“This is one of the few places where you can see a Chevrolet Volt traffic jam,” laughs Scott Hinson, the lab director for Pecan Street Inc., an alternative energy project in Austin, Texas.
More precisely, Pecan Street is part of the one square mile Mueller neighborhood in Austin, Texas that has become the heart of an ambitious project aimed at not only testing out alternative technologies – such as plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, as well as “smart grid” electric distribution – but also to run an incredibly detailed analysis of how effective such technologies really are at reducing energy consumption.
The project has drawn the support of not only General Motors but a wide range of utilities and high-tech firms, such as computer maker Dell and chipmaking giant Intel. The U.S. Department of Energy has so far kicked in $10.4 million, private partners another $14 million. But the critical piece of the puzzle has been getting local residents to sign up.
“The project is focused squarely on consumers, enlisting real people to gather data from these homes to help structure next generation energy systems,” Brewster McCracken, the project’s executive director, explained in a statement.