Walmart Nets Millions from DR, Automated Shopping by Sunlight

Smart Grid Today / Published 2011 / By Karen Haywood Queen

Smart Grid WalmartWalmart shoppers likely will not even notice when the air-conditioning setting at their local store bumps up 4° to 78° for several hours during peak demand periods this summer. But when a company as big as Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, takes action,the reduction in demand across the grid is significant.

Walmart has DR programs in place at 1,300-1,400 of its 4,400 US stores, Jim Stanway, the giant retailer’s senior director of global energy services, told us Monday. “Per store, we can briefly put 300-400 KW back onto the grid [by decreasing usage] when we go to demand response,” Stanway said. If each store hit even one DR period in the same week, the reduction in demand across the country would be as high as 470,000 KW for that week.

For the past four or five years, the retailer has been part of DR programs with utilities across the country, he said. The system works by linking a real-time energy data system to each store’s building controls. Most of the temperature adjustments are automatic.

Customers likely do not notice the change because it takes a few hours for the temperature to increase when the setting is changed. By then, the DR period is usually over, Stanway said.

The retailer has been working to reduce its carbon footprint and bolster its green credentials through energy-saving measures and the use of alternative energy such as thin-film solar. But the main impetus for participating in such programs is to save money. Walmart declined to release its savings.

The company has real-time energy- use systems in 1,500 stores, Stanway said. “That gives us electricity consumption at the main meter and sub-circuit levels in mostly 15-minute increments and some three-minute increments,” he said.

The real-time energy data also is useful for studying the impact of Walmart’s energy-efficiency measures, Stanway said. “When we do a lighting retrofit, we can use the real-time data to study energy consumption before and after, to make sure [that] installations were done properly and [that] we get a good return on investment.”

Walmart has what it calls a daylight- harvesting program at its stores built since 1996, Stanway said. Between 2,500 and 3,000 stores have the system, which includes skylights and sensors to detect the amount of sunlight.

“Whenit’sanice,sunnyday,thesensors in the store detect the amount of sunlight and feed that data through our control system. It dims the lights,” Stanway said. “If it’s bright enough outside, the lights will actually go off. If a cloud drifts over halfway through the day, the system will adjust and the lights will start coming back on. The way it’s designed, it’s a gradual change and invisible to the customer.”

Initially the challenges included a delay of up to 15 minutes for the lights to react to the sunlight sensors,Stanway said. “Now we’re down to a few seconds,” he said. The system is made by Novar, which has a Walmart support center in Bentonville, Ark, the retailer’s headquarters.

Daylight harvesting can save up to 75% of the electric-lighting energy used by a Walmart store during daylight hours, he said. Walmart declined to disclose the cost of the system or the payback time, but each system can save an average of 800,000 KWH/year, Stanway said. At 10¢/KWH, that is $80,000/year per store. With daylight-harvesting systems in 2,500 stores — the low end of the company’s estimate of how many stores have the system — that is a companywide savings of up to $200 million/year.

Walmart also has centralized monitoring of energy use in each store, with alerts when use rises beyond normal limits. Issues that might warrant an alarm include a refrigerator case left open, Stanway said. “The system issues alarms when something is outside parameters,” he said. “Some things can be adjusted and corrected remotely.” If it cannot be fixed remotely, a technician is sent to fix it.

“Walmart’s leadership is important — they’re demonstrating that energy management is cost effective,” Miriam Horn, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) smart grid initiative, told us yesterday. “Walmart got ahead of the rest of the world because they put in a lot of advanced energy-management technology. Having Walmart show the way has been really important.” The EDF has a presence in Bentonville to work more closely with the retailer, she said.

Walmart is participating in DR programs in at least 10 states, Horn said. The company has also installed advanced meters in some stores at its own expense. “They make the important point that for this to work for anybody, they have to have the data and pricing information,” she said.

Having the right incentives make a key difference, too. “In our conversations with Walmart, they’ve made the point that they’re rolling out the technology where the return on investment is best,” Horn said. “They do have a business case for making these investments. They have a plan to keep expanding. In each case, it depends on the policies at the utility, state and ISO level to determine whether there’s a business case for Walmart to do it.”

