Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Smart Grid Technology’ Category

Microgrids and Utilities: Will they innovate?

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Will microgrids play a major part in the future of energy, as this article contends? If so, will utilities innovate to take advantage of the flexibilty and other advantages microgrids offer?

Many pieces will need to fall in to place, and there will need to be a microgrids starting point.

Digital Journal

 

 

 

 

 

 

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Feb. 14, 2014

The emergence of Microgrids for power generation could threaten the dominance of the age-old power distribution system in the U.S. Microgrids have evolved from simple power backup systems to small smart grids. The swift and cost effective installation of Micro grids could help distribute electricity among the masses. These rooftop solar systems meet the energy needs of the customers. In addition, the customers are allowed to sell excess power back to the utilities.

A report from American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that utilities need to spend $763 billion by 2040 to properly modernize and harden the existing grids against natural disasters. We believe that rather than going for a very costly maintenance, it will be economical to develop these Microgrids, which could lend support to the existing system.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1738880#ixzz2tpsdqryO

 

Read the entire article here.

Some Pros and Cons of Microgrids

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It’s a little surprising to me that the state of Connecticut is investing in microgrids, though I am happy to see it! I just heard that we lose 1% of GDP annually due to power outages, and not just major outages like those in Connecticut after Hurricane Sandy or in New Orleans after Katrina. Little bumps in power that happen day-to-day, even in grids as robust as in the urban U.S., are very costly to manufacturing, data centers, and other businesses.

Microgrids are able to stand alone in supplying power to a community, business or university campus, military base, island, hospital, etc. Often they are still tied into the grid, but want the back up supply in the case of a power interruption, whether momentary or lasting several days.

The most interest right now comes from islands that would like to add renewables to their grids, saving money over costly diesel generation, while also decreasing air pollution and GHG emissions. The US military is another early adopter, both at domestic bases so that they can operate in the case of an attack or a natural disaster, and at bases abroad where bringing in fuel costs money as well as way too many American lives. Convoys carrying fuel, food, and other supplies are common targets for attack.

The four main advantages for microgrids that I see, is that when they are designed and located properly, they are more reliable, less expensive, cleaner, and more receptive to innovation than current, traditional electricity grids, whether large or small.

A huge challenge for integrating newer energy resources is that our current grid infrastructure is so big that we simply cannot change it, both due to technical difficulties and because of the cost of changing out such large systems. In addition to being smaller, microgrids are designed to integrate multiple sources of energy. With the number of emerging technologies in energy today, this adaptability is yet another huge benefit of microgrids.

Forbes

 

 

 

 

 

David Ferris, Contributor

7/31/2013 @ 8:30AM |3,734 views

Microgrids: Very Expensive, Seriously Necessary

The state of Connecticut announced last week that it would build nine “microgrids” to deliver more reliable power, including at the police station in Bridgeport, the naval submarine base in Groton, the St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, and the campus of Wesleyan University. The cost to taxpayers: $18 million.

Some readers might say: $18 million? For, what, some backup generators? And what is a microgrid anyway?

It is no coincidence that Connecticut is pushing the envelope of power innovation. Last October, Hurricane Sandy knocked power out to 625,000 homes and businesses, revealing how inadequate the the power system is in the face of superstorms.  “Today marks another step forward for how we handle extreme weather,” said Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy.

Read the entire article here.

Amory Lovins’ Three Energy Trends to Watch

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Energy efficiency tops Lovins’ list of energy trends to watch, particularly automobile efficiency, which is excellent news. Efficiency is sometimes overlooked because it’s not as sexy as new energy technologies, but in my mind it’s the most important aspect of our energy future. Saving energy means saving money, which should make it an easy sell, as well as resources. Even if we increase renewable energy, those technologies still require resources in one form or another, so decreasing energy use is a more effective way to ensure the availability of essential resources for future generations.

His claim that the steepest increases in efficiency will be in automobiles is especially encouraging due to the resulting decrease in imported petroleum. There is often an odd connection made between renewables such as wind and solar, or even domestic natural gas, and decreased petroleum imports, but this is a fallacy. We use petroleum for less than 1% of our electricity generation (Yergin, 2012). The only ways to decrease petroleum imports are to decrease vehicle miles driven, increase vehicle efficiency, or power automobiles with something other than petroleum, a trend that is increasing, but so far still negligible.

