Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Archive for October, 2013

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.

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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.

A Recipe for Brazil’s Resurgence

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The four years I was privileged to live in Brazil, from 2002 until 2006, were a pivotal time in the country’s success. The groundwork may have been laid by Pres. Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 1990’s (I had the pleasure of meeting him when he came to speak at the school where I was teaching), but it was during Lula’s first term (2003-’07) that the country took off. While doing my PhD research on Brazilian sugarcane ethanol production (2006-2010) there was still abundant optimism both inside and outside Brazil for the country’s economic and political future.

While it has since plateaued, the article below provides a three-point recipe for its resurgence:

1. Reform the tax code and public spending. Make taxes less burdensome and more transparent, and direct public funds toward infrastructure instead of bloated entitlements.

2. Open the economy and integrate with the rest of the world.

3. Reform the political system to diminish corruption and pork barrel spending.

In my (admittedly limited) experience, these are bang on. A colleague and I earned roughly the same salary, but he paid 40% less in taxes than I did, and no one, including experienced Brazilian accountants, could explain why. The vestiges of import substitution policies from the 1980’s have continued to hold the country back. And the politics are so dirty that one prominent politician, Paulo Maluf, continues to serve in their congress even while he is wanted by Interpol. His name has been turned into a verb, malufar, which means to steal.

Brazil is a great country populated by wonderful people, and I am grateful to have lived and worked among them. Like many countries, including mine, it needs reform.

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Brazil’s future

Has Brazil blown it?

A stagnant economy, a bloated state and mass protests mean Dilma Rousseff must change course

FOUR years ago this newspaper put on its cover a picture of the statue of Christ the Redeemer ascending like a rocket from Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado mountain, under the rubric “Brazil takes off”. The economy, having stabilised under Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the mid-1990s, accelerated under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the early 2000s. It barely stumbled after the Lehman collapse in 2008 and in 2010 grew by 7.5%, its strongest performance in a quarter-century. To add to the magic, Brazil was awarded both next year’s football World Cup and the summer 2016 Olympics. On the strength of all that, Lula persuaded voters in the same year to choose as president his technocratic protégée, Dilma Rousseff.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 4th, 2013 at 2:48 pm