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Is it true that humans learn from experience?

If so, how about Nations that provide citizens their daily sense of security.

Or not.

If so, Hurricane Sandy could serve as one ginormous "learning experience" ...

Sandy and the smart grid: who won?

Post-mortem premature, as recovery continues

by Phil Carson, -- Nov 18, 2012

In the power sector, one question is: did smart grid technology aid in preparation, response and recovery from the hurricane? Another question: is the first question a fair one?

The short answer, taking the second first, is: of course! Stakeholders want to know whether their investments have been productive. We're all shelling out big time to modernize the grid. Didn't many utilities sell advanced metering infrastructure on the promise of customers "saving money" and increased reliability for the system? The first claim, based more on active energy management in the face of dynamic prices than the result of mere awareness of energy use data, remains somewhat theoretical as dynamic pricing remains scarce.  

The answer to the first question is that it's premature to say, but fair to conclude that generalizations are difficult. Where sea water flooded a substation vault, smart grid technology as we know it is of little use. Where tree damage in, say, leafy New Jersey -- the suburbs raison d'etre -- affected as much as one-third the shady canopy, the damage was so extensive that we'll all be fascinated whether millions of last gasps from smart meters really mattered. Did data from smart grid systems really enable utilities to better deploy field crews?

Smart Grids which basically measure and shuffle "peak usage" loads -- aren't really so smart, when there are "no more peaks."  Are they?

America built an intrastate transportation system -- that for the most part works. It connects markets from coast to coast. Seamlessly.

Why have we not yet seen the same need for an equally robust intrastate Energy system?

Patch work is great for quilts and old jeans -- not so great for a 21st century Electric Utility system.

EPRI: Sandy exposes smart grid limits, and maturity

Storm should reset stakeholder expectations, renew commitment

by Phil Carson, -- Nov 19, 2012

The starting point is to acknowledge the role of physical damage to the grid and the laws of cost/benefit analysis.

It's simply not possible to harden the sprawling electric transmission and distribution grid against all eventualities, Mansoor told me, echoing a widely held view. "All eventualities" cannot be predicted, hardening can never be 100 percent and the cost of even attempting this is prohibitive and ill-advised.

But the experience gained in dealing with Hurricane Sandy raises several issues that require attention, he said. Utilities have work to do, regulators have prudent costs to consider and end-use customers need tools and strategies to cope, as well.

"We see a three-pronged approach to resiliency," Mansoor said of EPRI's approach. "First is hardening. This could involve things such as undergrounding, vegetation management, hydrophobic coating for lines, substation storm surge and seismic design criteria. The second aspect is recovery: identifying the location of damage, isolating the damaged portion and restoring power. The third prong is survivability -- how can we equip consumers with technologies beyond a candle to better cope with a prolonged outage? -- which is the least-resourced area.

We all talk about about Jobs -- Jobs that can't be outsourced.

Well, building that next super-highway which supports our super-life-styles would mean Jobs.

American neighborhoods should not go dark, everytime there is a wind storm.

American neighborhoods should not be reliant on the local power generators, when it is technologically feasible to ship energy from coast to coast.

From the solar farms of desert southwest to the metropolis of the suburban California sprawl.

From the wind farms of the high plains to the mega-planners locked in the DC bubble.

It is possible, if only we had a truly Smart-Super-Grid.

You know, like we once built the rail and the road systems -- that make the American way of life possible.

It is time to do it again.  Think BIG.  Look Ahead.  Past the fences on our front yards.

You know, get off our collective 20th century butts. ... The clock is ticking.

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:34 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, SciTech, and Kosowatt.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It takes a 200 x 200 patch of desert ... (13+ / 0-)

    THE Desertec CONCEPT and Desertec-UK

    Clean power from deserts

    The Desertec concept


    For a summary, click Desertec in brief.

    Every year, each square kilometre of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is several hundred times as much energy as the world uses in a year.

    larger image

    The larger red square on the left shows an area of 114,090 km2 of desert (about 338 km × 338 km [210 miles  × 210 miles] ) that, if covered with concentrating solar power plants, would provide as much electricity as the world is now using. (Of course, the world's CSP plants would never be put all together in one square like that). The 'EU' square (19,200 km2 or about 139 × 139 km  [86.3 miles2] ) shows a corresponding area for the European Union (when it included 25 countries). And the 'MENA' square (3,600 km2 or 60 km × 60 km  [37.2 miles2] ) shows the corresponding area for the Middle East and North Africa.