His third point, on increasing distributed energy, is also important, and one I’ve written about before on this site. Moving away from large, centralized power plants to smaller units in neighborhoods, at large office parks, and other locations, provides two big benefits, among others. First, it can greatly increase efficiency as electricity travels far shorter distances, spending less time in transmission lines, meaning more of it arrives where it’s used, as opposed to dissipating in those lines. Smaller plants can also adapt much more quickly to changing energy technologies. Centralized plants that are 50 years old are difficult to modify, and too expensive to scrap to accommodate more renewables or different electricity feedstocks.

Amory-4

 

Though Lovins’ hardline conservationist stance is sometimes controversial, from his “Soft Energy Paths” in 1976, through his work with Rocky Mountain Institute, right up to today and this recent article, he’s been an important voice in the energy conversation.

 

Amory’s Angle: Three Major Energy Trends to Watch

By Amory B. Lovins

Popular media and political chatter are abuzz with a cacophony of energy news and opinion. Amid the chaos, some orderly strands can be discerned. Here are three themes that merit attention:

EFFICIENCY IS ACCELERATING

Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.

Read the entire article here.

Navigant to Compare Community vs. Residential Energy Storage

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Distributed energy is the future of our electricity supply. Rather than our electricity coming from centralized providers straight to homes, offices, etc., electricity will be generated and/or stored at various locations closer to the end users. Determining the safest and most energy-efficient and cost-effective ways to do this is an enormous, on-going task. Navigant Consulting is one of many firms working with municipalities to continue development and innovation.

Read more in these two articles:

Smart Grid Today

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and Navigant will have a healthy list of the pros and cons of community energy storage (CES) versus residential energy storage (RES) by the time their battery-testing project is finished in September, Jay Paidipati, associate director in Navigant Consulting’s energy practice, told people attending a long-duration, distributed energy-storage project workshop at Storage Week in Austin, Texas, yesterday…

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Navigant Research

Distributed Energy Storage Systems for Voltage Support, Frequency Regulation,
Islanding, and Peak Shaving: Market Analysis and Forecasts

Community and residential energy storage systems are sited at the “end of the line” on the grid. These systems are typically much smaller than utility-scale or bulk energy storage and are either situated at the distribution transformer or at the customer premise. Of the varied application areas for energy storage systems, community and residential storage is one of the newest and least understood applications. Currently, utilities, vendors, and even governments are demonstrating community and residential energy storage systems with a goal of understanding the value of these small, distributed systems sited at the edge of the electrical grid. These groups are testing CRES for the purposes of smoothing peaks in electricity demand, enabling voltage support and frequency regulation, and providing islanding capabilities.

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Congressional Republicans Move in Two Directions at Once

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Neither of these effort is close to certain, but we are seeing one prominent Senator, Dick Lugar (R-IN), possibly moving towards federal renewable energy standards, while another group is seeking to gut the President’s ability to implement the same.

These aren’t necessarily contradictory, as the efforts could lead to similar results with less power held in the White House.

Sen. Lugar is drafting a bill that could include standards increasing vehicle efficiency, renewable electricity, waste-to-energy, and other measures throughout our energy matrix.

Meanwhile, in the article from Politico below, congressional Republicans would greatly reduce the President’s ability to mandate clean energy or climate change measures through the White House or the EPA. I like the decentralization of power they are working towards, but do see some value in letting the President use those tools that have traditionally been at his disposal.

It will be interesting to see if either or both efforts is successful, and if Obama attempts to fight it by replacing Carol Browner, or concedes the point and dissolves her office.

It’s still a fascinating time to be alive.

Sen. Lugar Prepping Bill That Could Include ‘Clean Energy’ Standard

By KATIE HOWELL AND JEAN CHEMNICK of Greenwire
Published: February 11, 2011

Republican Sen. Richard Lugar is crafting broad energy legislation that could include a “clean energy” mandate similar to the one President Obama called for in his State of the Union address.

The Indiana Republican this week said his bill, which is still “weeks away,” could include a clean energy standard as well as “energy efficiency in many, many facets.”

Read this entire article here.

