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In this paper, we consider distributed estimation of a noise-corrupted deterministic parameter in energy-constrained wireless sensor networks from energy-distortion perspective. Given a total energy budget allowable to be used by all sensors, there exists a tradeoff between the subset of active sensors and the energy used by each active sensor in order to minimize the estimation MSE. To determine the optimal quantization bit rate and transmission energy of each sensor, a concept of equivalent unit-energy MSE function is introduced. Based on this concept, an optimal energy-constrained distributed estimation algorithm for homogeneous sensor networks and a quasi-optimal energy-constrained distributed estimation algorithm for heterogeneous sensor networks are proposed. Moreover, the theoretical energy-distortion performance bound for distributed estimation is addressed and it is shown that the proposed algorithm is quasi-optimal within a factor 2 of the theoretical lower bound. Simulation results also show that the proposed method can achieve a significant reduction in the estimation MSE when compared with other uniform schemes. Finally, the proposed algorithm is easy to implement in a distributed manner and it adapts well to the dynamic sensor environments.