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Agriculture may not be the first industry that comes to mind when you think about smart energy systems, but farming sure uses a lot of electricity — most of it to move water. And agriculture looks like it will be an area of growth for demand response heavyweight EnerNOC (s ENOC), which announced on Wednesday that it is buying M2M Communications, a Boise, Idaho-based company that turns down pumps and irrigation systems to save energy for farmers and utilities, for an undisclosed sum.
Getting into farms is an interesting move for EnerNOC, a leader in U.S. demand response with about 5,100 MW under management. That’s mostly at factories, commercial buildings and other big power users, which is similar to the profiles of other big demand response programs run by utilities and by companies like Comverge (s COMV) and Constellation Energy (s CEG).
M2M, for its part, has deployed communications and control technology to manage hundreds of megawatts of power used by water pumps, center-pivot irrigation rigs and other farm and food processing equipment. It has big contracts with Northwest utilities PacificCorp and Idaho Power and Kansas utility Midwest Energy, and won a $2.2 million Department of Energy smart grid stimulus grant for an irrigation power management project in California’s Central Valley.
That adds up to what’s likely the largest single block of agriculture-related power use under demand response management in the U.S. today. But EnerNOC CEO Tim Healy sees a lot more potential demand response capacity in the ag sector: “We see that agricultural facilities probably represent 10,000 megawatts of untapped potential right now,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.
Opportunities also will lie in adapting M2M’s automation technology for other settings, Healy said. Buying and adapting technologies from acquisitions has certainly been a key strategy for EnerNOC. The Boston-based company has bought a half-dozen startups over the past few years, adding energy procurement, building energy management, carbon reporting and wireless sensor and control networks to its portfolio.
EnerNOC’s most recent acquisition, of Global Energy Partners, expanded its West Coast presence and gave it leverage in the deployment of Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR), an emerging automation technology, in the California market. While the company hasn’t disclosed how much it’s paid for most of the companies it has acquired, it did say that the M2M purchase would likely be “neutral to dilutive” to the company’s financial standing this year but would add to the company’s revenues in 2012.
For more research on demand response and the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
- Demand Response as the Back Door Smart Grid?
- An Open Source Smart Grid Primer
- Smart algorithms, the future of the energy industry
Image courtesy of Djof via Creative Commons license.