CR would slash EPA, White House energy office

By ROBIN BRAVENDER & PATRICK REIS & DAN BERMAN | 2/11/11 8:46 PM EST

House Republicans threw down the gauntlet at the Obama administration’s energy and environmental agenda Friday night, proposing to defund the White House energy adviser’s office and block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to slashing the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by $3 billion – nearly twice as much as they originally proposed – GOP lawmakers included language in the continuing resolution to strip the agency of its ability to implement climate change rules.

Read this entire article here.

Clean Colorado Energy Gives Us an Economic Edge

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It’s certainly a challenge to balance long term economic health with the need to pay the heating bill this month.We know fossil fuel resources are finite, even if they appear abundant in Colorado today. We also know that they pollute our air in ways much more immediate and tangible than climate change. But if working towards cleaner, renewable, domestically produced energy were going to increase our utility bills drastically in the near term, it’s a tough sell.

Colorado’s economy is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country during this economic downturn and present (we hope) recovery. I am just one of thousands of examples of people who have good jobs working in Colorado’s clean energy sector.

I’m excited by the prospects for Colorado’s economy in the next several decades, due in large part to the competitive edge Colorado has gained in working towards a more renewable, energy-independent economy.

Gov. Ritter provides only vague overviews in the article below, but he’s done plenty to place a solid foundation.

We’ve successfully shown how to utilize of our domestic resources while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns.

By Anna Clark 

Mon Dec 6, 2010 1:00am EST

Anna Clark: During your four years in office, you have signed 57 pieces of energy-related legislation. Did making Colorado a model state for the “new energy economy” come at a price?

Bill Ritter: I would not say it’s come at a price. I’m not anti-business; quite the opposite. Cultivating a competitive edge in energy and sustainable development is what we should be doing. Creativity, innovation, and commercialization — these should be in 21st century America’s wheelhouse. That’s who we’ve always been as a country. This vision is among the things I am proudest of accomplishing during these past four years.

Read the entire article here.

Steven Chu Walks the Walk, or Rides

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It’s excellent that the head of our Department of Energy is so knowledgeable about the technologies with which he’s working. One might think this is par for the course, but as the article discusses it has not often been the case.

Riding his bike to work is a great touch that lends even more credence to his leadership.

None of this changes the fact, however, that one person should not be making decisions about which technologies or firms receive government investment. While Dr. Chu’s integrity may be unassailable, in order to ensure our energy future is as efficient as possible there need to be greater checks and balances on doling out these funds.

Overcoming old habits in terms of building materials and power systems is indeed a challenge. Chu would be wise to let the free market be his guide as makes his decisions and encourages the movement to a cleaner, renewable, domestically-powered energy future.

For energy chief, race is on to find fuel alternatives

Concerns about climate change and the economy have intensified Energy Secretary Steven Chu's focus on new technologies and greater energy efficiency.

Concerns about climate change and the economy have intensified Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s focus on new technologies and greater energy efficiency. (Alex Wong)

By Steven Mufson

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It’s a stunning fall morning in Washington, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, clad in bike shorts and a snug Stanford University biking shirt, climbs onto his Colnago bicycle and rolls down his leafy street and onto the Capital Crescent Trail. Then it’s a 20-minute sprint – breaking the trail’s speed limit – to downtown Washington. A Secret Service agent keeps close behind, with the help of a small electric motor. The trees are ablaze across the Potomac as he drops into Georgetown.

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Aides say Chu’s ability to understand and absorb technical information sets him apart from the previous 11 energy secretaries – a financier, three business executives, an admiral, two governors, a U.S. senator and other politicians.

[…]

Chu’s talk spans environmental history, deep-water drilling and energy efficiency. Explaining why electric car batteries are large and heavy, he uses a common measurement of energy and notes that a lithium ion battery stores 0.54 megajoules per kilogram. Body fat has 38 megajoules per kilogram, and kerosene has 43.

[…]

Chu’s scientific bent was unexpectedly useful over the summer, when the Obama administration was desperate to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Chu was dispatched to BP’s Houston offices to see what could be done.

He recommended that BP use gamma rays to see into the blowout preventer; its several inches of steel were obscuring other methods of figuring out whether the shear rams were clamping into the drill pipe.

