A Case for the Smart Grid

electroprob

Wind farms and Solar plants base their locations on environmental factors, but the present day grid is just not prepared to share those resources to other communities. That means regardless of our solutions to a growing energy crisis, we will get nowhere without new infrastructure. Just to give you an idea of the size of our problem, take a look at how this country is currently wired.

America is a tangled set of Christmas lights, but unplugging everything to straighten it out is not an option.

We need to approach two sides of the problem. First is physical infrastructure. We currently have severe limitations in the distance we can move electricity reliably. Electric lines are required to run below load capacity and the longer the line the lower the capacity. The reason is to prevent the line from over heating and severing that connection. To make things even worse, that sent load of electricity zigzags through a labyrinth of connections, changing loads on generators and transmission lines at every other point and that creates unpredictable problems.  In other words, there are countless variables and not enough accurate monitoring.

The other part of the problem is how we manage the use of the grid. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 turned trading energy into a commodity, handing the controls of the largest most delicate machine in the world to salesmen. The big problem is sales completely ignore the physical limitations of our infrastructure. Casazza wrote in 1998. “The new rule balkanized control over the single machine,” he explains. “It is like having every player in an orchestra use their own tunes.” The law took hold slowly, but by 1998 utilities began selling their generating  capacity to independent power producers such as Enron and Dynergy. Loads are increased and decreased, re diverted, and traded not for necessity but for market values.

Imagine a pizza delivery man borrowing your car every night for work. He get’s to keep all the tips, while your shocks fall apart.

If you want to learn more about how bad it really is out there, take a look at the Industrial Physicist.

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One thought on “A Case for the Smart Grid

  1. The problem is that this country isn’t really “wired”.

    It’s a bundle of chicken mesh carrying high voltage and data. We’re dumping far too much into the grid and get only about half that the other end. Add to that new data paths that need to travel alongside and we have mesh upon mesh of chicken wire.

    Until that changes, nothing will contribute much to satiate the energy usage.

    People often wonder how certain communities around the world can jump from no electricity to fiber optics seemingly overnight. The answer is that it’s easier to install the current technology when there’s nothing there in the first place. There’s a long history of today’s infastructure that needs to be uprooted to make new tech stick.

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