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Power Science Technology

Microgrids May Provide Distributed Energy 159

Posted by Zonk
from the will-the-riaa-object dept.
jobcello wrote to mention a BBC article discussing a new technique for power distribution that might provide electricity using a series of small "microgrids", in a manner similar to peer-to-peer software. From the article: "'This would save something like 20 to 30% of our emissions with hardly anyone knowing it ... A microgrid is a collection of small generators for a collection of users in close proximity ... It supplies heat through the household, but you already have cables in the ground, so it is easy to construct an electricity network. Then you create some sort of control network.' That network could be made into a smart grid using more sophisticated software and grid computing technologies."
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Microgrids May Provide Distributed Energy

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  • ..but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Abstract_Me (799786) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:16PM (#13646081) Journal
    the RIAA will never allow it...
    • What the RIAA wants to control MORE of my life?! Actually I think there would have to be a new regulatory commision created, so that *certain political figureheads* can give out more important positions as political favors.
      • Re:..but... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bhiestand (157373) *
        Actually I think there would have to be a new regulatory commision created, so that *certain political figureheads* can give out more important positions as political favors
        CERTAIN POLITICAL FIGUREHEADS? How about all of them. Every last one of them. The more powerful they are, the more positions they're going to have to give out. I hope this new regulatory commission has a large enough budget to sustain all of that!

        But honestly, you're fooling yourself if you think that one party is squeeky clean and t
    • Actually... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Once&FutureRocketman (148585) <otvk4o702&sneakemail,com> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @06:53PM (#13647177) Homepage
      The utilities will never allow it. Seriously, this is one of their worst nightmares, and one of the major reasons that they consistently oppose programs that promote distributed renewable. They are, for the most part, regulated monopolies. Their political power derives from the fact that, no matter how much they suck, they are the only game in town. Change that, and they start to become superfluous. And they know it.
  • by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:17PM (#13646090) Journal

    from the post:

    Then you create some sort of control network.' That network could be made into a smart grid using more sophisticated software and grid computing technologies.

    I believe if you'll check the documentation, that sophisticated smart-grid controller software is part of the new Office 12 release.

  • What if... (Score:4, Funny)

    by keith_nt4 (612247) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:20PM (#13646110) Homepage Journal
    That network could be made into a smart grid using more sophisticated software and grid computing technologies.

    ...the power goes out?

    • Obviously you go and beat up your neighbors for not supporting their part of the grid :-)
      • Which makes me wonder. With so many smaller power generation units around, does it make it harder to stop people from stealing the electricity. Could you get together with the people you are sharing the generator with, and hack the system so that you all get 10% off your hydro bill. You couldn't get free hydro, because then they would catch on. But you could probably reduce your bill enough to make it worth it. Sorry for use of the word Hydro in place of Electricity. I'm from ontario.
        • I would guess it would be the same as with current sell-back systems for solar. There'd still be a meter that the utility controls and reads, and so it wouldn't be any different than now -- either your subgrid reads as a net user or net contributor by whatever amount. If you alter the meter, it can be made to say whatever.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:24PM (#13646135)
    a new technique for power distribution that might provide electricity using a series of small "microgrids", in a manner similar to peer-to-peer software.

    And you can bet on countless participants finding ways to not share at a 1:1 ratio, just like on most P2P networks...
    • And you can bet on countless participants finding ways to not share at a 1:1 ratio, just like on most P2P networks..

      Possibly, although probably it wouldn't be as much of a problem since most people have finite electricity needs (e.g. once your air conditioner is running, you don't get any additional benefit from turning on a second air conditioner, or a third. Contrast that with p2p, where doubling your bandwidth will always decrease your download time).

      In any case, didn't BitTorrent largely solve the "fre

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Then you create some sort of control network."

    What sort, exactly; and, will it run Linux?