    Trading those Carbon Footprints for Renewable Footprints
    by jamess -- Nov 18, 2012

    Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
    -- Here's how.

    by jamess on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:36:42 AM PST

    •  Concentrated solar (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes, jamess, TheLawnRanger

      runs right into a water issue. There's not much water in deserts, and what little there is of it is needed for other uses. What we need are more efficient direct solar-to-electricity technologies. And those might (as the technology now stands) be better deployed as rooftop on homes, factories, strip malls and other buildings.

      Development of reasonably efficient kinetic energy technologies can also help a lot - making use of wind and moving water (tidal, current, undershot river turbines, etc.). Much of the electricity consumed by regular people and businesses can be site-generated and should be. Then it would just be manufacturing that needs thermal power plants, and we could recycle much of that waste heat as well to homes and businesses, or to grow algae for biodiesel transportation fuels. Electric cars are nice for well-off commuters, but Mercedes/GM have a very nice auto/small truck diesel that can come straight from the factory ready for 100% biodiesel, for heavier work. Trains, trucks, big construction and mining equipment, generators and ships can also be made to use 100% or somewhat lesser mixtures of biodiesel. The algae route doesn't use up cropland or food crops (like corn), and both switchgrasses and hemp that will grow on marginal land in abundance can help. Plus hemp makes fine plastics, and biotechnology can engineer most other useful industrial/pharmaceutical chemicals into non-food plants (like tobacco).

      But we'd need some real planning to develop a workable, interdependent system across the board. That's so 'communistic' that we can count on Republicans standing firmly in the way for as long as they are allowed to hold power.

      •  Housing development? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, jamess

        or solar thermal, doesnt housing use more? Thats what Mohave Sun Power says.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:53:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Not sure what you're asking. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          isabelle hayes, jamess

          CSP is concentrated solar - where reflectors focus the sun to boil water to turn a turbine - the basic olden-days technology used by any steam powered generator - petroleum, gas, coal, biomass (wood/chips), nuclear, just a different fuel source for heat. Those familiar solar panels directly translate solar into electrons to batteries or grid, but they're not very efficient. They're working on better, not available yet. If it takes more panels to generate the electricity your home uses than you've got roof/sunny land to put them on, you'll still be a grid consumer. But every little bit helps lessen the need for big centralized power plants, and there's lots and lots of roof space out there.

          Interesting that you'd say "housing development," though. I can envision suburban developments getting together to generate enough for a 'village'. Maybe with a vertical wind farm adjacent and from which electricity (wind & solar) feeds to the grid when everybody's at work, as a trade-off for consumption when people are home.

          Waste heat - as hot water/condensed steam - shouldn't travel too far from where it's produced, but cities could certainly use it to help heat apartments and offices during the winter. The algae 'farm' plans I've seen are basically vertical attachments to factories where the heat is generated, like a very tall, thin greenhouse. Or shallow ponds on the grounds. Wiki Link.

          •  check this out (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Isn't it time to fix the Filibuster?
            -- Here's how.

            by jamess on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:42:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Nifty! I've a solar cooker (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              that is similar looking (made from a one-time DishNetwork antenna we had to buy). Are these going straight to electrons without boiling water? Just took a quick look, but if it's direct then that's sure as shootin' something I could easily put to use on the 'stead!

              •  Aha! It's a Stirling! (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Which is a nice little powerhouse. Rather larger an application than I need here on the 'stead, but surely scalar to a certain extent. Have been investigating a stirling set-up for pumping water from the spring up to the house (250 feet vertical, ~700 feet on the grade). As alternative to a ram, for which I'd need to tap a different spring more than 50 feet uphill. There probably is one we could dig out that might be able to supply 300 gallons a day if need be, but I sure don't know where... and I've lived here for 20 years.

                Never thought of a solar application, but it makes perfect sense. Hmmm...

          •  Start with low-hanging fruit. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau, jamess

            There are LOTS of residential & commercial buildings in the American southwest. How about we start with putting solar panels on top of every friggin' building in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California?

