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May 2, 2013

Google Hangout: A New Electricity Future


RMI is working to accelerate the transformation from an aging, centralized electricity system reliant on fossil fuels to one that is efficient and resilient, with renewable resources widely distributed into local communities rather than concentrated in big power plants.

Join us in support of eLab in the next 24 hours. In recognition of your support, Lena Hansen will send you personal quarterly updates via email to share details about eLab's progress. Don't miss out on this opportunity to hear firsthand how you and RMI are helping to drive this transformation in the electricity system.  

Image courtesy of shutterstock.com.


Showing 1-10 of 12 comments

May 2, 2013

What are leading DC power standards for picogrids? The "last 1000 ft"? Just as AC was divided into 110V or 240V standards, should DC also have 2 (no more, no less) standards? One for high-power devices and one for low power devices?

May 2, 2013

It seems to me a practical way is to set a goal/vision that by 2030 50 % of all the major building load (more than 2 MW), major industrial sites, small municipalities, all the campuses (including DOD facilities of more than 2MW) will be distributed. Studies indicates it is a doable goal. Benefits reliability, security, cost, better environment. Almost all the technologies will be available (2-20 MW storage, Demand Response 4 or 5th generation, advanced SCADA system, advance net metering

May 2, 2013

We must raise the top of mind awareness of the average citizen. There is so much misinformation that most people are forming opinions based on flawed information. Without local policy that begins to level the playing field with traditional energy generation nothing will happen.

May 2, 2013

I would like to support rmi by offering My patented design to promote alternative energy through the entertainment industry. Please google my name, Kirk Bowsrman or The Glass House Initiative for more information. All the besr, Kirk Bowerman.

May 2, 2013

What about the push now for Methane clathrate, also called methane hydrate, hydromethane, methane ice, fire ice, natural gas hydrate, or gas hydrate for fueling the next generation power plants? - Yet another delay in investments for renewables, and a continued push for petro-combustibles. As long as petro is cheaper, the general public is not ready to replace a cheaper source of energy for a more expensive, albeit cleaner one. How do we redirect resources into renewable, cleaner energy so that it also becomes affordable?

May 2, 2013

Please note David Crane (CEO RNG) is moving towards with the new vision of distributed generation. Countries like Germany are ahead of curve.

May 2, 2013

I supported! :-) Aren't the current "leaders" part of the problem? :-) A "volks-power' solution with just enough regulatory support to keep the old central-supplier model from taking over again would be the key to success.

May 2, 2013

An invitation to E-lab:

I work for the World Bank on small power producer regulations in Tanzania. Prior to this I was a writer with Home Power magazine. I'd like to share a vision of a the electric "grid of the future". Perhaps some hackers, artists, and "E-lab-orators" would be interested in building it. To many utility engineers, the greatest constraint to significant deployment of renewable energy is that these sources are, by and large, intermittent. Some people see this as a fatal flaw with renewables. I don't. The problem, I believe, is that in the past 100 years consumers have become very disconnected from where electricity actually comes from and the relative abundance of electricity in real time. Utilities have been able to oblige because storable, dispatchable fossil fuel powered electricity has been relatively cheap. But we could have a very different system in which nudges to consumers modulate demand in response to supply.

Folks living on 'home power' off-grid type systems in which their homes are powered by sun or windpower are used to the idea that sometimes there is an abundance of electricity, and other times it is in short supply. When power is abundant, you do things like your laundry, or fire up the electric oven for cooking. In times of scarcity, you're careful to turn out the lights. Sometimes you need to go turn on the diesel generator (noisy, smelly, expensive to operate).

Similarly, farmers harvest when the sun is shining. When it's rainy, they do other things.

Utilities, increasingly, face the same reality of temporal changes in electricity abundance. Sometimes electricity is abundant. It was particularly so in spring of 2011 in BPA territory when winds in the Columbia Gorge were gusting and the snowmelt was significant. The wholesale price of power in Spring 2011 at the transmission level actually dipped below zero at times. But as a retail customer using this electricity, I had no clue of the abundance at the time. My light switches were mute.

Other times electricity is scarce -- think a cold, still night in the Pacific Northwest when many folks' electric heaters are turned on, or a hot, breezeless day in California when air conditioners are cranking.

What if, in every home that volunteered to do so, a high-tech electricity display device communicated, in an artistic and playful way, what the state of abundance/scarcity was in the grid? I'm imagining a web-connected display kind of like an iPad with pictures or videos that have high artistic content. The whole package could be set up so that many people could contribute artistic imagery along a theme. To me, some artistic inspirations for this the Johnny Cash Project http://www.thejohnnycashproject.com/ where tens of thousands of ordinary people have created thousands of versions of a moving music video. (I'm not especially a Johnny Cash fan, but I love the massively collaborative art project embodied in the video). Another inspiration is the video game "Flower" in which you take control of the wind in Altamont Pass. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flower_(video_game)

This effort could be coupled with existing demand response programs that, for example, turn off people's water heaters in response to utility signals at times of peak load. And coupled with tariffs that encourage conservation in times of scarcity.

Users that were interested could, with a few taps, find out detailed real-time graphs of energy production and demand data, like this one maintained by BPA http://transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/wind/baltwg.aspx.

This technology, in the homes and businesses of the willing, is the keystone, I think, towards a move towards a power system that provides for our needs (in times of scarcity) and our wants (in times of abundance) and facilitates high penetrations of renewable energy with no need to invent utility-scale storage.

Up for the challenge? I think RMI / E-lab is uniquely qualified to take this on: (1) brilliant cultural creatives; (2) firmly grounded in power sector reality, with great connections to utilities; (3) fluent with necessary technologies; (4) has media channels in place to leverage scale-up.

May 6, 2013

In a DC building, the common standards are 12V for low voltage/low power applications and 380VDC for higher power systems. Of course, many of the electronic devices are using 5V internally - who knows whether we'll see 5V used as a bus voltage. We also will see whether there's an argument to be made for an intermediate standard voltage (like 50V), and whether the move to plug-in vehicles (generally 600V) will influence the ultimate standards.

May 8, 2013

Why not an AC + D c power transmission corridor?

Lower losses with AC modulation of DC.
Faster dynamic response by monitoring AC currents and phasors
This allows ajusting DC and AC %'s
Ac energy can be decoupled from DC with blocking cap and xfrm to local loads/sources. (solar farm sources excess capacity in the day local loads are sinks at night) main DC power content flows to long distant load.
Higher total power throughput for a given wire diameter. (transmission lines not needed to be upgraded just nodes)
PWM of DC can be filtered or modulated or both to accomodate ~constant loads. Each node can have both DC and AC coupling circuits to optimise to conditions.

switches must handle total AC + DC peak voltages applied
resonances can be harvested and moderated to maximize efficiency and protect end nodes from over voltages.

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