He also tapped into his Stanford network to get names of engineers who could give advice, and he told Obama early on that the flow rate of oil pouring into the gulf might be greater than what BP was letting on. Weeks later, he marveled about how little innovation there was in the deep-water drilling business and how few gauges and backup mechanisms were installed on the blowout preventer.

Read the entire article here.

Improving Energy Storage Tech Is Key

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Due to the high variability of renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar, improving the efficiency of energy storage is essential to the future of our energy matrix. Unlike coal, natural gas, or nuclear power, renewables vary with wind speeds, sunshine, and other uncontrollable factors. This makes our dependence on these resources quite tenuous.

If firms like the one described in the article below can create batteries that can store energy longer, and produce them using materials that are not as rare and unsafe as many used in today’s batteries, we will be in a much better position to power our electricity grid with energy that ebbs and flows.

In Presidio, a Grasp at the Holy Grail of Energy Storage

By KATE GALBRAITH
Published: November 6, 2010

Dozens of gray compartments, lined neatly in rows, inhabit a boxy concrete building on the edge of the impoverished border town of Presidio. The only sound, aside from occasional clanking, is the whirring of air-conditioners to keep the compartments cool.

This $25 million contraption is the largest battery system in the United States — locals have dubbed it Bob, for Big Ole Battery. It began operating earlier this year, and is the latest mark of the state’s interest in a nascent but rapidly evolving industry: the storage of electricity.

Storage is often referred to as the holy grail of energy technology, because it can modernize the grid by more efficiently matching demand for power with the generation of electricity.

[…]

The state is especially keen on storage because of the proliferation of wind turbines in West Texas. The machines generate the most power at night, when people are sleeping — so if their power could be stored for use during the day, the usefulness of wind power, which currently accounts for about 6 percent of the state’s electricity generation, would significantly increase.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

November 8th, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Gov’t Energy “Investments” Need to Be Structured for Returns

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Government investments in energy infrastructure, which I see as potentially very positive and soon maybe even absolutely necessary, should be structured so that there will be returns on those investments. Yeah, so obvious it almost goes without saying, but a quick look at government projects in the past shows diverse aims and results, with successful and woeful examples.

Similar or at least tangential to what I argued in a post earlier this summer, government is often necessary to lay the groundwork on worthy projects that may not be profitable for years to come but will be highly beneficial to our country’s citizens and our economy.

Airplane travel would not likely be anything like what we enjoy today were it not for massive government spending in aviation earlier in the 20th Century. The luxuries we enjoy with our cars would not be possible if not for government spending on roads and, as we are seeing ever more clearly, the auto industry.

Some might argue that government spending on the auto industry has been a disaster. This is my point exactly: If energy spending is not structured properly, it will simply be a drain on our tax dollars for decades. But if these government programs are strategically designed with the aim of gaining actual economic returns on tax dollars invested, they will be hugely beneficial to our country.

One could also argue that these examples of government spending have been an enormous and destructive drain on our energy resources. I can’t disagree with that point either, but that’s for another discussion.

  • OCTOBER 2, 2010, 6:50 A.M. ET

Obama Touts Clean Energy in Weekly Speech

By MAYA JACKSON RANDALL

WASHINGTON—U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday touted his administration’s energy policy agenda, predicting that his clean energy programs will create “hundreds of thousands” of new American jobs by 2012.

[…]

“There is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now—and growth in the coming years—than clean energy,” said Mr. Obama.

Read the entire article here.

Smart Grid Has a Face!

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It’s becoming more and more of a reality. That’s exciting.

October 1, 2010 5:59 AM PDT

Intel ramps up home energy push with control-panel design

by Martin LaMonica

A prototype of Intel's home energy management panel.

Intel has announced a reference design for a home energy-management device, an attempt to get a foothold in the smart grid business and bring Intel’s chips to your kitchen table.

[…]

The device is meant act as a hub for controlling networked appliances and thermostats and to gather information from smart meters. It’s based on Intel’s Atom processor and can work with Wi-Fi and Zigbee wireless devices, such as thermostats.

Intel’s reference design can also access the Internet and display video from security cameras. In the past, Intel executives have pitched the device as a home communications center where family members leave messages for each other. Third parties can also design applications for it.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 1st, 2010 at 10:08 am