            1. They'll generate a lot of power, because they're in the American southwest.

            2. Transmission losses & grid-upgrade needs will be minimal, because the power will be generated where it's used.

            3. Energy demand will drop, because solar panels overhead would put all those houses and commercial buildings in the shade.

            That would not be a complete solution to our energy problems. But it would provide enough of a market to generate greater competition and economies of scale, meaning development of higher-efficiency solar cells and lower cost per watt.

            Then the resulting availability of better, cheaper solar panels would allow expansion into less sunny parts of the country. A virtuous cycle.

            "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

            by HeyMikey on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:44:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent! This is a total no brainer. n/t (5+ / 0-)

    Andy's two-timin' tail run off wiff mah sig line!

    by nannyboz on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:38:14 AM PST

  •  Should'nt we also move away from the just in time (5+ / 0-)

    generation systems and store electricity for use in grids.

    •  Power Storage Conundrum (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, johanus, BYw, jamess

      Alas, you just poked into the physics and chemistry of the joys of managing the power grid.  Creating relatively efficient and economical power storage devices is still the grail of electric power research.  At this time, we don't have a good way of storing the electrical power that we can generate during periods of peak power generation, especially on a distributed basis.  Our battery technology is still relative primitive for these purposes.  

      Historically, excess electrical power has usually been converted into some other form of potential energy, like mechanical (pumped hydro systems) or chemical (convert water to H2 and then burn the H2 to generate heat and power).  These all entail extra losses because of the basic laws of thermodynamics and therefore much higher operating costs.  If utilities had economic and efficient ways of storing power, they would be doing it already.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:35:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  US built about 20 gigs of pumped hydro decades (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        Thermodynamics applies to batteries too, so what?

        Whats with this distributed stuff? Come on, we need to think in the multi hundred gig area.

        Theres nothing wrong with distributed solar. Except that the levelized cost of operation over 20 years for a PV panel on someones house isnt remotely competitive... yet.

        WE need 500 gigs of renewables.

        Its about what we can do NOW, whats off the shelf.

        Wind under 7 cents
        Pumped hydro
        Solar thermal

        But we wont need any storage until after we have 20% from renewables.

        SO build wind and HVDC, wait for solar to drop in price, and invest in R&D and develop more solar thermal pilot projects, and Pumped hydro.

        FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

        by Roger Fox on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:28:21 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Climb Down Off the High Horse (0+ / 0-)

          I wouldn't dispute most of which you've written, but some of it is just fanciful.  I never argued for or against any sort of distributed power arrangement, for example.

          Your claims about pumped hydro are just risible though.  We aren't going to see many more, if any, pumped hydro facilities being built because the good sites have all been taken and those left are tied up in NIMBY.  The only viable pumped hydro would likely be on major bodies of water like the coasts or the Great Lakes, where we can create artificial lagoons to create enormous low head hydro facilities.  We ain't gonna be building pumped hydro in places where the sun shines 95% of the time and the rain don't fall.

          I'm all for building out a Federally-supported HVDC backbone system a la the Federal Interstate Highway Program in order to create a national power grid.  Just as the highway program was funded a national fuel tax, we could use a national kW-hr tax on wheeled power to help fund the system.  It would use construction resources we have available in abundance right now and create a stabler, healthier economy over the long run.  It also offers the advantage that individual investors could then decide what form of renewable energy they wanted to invest in or if they wanted to invest in power storage systems.

          "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

          by PrahaPartizan on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:41:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  US has about 20 gigawatts (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of pumped hydro storage that was built decades ago. The Hydro power association estimates they can increase that by 40% in 12-15 years.

      Solar thermal plants are just now being built in Arizona.

      What can we do now, gets answered by what is off the shelf and available now.

      >Wind is the cheapest new form of generation, under 7 cents per KW hr, in an LCO study over 20 years.

      >HVDC transmission is excellent for long distances over 40 milles, and the grid of choice for offshore wind farms.

      >Pumped hydro and solar thermal.

      Solar prices will catch up to and pass wind in 6-9 years. Then we'll really see some action.

      FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:52:18 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thinking about smart grid + resiliency (9+ / 0-)

    First, excellent line

    Patch work is great for quilts and old jeans -- not so great for a 21st century Electric Utility system.
    Almost certain to use in some variant, somewhere, without attribution. Thus, apologies for when -- some days, months, years into the future -- I forget to credit you with the analogy.

