Could We See A Skype For The Power Industry?

from the peer-to-peer-power dept

There are many out there who see the future of the IT industry as resembling that of electrical utilities. In this vision, companies like Google and build out computing power plants, and rent out software and processing power to their customers. Certainly, there are aspects of the business that are going this way, but to assume that today’s utility model is the model to strive for is to ignore some interesting things that are happening within the field of electrical power. A young company called GridPoint wants utilities to install backup power appliances in customer homes. The idea is that customers can store up power during off-peak hours, for use when demand is high. The company claims that by evening out demand this way, power companies can put off building new power plants. So while it may be that IT is looking to emulate the power industry, the power industry itself may go less decentralized, as new technologies help bring about distributed generation and storage.

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Comments on “Could We See A Skype For The Power Industry?”

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not available says:

Re: Why not centralized storage?

The problem isn’t in that there isn’t enough power. The problem is in that the infrastructure can not handle the demand. Think of it as a hose.. it is only so big and can only push so much no matter the demand.. the solution is to either get more hoses, get a bigger hose, or as these folks are suggesting, store a little extra in a bucket at your house and use it when you can get enough otherwise.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Why not centralized storage?

There is some centralized storage now.
One of the more common methods is
pumping water up an elevation then
recapturing some of the energy when
its allowed to run back down.

Distributed generation by enlisting
customers with back-up generators in
cogeneration plans was a big deal in
Massachusetts a few years ago.
I thought that was a bad idea. Since
you have a bunch of dirty generators
running instead of one centralized source
which you can more easily clean-up and

A small amount of local energy storage for
peak shaving would improve power quality.
I can see some advantages to this.

Decentralized storage of any substantial
amount of electrical energy could be a huge
headache for the linemen trying to clean
up after a disaster. It might knock a few of
the “mister fix-it” types and would be energy
cheats out of the gene pool as well. I’m
sure firemen would welcome yet another
additional hazard to deal with as well.

Stored energy is a hazard no matter what
the source, compressed springs or gas,
rotating mass, batteries, capacitors, fuel-oil
So I’m a bit leery of this idea.

Then again I’m still waiting for that nuclear
reactor in my basement they promised me in
Popular Mechanics during the 60s and the
free electricity it would bring.

jsnbase (user link) says:

Re: Why not centralized storage?

Don’t be ridiculous; we’ll only be adding ONE fire hazard to each home.

Oh, that isn’t what you meant?

I guess we should just be glad that most homes don’t have fireplaces or stoves or appliances of any kind or matches or little flammable dogs or…..oh, that’s not what you meant?

So what was your point?

Robert says:

Re: Why not centralized storage?

Distributed generation has several benefits when you consider the complete picture of energy. The efficiency associated with generating power from a central location and distributing this across power lines has significant losses associated with such a configuration. The effective energy at the outlet in your house is less than 15% of the total energy consumed through generation and transfer by the grid. Utilizing “In-efficient” smaller units are still going to be more energy effective once you consider all the issues.

Consider areas of high population density where a community (Distributed) generation station provides power to a few city blocks or street. This localized configuration improves the effective utilization of energy we consume.

…Sorry, I am busy so this is all I can contribute right now.

Anonymous of Course says:

Re: Re: Why not centralized storage?

The efficiency of generation plants in the USA
is on average 33%. That’s a mix of old and new

Newer distributed heat and power plants are
between 65% to 90% efficient.

I’m told by a person that just finished his masters
thesis on the subject that new generation plants
run about in the same range.

The transmission and distribution systems are on
average about 90% efficient.

If you take 90% of 33% you get 29.7%
efficiency and that’d from end to end.

And 90% of 77% (the average of 65% and 90%)
you get 69%

The sooner we get newer plants on on-line the

I don’t know where 15% at the outlet or 85%
T&D loss number comes from. I know it’s not
from the DOE or this fine gentleman’s lecture.

anonymous coward says:

i think this is a great concept for new home and multi-unit construction but installation could be problematic for existing homes and apartments. there would probably need to be some critical mass of installation before a particular city or region would see much of flattening of pwoer demand.

i like the idea especially for earthquake prone areas like San Francisco. having even a few hours of non-generator home backup power could be helpful in a post-earthquake brown/blackout.

rishi says:

I am from India and we use these things here a lot. They are called inverters here. There is a lot of power problems here and it is useful to have a battery backup.

The specs of my inverter are 500 VA. It powers 3 lights, 3 fans and maybe a computer for 2-3 hours. The spec on the site seems to be 1200VA so it would be slightly larger.

Even so, there is no way that an inverter can carry heavy loads like an air conditioner, iron, heater, microwave, washing machine etc.

This is a highly impractical solution and will not pass the test of time. It is only useful if there is frequent breakdown of power.

This solution will not be useful to even out the electricity use during non peak hours as it will not be cost effective. Even not considering the disadvantages of not using equpiment mentioned above, at most it can transfer 1.2Kwh per day to non peak use. Here that costs ~12c. And the equipment costs $10,000.

David T (user link) says:

Centralized storage... great, except when the dist

In large parts of the country the problem is not that the centralized power source goes offline (plants are rotated in and out all the time but nobody notices because the grid is designed for that), but rather that the distribution network takes a hit. Often, it’s in the form of a tree that falls on local power lines in a storm. Alternatively, it’s in a direct lightning strike to a grid component. Centralized storage doesn’t solve that since it still relies on the same distribution network.

AJ Lamb says:

Newer plants and Solar

The effciency of newer plants are better than the older nat. gas and coal plants. They are no where near 70 or 90%, more like 50 to 60%.

If you live in the southwest solar power can drastically reduce your dependance on the grid. If you size your solar PV system right you can feed power back to the grid and collect credits through the net meter program. This”stored” power through the credits program can be used at night. So. Cal. Edison has all the info you need on their website.

The best way to get started saving energy is to dump that refrig. in the garage and switch all your light bulbs to florecents.

tibcon (profile) says:

Capacitor | Air Conditioning Capacitor | Start Capacitors

Motor run capacitors are mainly designed to run continuously. Motor start capacitors designed for momentary use. These capacitors have a fixed voltage and capacitance. The range of capacitance, typically varies from 3-70 Micro Farads. The most common voltages are: 330 VAC / 370 VAC / 370 VAC / 660 VAC.
Out Tibcon capacitor manufacturers have the capability to make a specific product based on the application. Motor run capacitors may be manufactured in different types of containers. The most popular is oval and round container, and plastic box.
Motor run capacitors are made in both dry and wet styles. They use polyester or polypropylene for the dielectric of their electrodes. The dry type makes this style weigh considerably even without filling with liquid. A wet-style capacitor prevents the capacitor from over-heating because of filled with liquid

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