily basis. Econavi sensors within the washer automatically determine the optimal amount of water and washing time. Furthermore, the family sets the timer to wash at night when electricity rates are low to achieve even greater cost efficiency. This feature makes a big difference for the family, whose growing children create big loads of laundry.

Nurturing awareness and daily energy savings

An on-line service provided by Genesis Energy enables easy monitoring of the energy efficiency of one’s home. It clarifies the relationship between daily activities and electricity usage to encourage more energy-efficient behavior. According to the Claytons, the main benefit they have gained through their involvement in Genesis Energy’s Tomorrow Smart project is a better understanding of energy consumption and environmental issues. “It’s all about taking a more eco-friendly stance,” says Mr. Clayton. Smart systems and appliances that enable monitoring of energy use not only encourage energy savings, but also help children learn about wider environmental issues.

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    One’s Electricity Usage Can be Checked Every Day On-Line.
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    By Living in A Smart House, The Children are Gaining Awareness of Energy Efficiency.
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    The DIY Spirit and High Technology Combine to Create a Very Cozy Smart House.
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    Money Saved by The Solar Panels and Energy-Efficient Appliances Will be Used to Expand The Backyard Deck.

Through participation in Genesis Energy’s Tomorrow Street project, the use of Panasonic smart home appliances and daily monitoring of power consumption via Genesis Energy’s system, the Clayton family has greatly reduced its electricity bills. How does the family use the extra savings? Mr. Clayton says, “We can pay off more of the mortgage and make the house a better home by expanding the living room, extending the backyard deck and enjoying BBQs in real Kiwi style”. New technology nicely blends with the Kiwi DIY style, suggesting that New Zealanders have much to look forward to.

Similar smart town projects are underway in other nations as well, including the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town project in Japan, with Panasonic as a partner, and the Dalian BEST-CITY project in China. These projects raise awareness of environmental issues and help people live more energy efficiently, contributing to a better world.

(Written by Cameron)

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