    However, the analogy is off in some ways when we consider 'resiliency' and smart grid elements.

    We want a mix of patchwork that is strongly stitched together -- but which provides value when the patch is cut off from the rest.  

    We should have connected islanding -- on national, regional, and local levels.

    While there are serious value streams to be had from a national (and even international -- a la TREC) gridding, there is also tremendous resiliency value from a distributed power system which enables resiliency in the face of disaster (natural or manmade).  Lets say that every NYC building were required to have onsite power generation for some portion of its use and (and) a requirement to be able to self-sustain some level of emergency power services. Imagine, for example, apartment buildings that had enough onsite CHP, solar, urban wind to be able to maintain one elevator, pumped water, emergency lighting (include some LED lighting in each residence), and perhaps electricity to 1 kitchen out of each 20 residences.  How would that have changed the impact of Sandy on New York?  

    This can be taken to larger / shifted scales. While you are strong against nuclear power, lets say that SMRs (small nuclear reactors) truly end up developing and start getting deployed.  What if there were SMRs (as batteries) that were spread through the city, 20 megawatts of power each.  When the power lines came down and the waters flooded in, would this have kept the lights on for much of the city?

    And, the "smart grid" enables through rapid reaction to changing grid connections / otherwise to, for example, shift a building (business, home, school, etc ..) from 'standard' power to 'reduced power' to 'emergency power'.  And, as the grid / power lines restore, the smart grid would enable ramping back up to 'normal' operations.

    There are reasons for improved national grid (being able to move power around (whether stranded renewables (wind, solar, etc ...) or for power storage (hydro) or to even out loading/costs), etc), but this should be done along with distributed power generation and management.  E.g., 'smart patchwork' has a role to play in the overall smart grid design / system.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:02:45 AM PST

  •  Thanks, jamess. Interesting links. I hope... (5+ / 0-)

    everyone goes to them to read. Carson asks and addresses a lot of good issues. Thought provoking. It is NOT a simple matter of putting a smart meter on every user.

    net F = ma May the force be with you.

    by jim in IA on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:10:34 AM PST

  •  We are taking responsibility (5+ / 0-)

    for our power by getting off the grid.  We have 8 solar panels and just brought home 4 more.  We also have a small wind generator.  We have gone from paying for 750 units to 211 (just got the bill yesterday).

    I know not everyone has this capability, but we are trying to do our part to leave a smaller carbon footprint.  

    being mindful and keepin' it real

    by Raggedy Ann on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:22:42 AM PST

  •  Most of the NYC area lacks smart meters (5+ / 0-)

    While there has been a fair amount of news about the use of smart meters to aid restoration after Sandy, most of the deployment of smart meters have occurred outside of NJ, NY or CT.  Utilities in MD, DE and PA have deployed smart meters (partially funded with federal stimulus monies), and they reported that their smart metering networks proved invaluable in determining outages and assisting restoration.  

    The areas most severely impacted by Sandy have generally not deployed smart meters.  Hence, utilities in these areas lacked the ability to determine the extent of outages and were unable to use the smart meter network to assist in restoration.

    Hopefully, state regulators in the NYC metro area will rethink their opposition to smart meters and understand their value in detecting outages, assisting restoration during major events, improving utility efficiency, and providing greater information and choices for customers.

    •  Lacks Smart Utility Management Too (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes, BYw, jamess

      As the abrupt resignation of the Long Island Power Authority chief showed, most of the NYC tri-state utilities lack anything resembling smart management.  Oh, they may have been pretty shrewd managers for enhancing shareholder value, but they have proven less than reliable operational managers.  Anyone listening to Cuomo during this past month would know that he has been less than impressed with the utilities' preparedness for this storm and their overall planning.  Last year in CT we were treated to mismanagement on a truly awesome scale after a one-day snowstorm.  At some point state governments must fix the regulatory capture problem which inevitably leads to these problems in operations.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:47:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  And how does that power get moved around? (0+ / 0-)

    Transmission lines. And who wants more of them? No one.

    "The next time everyone will pay for it equally, and there won't be any more Chosen Nations, or any Others. Poor bastards all." ~The Boomer Bible

    by just another vet on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:53:05 AM PST

  •  Super smart of you.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 12:54:26 PM PST

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