peristaltor: (Default)
You've probably heard the nugget going around lately that using your phone to search a quick tidbit of info uses enough electricity to power two refrigerators. Okay. First things first. Every time we hear a meme like this, I feel we should be immediately skeptical. Seriously, why do we as a species spread information we have not personally checked for accuracy?! Sadly, we do, so I suspect that we are just info spreaders by evolution. Sometimes, like a garden sprinkler snick-snick-snicking needed water onto a parched lawn, we spread good information; other times we spread the greenish-brown stuff that the enormous sprinklers used to spread on the pastures near my childhood home. (NB: I grew up next to a dairy farm.)

Let's look at what is being spread here. )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Some months ago, I stumbled upon a TED talk with Donald Sadoway. (Oh, and screw LJ for not supporting the new embed code. Screw 'em hard.)

Dr. Sadoway has, very simply, decided that an inexpensive battery would revolutionize the way electrical power is distributed and produced, allowing far more renewable energy sources to be competitive by allowing these sources to be stored when in abundance and delivered when scarce. Hey, we still need power after the sun stops shining.

The company he mentions forming in the talk has been renamed Ambri for some reason; sounds less like a battery company and more like another prescription anti-depressant. After that rebranding, he made it to The Colbert Report for his Colbert Bump.

If his battery proves as energy-dense, long-lived and reliable as he touts it, this could be a game changer for our fragile power grid, and hopefully a personal investment (provided the right incentives are eventually offered).
peristaltor: (Default)
[ profile] brucenstein's recent contribution regarding tariffs set on Chinese-made solar panels got me to thinking. There are not just one issue to discuss here — the more obvious and immediate being the way China's government funds industrial activity — but two. We must also consider what kind of electrical grid we have and what kind we want for the future.

To consider that, we need to also consider our electrical past. )

X-Posted to [ profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (Default)
I've left this final discussion of distributed generation until now simply because I was struggling for a way to describe the dynamic method of electric utility pricing that wouldn't repeat my description from years ago. A dynamic system is one with a near infinite range of price variation, an irreducible continuum of cost, not just the three Peak, Shoulder and Off-Peak rates of Part II. It's a system that allows for more than just simple energy arbitrage, though that would be a key dynamic element of the system.

It turns out anyone who understands dynamic markets can envision this electricity market which prices needed power on the fly electronically. That's not the real element to discuss, I've decided. The truly important and revolutionary promise of distributed generation is not found in its pieces and parts but in the transformative promise the dynamic interaction of small parts can make: By spreading the responsibility for providing power to as many participants as possible, the entire grid can function with increasingly smaller elements and, by extension, with increasingly simpler organizations overseeing those elements.

In essence, a distributed system is a democratized system. And a democratized system might be our last best hope. )

Link to Berman article via [ profile] nebris.

peristaltor: (Default)
My last LJ tilted the joust at the simplest involvement one can have with one's electrical consumption and still be considered aware: Real-time monitoring. After all, how can one cut down on one's consumption if one has really no idea how much power the gadgetry scattered about the house is drawing from the power lines? Once that task is accomplished, the question arises about what to do next. That depends upon what options the utility makes available, unfortunately. For that reason, the following two stages of distributed generation, while promising in the extreme for managing power in a resource-poor future, may not be options for all. Still, they are worth exploring. )
peristaltor: (Default)
Don Q. here, ready to tilt at a familiar windmill and get my jousting on with its blades. It's always the case, isn't it. Sometimes you fight the imaginary dragons again and again, never quite vanquishing them, until they become familiars and ultimately family. It's near enough to Thanksgiving to visit with family, isn't it? First, introductions. )

Now that you've met the family, let's discuss what they have to offer. )

The bottom line: DG depends first and foremost upon good monitors that lead to consumption awareness. From that simple start, one can gear up to greater and greater involvement and participation with the electricity we all use, which will be the topic of the next two parts.
peristaltor: (Default)
A few years ago, my sister and her hubby took some of their extra cash, bought property and built their dream house, one she designed herself. She also pressed her builder to stop with the head-scratching and provide the house with the most energy-efficient design the house size would allow; they got structural insulated panel construction with a radiant floor fueled with an oil boiler. (The oil boiler was my suggestion. Though they have a proven track record, propane tanks can fail, sometimes spectacularly. Keep that much pressurized flammable gas around and one day, you might spring a leak. Oil tanks can also leak, but since home heating oil (essentially, low-grade diesel fuel) has a high flash point one can drop a lit kitchen match or cigarette into the tank and safely watch it fizzle out. That level of redundancy in safety appealed to her.)

She called the other day with news. Since they have been in the house a few years and have smoothed many of the unforeseen design wrinkles, she felt it was time to start further improving the energy consumption profile. Her builder suggested a Thermomax solar array (like the one The Wife and I are contemplating) backed by an on-demand electric water heater. Why electric? With the crest of Peak Oil probably upon us, electric has become a cost-effective alternative to either oil or gas for home heating. The builder estimated she and her hubby would pay for the oil boiler replacement in 7-10 years.

Me? I had to balk. )

X-Posted to [ profile] home_effinomic.
peristaltor: (Default)

Very few news or opinion pieces concerning the future of our electrical grid seem nowadays to lack a nice picture or two like those above and below these words.

What makes these two technologies possible, however, often eludes the corresponding press pieces, perhaps because even the reporters writing the stories fail to appreciate the beauty and promise of distributed generation. )

X-Posted to [ profile] home_effinomic.


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