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Think the most you’ll ever share with your neighbor is a cup of sugar? A new energy-distributing technology might make you think again.
By Wendy Lyons Sunshine


Imagine your green dream home: The lawn is irrigated with used bathwater, the appliances are energy misers, and thick insulation keeps the summer heat and winter cold safely outside. Maybe you even have a few solar panels on the roof to generate electricity while the sun is shining. Better still, behind the scenes, an energy-allotting gadget called a Qbox is saving you and your neighbors money by distributing stored energy as it’s needed.

Sound too good to be true? It won’t be for long. Qurrent Renewable Energy, a Dutch company, is fine-tuning its Qbox system to help residents and business owners spend less money on local energy production.

“If we can save money for people,” says Igor Kluin, the company’s founder and CEO, “more people will buy into their own local clean-power production.”

How does it work? Homes hooked up to a network use the energy they generate themselves before it gets transferred to a main grid, where it is transported to the nearest energy-needing consumer. The Qbox is responsible for allocating the supplies so that higher demands from one household can be satisfied with superfluous energy generated by another home. (Excesses could be the result of less usage or even the home’s location, e.g., if it’s in a particularly sunny or windy area.) With the help of a smart network, the Qbox can also determine when it’s most efficient to run certain appliances and schedule cycles accordingly. It can even optimize an entire community, ensuring that 50 pool pumps or 75 dishwashers don’t kick on at the same time and max out the system.

No matter the energy-generating platform -- be it solar panels and wind turbines or more conventional choices like natural gas and heat pumps-- Qbox can integrate them all, increasing efficiency and return on investment. The potential for energy conservation is so significant that Qurrent was awarded Europe’s 2007 Picnic Green Challenge for the most promising eco-conscious innovation.