    * * *

    Why do sentences like that stick out and yell "inexperienced ding-dongs at work" ??
  • This would be cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by under_score (65824) <mishkin-slashdot@bertei g . com> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:27PM (#13646155) Homepage
    I've been investigating solar and wind power generation for my home. I'm on an acre and a half, with well and septic. I run some web and mail servers. It would be really nice to be able to have a water supply and electricity supply independent of the grid. If this sort of grid system gets implemented, it may be incentive for me and others to go ahead with local power generation systems so that we can share. I've been reading about in-home control systems that can regulate when and how power is used so that you can immediately get a 15-30% power savings. If this is also done with these micro-grids, a cumulative savings of 50% might be possible. That would be a substantial factor in reducing entropy buildup (emmissions, heat, etc.). Cool stuff!!!
    • by ergo98 (9391) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:52PM (#13646268) Homepage Journal
      If this sort of grid system gets implemented, it may be incentive for me and others to go ahead with local power generation systems so that we can share.

      Perhaps I'm just totally misunderstanding the article (it seems to talk alternately about electricity, and then about heat, and then about electricity. While they can be converted back and forth with varying efficiency, it did seem confusing), but if you are generating more power than you use, in most areas (at least here in North America) you absolutely can push the power onto the grid [energyvortex.com] (which is a lot of intermeshed small grids), getting paid for your generation (or alternately offsetting your consumption used when there is no wind/sun/uranium/whatever). Several jobs ago I worked at a shop that installed control software for generators, and several of the customers used them as mini-generating stations, pushing lots of power onto the neighbouring grid (and thus eliminating the transmission losses).
      • Perhaps I'm just totally misunderstanding the article (it seems to talk alternately about electricity, and then about heat, and then about electricity. While they can be converted back and forth with varying efficiency, it did seem confusing)

        I suspect they were talking about generators driven by an internal combustion engine. Such a generator supplies electric power, plus lots of heat from the engine's cooling system. Putting a small generator in a home enables you to reuse the heat much more easily than re
    • by skids (119237) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:58PM (#13646302) Homepage
      ...is curently in space heating and hot water. Solar PV will catch up in a few years with low-silicon panels and mini CPV arrays, but other than the panels which will eventually come back down after the shortage ends, the grid-tie components are for the most part incredibly overpriced.

      Even with the price gouging that goes on in the home power industry, though, you can still make solar hot water pay back in a few short years... and of course solar air daytime space heating is extremely cheap since DIY is for some weird reason the only real option available. Horizontal geothermal heat/cool banking ("slinky coils") can self-finance on a home equity loan with their power savings, if you are in the right climate... best to have a pro do a site survey before trying to crunch the numbers on a heat pump system, though.

      It's astounding how much of the electricity and fuel we use is just turned straight to heat (or cold), and since heat/cold is much easier to collect/store than electricity, that's where the savings are to be had.

      (Though a space heater that ran the current through a massive BOINC parrallel computing array might be an interesting way to avoid "wasting" electricity when heating with it.)

    • Its very possible to provide half or more of your electrical needs, but the problem is a lot of homeowners don't want to make the (often large) initial investment. There's also maintenence over time. Oftentimes, its simply easier to rely on the large capital investment already made by the utilities. They already have trucks, equipment, manpower, and lines that they all maintain.

      However, it would be cool if as new homes are built many are built with the investment already made, so that homeowners see it as a
  • by guildsolutions (707603) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:28PM (#13646158)
    With such an advanced soceity as we have, its amazing how frail and utterly devistatable our communications and electrical utilies are. With the recent hurricanes, they estimate MONTHS before some places get electricity back. We have the ability to have blackouts the cover entire states.Havnt we learned from google that one huge supercomputer is not better than a million smaller computers? If each city, each neighborhood has a microgrid for power and communications that was burried and belowground, sealed against weather then our communications and electrical infastructure would remain even after huge natrual disasters such as these hurricanes that we have been so blessed with this season.
    • Exactly! I vote for any scheme that's more robust than the current grid. However, I am not sure that anything that cause as much widespread damage as a hurricane is proofable in the slightest.
    • each neighborhood has a microgrid for power and communications that was burried and belowground

      Sure it'll protect from hurricanes if it's underground, but what about earthquakes and underground monsters? [imdb.com]

    • Your absolutely right!