Revere Security Cryptographers Build on German Enigma Code

Smart Grid Today / Published 2011 / By Karen Haywood Queen

Smart Grid EnigmaCryptographers at Revere Security in Dallas have developed a cost-effective algorithm that is smart enough, short enough and fast enough to protect smart meters from hackers and terrorists, CEO Rich Stephenson told us recently. The firm devised the algorithm, called Hummingbird, in part by using simple but highly effective algebra.

The next hurdle will be persuading utilities to adopt the new encryption technology, said Chris Hanebeck, Revere’s VP of product marketing. Because the approach to encryption is so different from current systems, and utilities do not like to be the first to spend cash on new technology, “everyone is racing to be second,” he said.

Revere founder Eric Smith and two fellow researchers began working on cryptography about 10 years ago, backed by a few small investors, Stephenson said. Smith’s group started on the technology that would become Hummingbird in 2005, with funding from the Department of Homeland Security. Revere raised VC and incorporated in 2008. It now has 14 employees.

A key addition was Whitfield Diffie, best known for the invention of public key cryptography. Diffie, former chief security officer for Sun Microsystems, joined Revere Security in 2009. “He’s definitely a rock star in the small community of cryptographers,” Stephenson said. “He brought different ways of looking at Hummingbird to the company.”

For smart meters, the challenge is to fit in the encryption without overwhelming the meters’ primary function, Mitchell Thornton, professor of computer science and engineering at Southern Methodist University, told us. SMU is performing independent tests of Hummingbird for Revere.

Instead of adapting existing encryption technology designed for computers, Hummingbird was developed specifically for small, resource-constrained devices like smart meters, sensors and smart cards, Stephenson said.

Code designed for computers uses complex differential calculus and modal math. But resource-constrained devices don’t have the computational capabilities, memory or power supply to support such advanced math. Revere researchers have found a way to make algebra do the job using what are called fixed numbers, say 2.8, as opposed to floating numbers, such as 2.8 x 10 to the 32nd power, Thornton said.

Hummingbird’s algorithm is so efficient in terms of power use, memory and speed that it can run on an 8- or 16-bit microprocessor, Revere said. Similar software used in Itron Open Way smart meters uses more complex math and requires a 32-bit microprocessor, Stephenson said. “With Hummingbird being as small as it is, we can go back and retrofit existing smart meters that have been deployed,” Stephenson said.

That is a key issue, since many security experts have argued that current smart meters are not protected from hackers and terrorists. A skilled attacker could, Thornton said, turn off power to one home or an entire area and demand ransom; program smart meters to shave 10% off a customer’s usage; overload relay switches and cause fires in specific cases; or even shut down the grid in an entire nation.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: In public forums, you hear a lot of utilities saying: “We’ve got it covered. Security is not an issue.” What you hear in private is different. – Chris Hanebeck, Revere’s VP of product marketing

Revere is testing whether it is best to employ Hummingbird as hardware, software or a combination of the two, said Thornton, the SMU professor.

German code helped

Hummingbird’s design was inspired by the German Enigma code machine, which used rotors to encode messages before and during World War II. Computer encryption by necessity uses complex math. Smith improved on the Enigma concept using four simulated rotors instead of three real ones, allowing for the rotors to run in random instead of sequential order and creating a code that is harder to break. One of Diffie’s key contributions was much-simplified math, Stephenson said.

“Just because it’s based on Enigma doesn’t mean it’s only as good as Enigma,” Thornton said. Polish code breakers cracked Enigma just before World War II. “Using the principles of Enigma, Hummingbird is able to perform stronger encryptions than an Enigma machine. We can make the rotors go forward or backward. We can scale it up.”

SMU has been testing smart grid-related security for several years. “We have contracts with big, three-letter government agencies as well as small commercial concerns,” Thornton said. SMU researchers began testing Hummingbird four months ago and plan to continue tests for six months.

“So far I have not found a case where Hummingbird isn’t as good as or better than standard encryption,” Thornton said. “And I have reason to believe it’s going to be equivalent to or better than other standard encryption methods, but I haven’t fully verified it yet.”

