Saturday, October 23, 2010

Solar is great! Just decentralize it and go urban instead of destroying deserts

Solar Gold: Mojave Desert Facing Ecosystem Collapse, Massive Extinctions from Robert Lundahl on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NATIONAL ENERGY AWARENESS MONTH - The Smart Grid's Concerns and Solutions: Part 3

This is the final post of a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we learned about what is the smart grid and how it can benefit you. Today's posting is about legitimate consumer concerns about the smart grid, which are largely related to smart meter installations.  Smart meters are a two-way communication device between your home and your utility company; through this two-way communication there are opportunities and concerns. Here are the main issues and some possible solutions  …
  • Privacy issues:  There are concerns about how much monitoring and control the utility will have of your home and its devices.  Solutions could include government privacy protections similar to credit card opt-in/out programs or like the restrictions placed on telephone companies.  For example, you could opt out of the utility controlling your household temperature but opt into selling power back to the utility from your plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV -- as was described in Part 2 of this series) or from solar panels on your roof.
  • Lack of choice: Currently, you are probably going to be assigned your utility and smart meter without the advantage of competition or the opportunity to say no.  Instead, you can advocate for provider and device choice, or perhaps no device at all (without penalty).  
  • EMF Exposure:  There are some public health concerns about exposing yourself to electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from wireless smart meters, though some experts say the EMF from cell phones is much greater. Solutions include safety studies, the homeowner’s approval of where the device is installed, or taking advantage of meters hard-wired through fiber optic cables. 
  • Device costs: It would significantly add to your personal costs to buy the forthcoming new appliances and devices that are smart-meter compatible.  Currently, there are more personal energy savings with current energy-efficient appliances/devices and changing your energy usage behaviors, not counting PHEVs.
  • Job loss: With technology taking over, job losses are expected.  Solutions include job retraining or career-changing programs.

No matter how the concerns with smart meters are resolved, the other advantages are well worth it.  Let your city, lawmakers, and utility know what you think – and fast!  Because decisions about the smart grid and smart meters are rapidly being made.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NATIONAL ENERGY AWARENESS MONTH - The Smart Grid Benefits Your Family: Part 2

This is the second in a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family. 

Yesterday we talked about smart grid basics.  Today we're going to list some of the benefits for your family.

  • Breathe easier: With more renewable energy being used and less use of polluting coal and oil, we can expect cleaner air.
  • Cha-ching!  Cha-ching!: If you are able to install solar, wind, or geothermal power generation at your home and integrate it into your power usage through smart grid technology, then there may be the opportunity to also sell any extra power that you generate back to your utility.  You would also be able to view your power usage in real time online to adjust and program your usage to possibly save money.
  • Avoid pump sticker shock: As PHEV cars – Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles – start to rollout in the coming years, the forecast is that you would use smart-grid technology to charge your car at the best electric rates.  Excess energy in your car would be sold back to the utility also at the most profitable rate for you, with your car becoming a mini power plant.  And, the smart-grid interactivity would tell your car when it would be cheaper to use gasoline versus electricity. 90 cents a gallon would be great!
  • “I, Robot” appliances to go: As the smart grid becomes more ubiquitous, it is expected that smart-grid-certified appliances (like refrigerators, washers, and water heaters) and gadgets (i.e., phone rechargers) will be sold that would tap into the grid and adjust their energy usage to save you money.  Also called Plug-and-Play.

Tomorrow ... some smart grid concerns and potential solutions -- PART 3.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


This is the first in a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family.

The word “smart” conjures up immediate images.  School, tests, witty friends, Fox TV’s “Are you smarter than a 5th grader?”, rich, fast, Einstein, grid.  And, for me, the 11 year old in the audition waiting room who tells me “My I.Q. is 149.”  Hmmm.  Wait, grid?

Yes.  “Smart grid” is now ready to enter celebrity status.  It’s a term you’ll likely hear more and more.   It is expected to alter how you think about power, and it will probably change your utility bill and affect your pocketbook. 

First, grid.  “The grid” is the infrastructure of our current power system – power lines, meters, control centers, energy sources, and utility companies. 

Second, smart grid.  This is an effort by the U.S. government and utility companies to upgrade our grid – make it smarter and more efficient, largely through technological upgrades and new transmission lines.   Federal stimulus money has been allocated to accelerate the smart grid’s development.  National Geographic recently did a beautiful graphic on where these upgrades are proposed to be - link.


The smart grid is expected to …

  •  Change things up: Solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources are expected to be integrated into the new smart grid system.  This is anticipated to help us reduce our carbon footprint and decrease coal and oil energy dependence.
  •  Keep the lights on: Ironically, one of the smart grid’s highlights is that it is meant to avoid power outages due to better sensing and re-routing of power loads.  Blackouts cost businesses money and can also be dangerous for security and health reasons.
  •  Take tech to a new level: Technology upgrades to the grid make power usage more efficient and allows power produced in non-peak hours to be stored for a day and time when it is needed.  This lessens the need to build more power plants.
  •  Have a built-in bodyguard:  The smart grid decentralizes power and, instead, makes a series of power networks that communicate with and help each other.  So, a major storm hitting a power plant 200 miles away from you wouldn’t bring the power down because local and regional power sources can now immediately make up the difference for you and for those 200 miles away.
  •  Produce less gunk: With even a five percent increase in the nation’s energy efficiency, the U.S. can eliminate fuel and greenhouse gas emissions from 53 million cars.

Tomorrow ... how your family benefits -- PART 2.