      These electric power companies need to stop messing around and wave their magic wands to rebuild the PHYSICAL infrastructure they have spent a 100 years building up with the lessons learned from a company that's been around for 7 years.

      Perhaps IBM can supply them some fairy dust too.
    • .....its amazing how frail and utterly devistatable our communications and electrical utilies are....

      Why would the distributed generating systems be less frail? With the possible exception of solar generation, the primary energy to run the generator would still have to come from some external source. In most cases that would still be fossil fuels brought in by some sort of transport system. That transport system would still be subject to disruption by large scale disasters. The generators in the hospitals i
    • With such an advanced soceity as we have, its amazing how frail and utterly devistatable our communications and electrical utilies are.

      Not really.

      We may be advanced as a society, but the infastructure these services run on isn't. Remember, the NYC blackout was caused by a failure of the power grid, a failure attributable to lack of maintenance on the grid. During the blackout, the news organizations filled some of their round-the-clock-coverage time talking about the city's power grid and how this was built
  • DG and you (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evillejedi (917683)
    Problem with this is that 1) most DG networks are microturbines or fuels cells, the customer usually picks up the cost of the fuel 2) current natural gas prices make it expenive as heck 3) strong negative NIMBY because usually they are load (both fuel cells and microturbines) 4) high maintinence costs after a few years for membrane replacement and reconditioning of the turbine. 5) you have to hope your neighbors pay their fuel/usage bills... right now its only really practical for large customers like hos
    • Re:DG and you (Score:2, Informative)

      by evillejedi (917683)
      btw those who say big utilities won't let it happen ==> http://www.plugpower.com/ [plugpower.com] yeah they want a cut, but once it gets reasonable it will happen in a lot of places.
    • most DG networks are microturbines or fuels cells, the customer usually picks up the cost of the fuel

      Hasn't anyone noticed with that the incredible increase in the price of fuels, that suddenly DG is being pushed? I'm suspecting that DG is one way that utilities are trying to not pay for fuel, hence (as you identified) forcing the customer to shoulder the full cost. In fact, it is MORE than the full cost, since there is less and less economy of scale when delivering fuel to distributed entities.

      I'
  • by deutschemonte (764566) <lane DOT montgomery AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:31PM (#13646172) Homepage
    I have always thought that the real revolution in fuel cell tech will be with something like this. Either you can have a fuel cell powered generator at one house, or use a larger generator to power several houses.

    In either case it would allow for what I believe is the greatest hinderance to this technology, true energy competition.

    Think about it, your energy costs would be completely independent of where you live (except for shipping costs). We could build clean energy supply stations where they will be most effective (say the desert for example) and then contain and ship that energy anywhere using fuel cells.

    There are a few hurdles to overcome such as local power monopolies and putting protections in place to make sure 1st world countries aren't just importing from poluting energy sources in 3rd world countries.

    But when the technology becomes marketable, this will be a real possibility.
    • Ceramic Fuel Cells (Score:2, Informative)

      by Col Bat Guano (633857)
      A company in Australia (http://www.cfcl.com.au/ [cfcl.com.au]) (and a couple of others) are developing ceramic fuel cells.
      Natural gas + O2 = electriicity + high temp waste heat that can heat your water.
    • We could build clean energy supply stations where they will be most effective (say the desert for example) and then contain and ship that energy anywhere using fuel cells.

      No, we can't. Fuel cells and electrolysis have finite efficiencies, shipping has it's cost, too. If you envision hydrogen as fuel, purifying and liquefying it doubles its cost in term of energy. If you think of methanol or something, then extracting CO2 from the atmosphere adds to the cost as well.

      it would allow for what I believe is t
    • ....We could build clean energy supply stations where they will be most effective (say the desert for example) and then contain and ship that energy anywhere using fuel cells......