Market yet to come

Revere is expected to turn its first profit this year, but not principally because of Hummingbird, said CEO Stephenso. The firm is splitting its focus evenly between Hummingbird and similar technology to protect RFIDs, for which there is a more ready market, he said. “They’re essentially fancy barcodes, and companies such as Wal-Mart use them to track containers,” he said.

Revere will be ready to support Hummingbird later, when utilities start adopting it, Stephenson said. “We’re just now getting into the [utilities] market. The biggest obstacle is that Hummingbird is not considered one of the standard algorithms.”

The Sanderling Pampers All The Senses

Hampton Roads Magazine / By Karen Haywood Queen

The Sanderling

Just driving up to the inviting cedar-shingled buildings of The Sanderling Inn on a sunny day in the off-season lowered my blood pressure. Down the hall, our room offered a loft, a bottle of Merlot for sipping, and a small kitchen just in case we tired of the dining possibilities on site.

Strolling around the grounds, I envisioned a massage in the outdoor gazebo, dipped my toe into the hot tub, and inhaled the scent of flowers. Back inside, we admired the sculptures of Grainger McKoy, Trailer McQuilken, and Gunter Granger and the National Audubon Society prints of birds. We lingered in a wood-paneled reading room where a fire burned brightly and hot tea, scones and three kinds of cookies and scones were laid out for afternoon tea. Good weather or bad, in season or out, this was a place to feel pampered.

But the beach beckoned on this unseasonably warm spring day. I grabbed a beach chair and my book and chose a spot on the nearly deserted sand. The water was calm but in the low 40s – too cold for swimming.

Spring is great, but visit again in the fall, invited Sanderling general manager Scott Brewton. Skies are still brilliant blue, the air is warm, the water is much warmer, the shops have started their sales and the tourists aren’t as thick as in the middle of the summer. But the chocolate chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies still await, along with the tea and scones.

“The weather is simply better in the fall,” Brewton says. “It’s that whole Indian summer thing. I personally was swimming in the ocean last October. It hasn’t cooled off yet.”

In the spring and fall, golfers enjoy lower rates and less crowded courses. The fish are still biting. Shoppers can hit the sales.

If it’s nature you want, it’s right here. Jog through the adjacent Audubon Society’s Pine Island Wildlife Sanctuary. While dining in the Left Bank restaurant, gaze out the windows at the herons, foxes and deer.

“To me, the typical profile of an Outer Banks guest is one who does enjoy the outdoors,” Brewton says. “The beauty of it is, everyone who comes here comes to be one with nature. But everyone has his or her own definition of being with nature. For some, it’s swimming in the ocean. For others, it’s kayaking. For some, it’s sitting in a beach chair reading a book. You can get an outdoor massage in the gazebo. I’m somewhat amused by the constant bragging rights of hotel chains about high speed Internet. I’ve been here almost eight months and I’ve never seen it on a comment card that we need faster Internet. We have the ability for guests to plug in their laptops. But people come here to unplug. It will all be there when you get back.”

My laptop was miles away. When the sun began to dip behind the dunes, it was time to work off the scones and cookies to make room for a gourmet meal. Watching the sun set over the Currituck Sound made the treadmill miles fly by in the well-equipped fitness center. The center offers weight machines, free weights, treadmills and bikes. Swimmers can get their laps in an indoor pool, no matter the weather, then relax in the whirlpool and gaze at the sound.

Diners may want to plan their meal to watch the sun set from The Left Bank restaurant. Be aware that this is a place where one Dresses for Dinner. Jackets are available for men who don’t have them. Other less formal dining options include The Lifesaving Station Restaurant and the Swan Bar and Lounge.

At The Left Bank, we chose a three-course meal – those with heartier appetites can choose five courses. After agonizing over the many choices, I opted for a beef carpaccio with shaved pecorino toscano, petite red oak and toasted brioche with a sherry vinaigrette. My companion chose seared Hudson Valley foie gras with warm banana nut bread, caramelized bananas and a mango lime relish. We savored each taste, eyes closed in ecstasy. For the second course, the slow roasted salmon with baby leeks, warm Yukon gold potatoes, grain mustard vinaigrette and greens topped my high expectations. My friend tried the venison loin wrapped in smoked bacon with sweet potatoes, porcini mushrooms and roasted shallots. Each bite brought a smile of pleasure. To finish the meal, we chose a molten chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce – a perfect coda to a symphony of fine taste.