      That assumes the total processes of converting the electricity, say generated by solar, in the desert to hydrogen, the energy (trucks or pipe lines) needed to transport to the individual houses and converting that hydrogen back to electricity is over all more efficient and cost effective than putting the power onto the grid and sh
  • Big companies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Saiyine (689367) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:31PM (#13646174) Homepage

    People supplying energy for the people? Big electric companies will never allow it.

    --
    Superb hosting [dreamhost.com] 4800MB Storage, 120GB bandwidth, $7,95.
    Picaday!!! [picaday.host.sk] Strange & sexy pictures (Some NSFW!).
    • Re:Big companies (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      BC Hydro allows this here in Canada. If you produce your own power and install a proper converter BC Hydro will buy your power from you. This makes things like solar power or wind power much better. When it's sunny you build a credit, but at night you spend it rather than needing to store the power in batteries. If you actually produce more power than you consume they'll mail you a cheque at the end of the year!

      Sometimes crown (government) corporations can do good things! :)
    • Actually, in Germany we have laws to support the development of this kind of decentralized power generation. If you've got solar panels on your roof, the electricity company is forced to buy any surplus energy from you at a price that is higher than the one regular customers pay for the electricity.

      This is financed by a special tax on all energy called Ökosteuer (Steuer = tax)

      I've already wondered if this system couldn't be abused. For example you could store some energy in large accumulators or f
      • The conservatives (CDU) already want to reduce or abolish these subventions.
        Personally, I think that a small reduction is OK, maybe to the level where you can sell your surplus you at the same price that you have to pay when you draw energy from he grid. But it would be stupid to kill the market for renewable energy now, when a further increase in fossil energy prices seems likely.
    • Ironically enough, Chicago has electricity provided by Peoples Energy [peoplesenergy.com]. The name sounds more like a socialist throwback, but they are definitely not controlled by the people :-P

  • Been there, got that (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rlp (11898) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:31PM (#13646175)
    My neighborhood has a set of fuel cell generators deployed at a transmssion site up the street. Runs on natural gas. It's an experiment, and probably would not be cost effective w/o state and federal grants.
    • There are quite a few gas wells around the country that don't produce enough to be worthwhile commercially, but are fine for powering a house or two. I know an elderly couple (old friends of the family) who have an old gas well on their property in the hills in Pennsylvania, and they have mostly gas appliances. They haven't gone ahead and installed a gas-powered generator yet, though.

      What's the operating cost of your fuel cells like?

      -jcr
      • They are 250 KW units from FuelCell Energy Corp. [fuelcellenergy.com] Like I said, it's a subsidized experiment. Don't think it would be cost effective on it's own. Runs on natural gas.

        Might be interesting if you could run fuel cells on methane from landfills, sewage plants, or farm waste. Don't see much discussion of that aside from Beyond Thunderdome
  • 3 concerns:

    1) how much more/less will this cost?
    2) is this going to affect, say, the data center that houses 300+ servers, and the guy down the block's electronics? who says the data center can afford the drop in power when he goes to turn on a few high-power units?
    3) wouldn't this just make it that much easier for power to be cut as a whole?
    • Another concern.

      Assume that in most places, the existing electricity grid will be used to shuffle power around the neighborhood -- and to allow access to the big-boy power generators who pick up the slack when the microgrids are net consumers. Many states allow individuals to sell power back into the grid. Some even require that the "price" paid for such power is the same retail that the small customer pays, so accounting is simply a matter of spinning the meter backwards. Most of those states, however, r

      • ....a sufficiently sophisticated distributed control system should be able to handle this....

        Unless the grid failure is a very localized failure, the small generator would be instantly overloaded if the utility supply went down. It would disconnect itself from the grid and continue to power the local non-grid connected load. For practical purposes, circuit breakers in the right places would take care of the problem.
  • Holy cow (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When Brian Cohan created BitTorrent, I bet he had no idea that he just singlehandedly save the world!!!
     
    /jumping up and down madly chanting "TAKE THAT RIAA!!!!!!!111!!!!11!"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's really difficult to connect small generators together to form a power network. As any self respecting /. nerd knows, gnerators generate AC power... unlike connecting DC batteries together to form a more powerful source of power, generators have to be synched up exactly in phase. Only the more expensive generators have this capability, which usually requires them to synch up. If one generator puts out slightly more power then the other, the weaker one would act like a motor and suck the power f
  • by banzaimonkey (917475) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @03:49PM (#13646252)

    This seems somewhat far-fetched to me.

    From what I remember of physics in highschool, the production and transport of electricity is much more efficient when it is done in high volume with high voltages. In a small grid, you'd lose the benefits of that efficiency. It would also require separate maintenance crews, hardware, etc.

    It would also raise concerns about standardization. Will the product I just purchased work on a grid down the street? Would you have to replace your appliances when you moved? The biggest benefit of consolitation is, imo, that you don't have to ask these questions. The systems are large enough to span areas well beyond the majority of general user's environments and thus there are few, if any compatability issues (i.e. Currently, if you leave the country, you might need to change your plug type / voltage, but anywhere in the country it should be the same).

    Interruption also raises an issue. I'm inclined to think that a larger factility is easier to keep in operation because it's consolidated and more easily accessed by technicians / engineers / etc.

    There are some benefits.

    Solar power is made feasible, at least partially, in this case. I've always wondered why we don't all just have solar panels on our houses and batteries in the basements. I suppose that living in Southern California gives me a bit of a bias in terms of estimating the feasibility of such a system, but it certainly seems more reasonable than burning copious amounts of fossil fuels.

    There are also other "alternative" power sources listed in the article, although it seems to me that large-scale, consolidated power production is still superior, given that the production facilities are clean.

    Having grids separated increases security of those facilities in a disaster as there is no single facility whose compromise would cause a power loss to an entire large grid. With small grids, even if your grid goes down, surrounding grids should still be operational. That does, however, raise concerns about maintenance and repair--who's doing it and when?

    Why not nuclear?

    Nuclear energy is some of the cleanest and most efficient energy production available. Even with the waste being very toxic, its concentration levels are high. It is arguably easier to control the pollution from nuclear by-products than from a coal power plant. In a well-maintained and operated plant, there is virtually no risk of a meltdown, and I'm sure modern technology can be used to further increase the safety of nuclear power.

    Chernobyl is the bloody poster-child of anti-nuclear groups, but that's certainly not par for the course in terms of nuclear power. San Onofre [sce.com] is down here in SoCal, and I dare say we have any mutated sea bass or deathclaw walking around. ;)

    My vote is for nuclear, hydroelectic, and other efficient, clean, large-scale power sources, or for solar panels on my roof. It'll be interesting to see how this issue plays out.

    • The Gonenator was going to equip a million homes with solar power-- give major discounts to the people that did it, etc. But at the last second the unions stuck a sentence that said that only union employees could do the installation. Arnold killed it. Pity... it would have been the equivalent of having built a new nuclear power plant.
    • From what I remember of physics in highschool, the production and transport of electricity is much more efficient when it is done in high volume with high voltages. In a small grid, you'd lose the benefits of that efficiency. It would also require separate maintenance crews, hardware, etc.

      We're not talking about new grids, new wires. Sure, the 'Highway' electrical distribution is the most efficient per mile, but it still has to get to your house. The 'last mile' is still there, we're just talking about ma
    • Everything is a trade-off. You may be able to get some economy of scale in generating centrally, but you lose an awful lot in transmission. Maintainance costs may increase, but as you say it's insurance against one line being cut and thousands of homes going without electricity (eg from a hurricane). You can also go hybrid, where a few solar panels or small wind turbine can keep the house ticking over during the day whilst you are at work but draw off the grid when you get home and fire up the kettle/tv/com
    • Why not nuclear? Nuclear energy is some of the cleanest and most efficient energy production available.