After such an evening meal, many guests wouldn’t be up for the challenge of a big breakfast. We couldn’t resist the complimentary bakery basket with muffins, bagels, fresh fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice, spring water in a signature Sanderling bottle, trail mix and more – our incentive to rise and shine. Those who want something more or different can order a room service breakfast or dine in the restaurant.

More pampering awaits guests in the spa. A therapeutic massage will ease away any aches and pains still remaining. For something different, try a Scentao Massage or Sea Stone massage, both of which use warm, smooth sea stones.

I couldn’t resist those warm stones. They glided over my body or rested on my back, arms and legs while the therapist’s hands melted away more tension. Many people are so relaxed they fall asleep but stay awake if you can to savor the experience.

Afterward, a sugar scrub softened and polished my skin. A European facial cleaned and freshened my face. That combined with a replenishing, peach-colored masque took off a few years. A touch of foot reflexology – applying pressure to certain points on the feet that correspond to certain organs – relaxed me further.

Too soon, it was time to leave. I filled my Sanderling water bottle to the top and even now, just a sip brings back the memories of pampering and pleasure.

Icing on the Cake

Icing on the Cake

Better Homes and Gardens / Published 2007 / By Karen Haywood Queen

Everybody wants to turn out a masterpiece, but family time together is what counts. Wonky walls and sagging roofs are
opportunities to learn and laugh—and often lay the foundation for the fondest family memories. “It doesn’t have to be art,” says Aaron Morgan, executive pastry chef at The Grove Park Inn resort and spa in Asheville, North Carolina. “Just have some fun and let everyone express themselves. Hey, it’s gingerbread. If you make a mistake, you can eat it.”

Plan Your Attack Kids’ attention spans being what they are this time of year, gingerbread house making offers some built-in breaks. Try mixing dough, cutting out pieces, and baking the first day. Assemble the house and set aside to dry the next day. Save the best part— decorating—for last.

Color Up Your Icing Homemade royal icing, a mixture of egg whites and powdered sugar or meringue powder, is strong and works like mortar to hold your house together. Divide icing amounts into smaller portions according to how many colors you’d like to use. Use paste coloring instead of liquid so consistency won’t change.

Build The Walls Assemble your house on a tray, cutting board, or platter. Apply icing like caulk to a house end and a house side. Repeat with remaining house side and house end. Let the icing dry a couple of hours before putting the roof on. Use soup cans or coffee mugs to support the walls while icing dries. Tip: Wrap damp paper towels around the tips of your icing bags so they won’t clog during lulls.

Attach The Roof Attach eaves with icing and secure with pins. Let dry thoroughly. Remove pins.

Bring Out The Goodies “Think of candies as building materials instead of something you eat,” Morgan says. Wafers, mints, and licorice buttons are popular roofing and siding choices, as is shredded wheat. Turn pretzel sticks into rustic fences and upturned ice cream cones into snow-covered pines. “Don’t put the icing on the candy itself,” advises Anita Snyder, co-owner of The Gingerbread Factory in Leavenworth, Washington. “Put it on the house where you want to place the candy, then place the candy. It tends not to get as messy that way.”

The Kits Are OK You can buy inexpensive packaged dough mixes or pre-baked kits that let you skip right to assembly and decorating. A few sources we like:

  • gingerbreadfactory.com
  • kingarthurflour.com
  • elegantgourmet.com.

Have on Hand In addition to basic baking ingredients and cookware, here are other things you’ll want to have on hand:

  • Food coloring pastes.
  • Frosting bags (or plastic storage bags with a corner cut off).
  • Newspapers to cover tables and floors.
  • Soup cans, jars, or coffee mugs to support walls while icing dries.
  • Straight pins to hold roof in place while icing dries.