      It's not as clean as some people seem to think.

      Nuclear fuels need to be mined and refined. So much so that you create roughly the same amount of pollution preparing nuclear fuels as you do preparing coal. While it's true that actually generating the power is cleaner, nuclear energy is still significantly more polluting than truly "green" energy such as wind, solar, geothermal and hydro.

      I think the

    • In southern California paybacks on solar installations of 4 years have been achieved (This includes government subsidies). That is after 4 years the system makes you money. 8 is more common, but 4 has been achieved. Assuming you own your own house and plan to live there for a few years, then you should start doing site surveys and otherwise checking the math to see if it really can work out for you.

      Of course there are many variables that I don't know. It is possible that your home in California actua

    • While I am sure that there are plenty of issues still to be addressed...

      - Power transmission, even at high voltages, is a lot less efficient [all-scienc...ojects.com] than you might think.

      - As the article said, you can utilise the heat given off by the generator in your cellar. In a power-plant, this is just waste.

      - While I'm also in favor of nuclear power, power supply is interesting in that the load varies quite a lot (roughly twice as much electricity is needed during the day as at night), which complicates things. Nuclear power
  • suggested this oh quite a while ago....
  • hope it's 'open' (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fak3r (917687)
    an open system would follow an open society and *all* could benefit - wouldn't that be a nice/new way to look at rebuilding of places like NO, and other inner city places. hopeful perhaps, but it'd be a nice application and solve may of society's (current) ills.
  • Sort of (Score:3, Funny)

    by Trailwalker (648636) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:04PM (#13646321)
    Then you create some sort of control network.
    Just as soon as I finish writing some sort of article.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:14PM (#13646370)
    Aren't a couple of the main benefits of centralized power centralized pollution control and centralized upgrades?

    I keep hearing that 1 large electric plant is better to power transportation than a million tiny gasoline powered generators. In fact, I hear that in here quite regularly.

    Why the dichotomy?

    • If you read between the lines, they aren't talking about generators. They're talking about renewable energy.

      We are getting closer and closer to the point at which commercial power cannot compete with renewable energy. In fact, we may already be at that point. Power companies are already investing in RE to hedge against rising fuel costs, and to provide peak loads.

      The problem is: sunlight exists everywhere, wind exists everywhere. RE power technologies are reliable and low-maintenance. There is very li
      • I used the term 'generators' as a generic, not specifically and solely car engines or house generators.

        The same scale holds true, though. Which is more efficient? A large windmill farm or hydroelectric generator, where the wind actually blows constantly, or a million small windmills, of unreliable and inconstant efficiency?

        Personally, I think a combination of both is needed.

      • The problem is: sunlight exists everywhere, wind exists everywhere. RE power technologies are reliable and low-maintenance.

        The problem is that neither sunlight or wind are available 24/7/365 so until someone comes up with much more effecient methods of storage and conversion these technologies are not going to be effecient for base loads. If you ever price out a solar system for your home (assuming you're planning to be completely off grid) you'll quickly find out that it's need to overproduce when possible
    • Well, most "small" generators that run on gasoline are piston engines, and are quite inefficient. A mid-sized generator that runs on natural gas might be a turbine-based system however, able to glean efficiencies up to 60% and higher. Just about any type of power conversion is better than "gasoline powered generators."
  • Microgrids cannot get very big unless the infrastructure gets much better. The great blackout of August 2003 was caused by one power plant screwing up and then all the other plants powering down to protect their networks. These are huge power plants we are talking about. Imagine one guy who didn't maintain his generator wiping out the microgrid every day!
  • Will never happen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:24PM (#13646405)
    This completely violates the "Banana" doctrine - which of course states:
    Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone
    Why do you think they put the large powerplants out in the middle of nowhere, so that only poor people are near them, because if you tried to get a permit to build a small generator in the middle of a populated area - the enviroNazi's would shoot it down in a pile of lawsuits and environmental impact statements.

    Nice idea - I have heard that transmission takes about 20-30% of our electrical output (especially when California gets its electricity from the Northern Oregon border, if not even farther away) - so anything to move the generation plant closer to the people that actually use the electricity would be a huge benefit.

    • We already do this on a suburban block using solar panels. And our neighbours all think it's a great idea (they even bought their own panels and use our inverter to match into the grid). I can only assume you live in a really unfriendly area. Perhaps when you hear generator you're thinking of one of those silly petrol powered noise makers? That's not what the article is talking about - most CHP systems are as noisy as a new fridge and live in the basement.
    • ....I have heard that transmission takes about 20-30% of our electrical output....

      Actually, electrical high voltage power transmission is remarkably efficient, around 95% or so. Power from the Columbia River is transmitted at 500KV and 750KV to southern CA on a set of lines called the Pacific Intertie. In the summer, the power runs the airconditioners in CA and in the winter CA ships power to heat the Pacific Northwest.

      Building generators in the middle of nowhere isn't nearly the problem as running a major
      • Actually - California hasn't sent power back to Oregon for 5 years now... it only goes one way. I can't see how you could make a 2000 mile transmission 95% efficient - I'll take your word that you can however.
        • ....I can't see how you could make a 2000 mile transmission 95% efficient....

          The main losses in electrical transmission is caused by the resistance of the wires. The power lost goes with the square of the current. To keep the current lower, the voltage is increased. The greater voltage however increases the leakage of the insulators and into the air, especially in damp weather. The noise you hear near a big overland transmission line is corona leakage. Because an AC line must be insulated for the peak which
  • Economies of Scale (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @04:36PM (#13646468)
    A microgrid is a collection of small generators for a collection of users in close proximity

    I thought the reason we built big power plants was that:

    1: By putting all your eggs in one basket and Watching That Basket, reliability was increased.

    2: Many small generators would cost more and not be as efficient as one big generator, even allowing for larger transmission line losses.

    • There are a couple problems with this simplification-- different consumers have different reliability and capacity requirements, and that long-distance distribution does not conflict with said reliability and capacity needs.

      The key to making distributed generation work is the ability to manage loads as well as generation. If light levels can be reduced by 25% and the air conditioning ramped up a couple degrees if the wind is not strong enough to power all of the loads. Unfortunately, this is hard to reall
  • ...a Beowulf cluster of... oh wait, this is a Beowulf cluster ;-p
  • Sounds interesting, but the idea in the article seems to be moving electric generation to houses so that they can take advantage of the waste heat that electric generation always entails. Problem is, where I live, it's 104F (40C) outside today (September 25). So tell me again why I'd want waste heat?

    Around here, the peak power usage is in the summer, at which time this technology would do more harm than good. Power plants have to be built to handle the peak power usage, so the electric company would ha

  • This is all well and good, but how do you deal with situations when all nodes demand power, NOW? Like during winter for heating, or during summer for aircon? Power distribution companies have learned to anticipate demand for things like big sports games (tv) and everyone using their kettles in the morning. Will a p2p network be able to deal with such challenges as well?
  • by cdhowe (738664)
    Clearly, this is an attempt to create a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Generators. Anyone know where I can find a RAIG controller? Cheap?

    Seriously, that seems to be the key here. You will need controllers to synchronize all the generation, but once you do that, then each generator is just like the disks in a RAID array. They can be inexpensive and not super reliable, thereby reducing costs.

    The efficiency issues I believe are being overemphasized. Yes, you want high voltage for long distances. But the wh

    • ..... then each generator is just like the disks in a RAID array.....

      The fallacy is in comparing the moving around a physical thing like energy to the transmitting of non-physical information bits. Information does not operate by the same rules because it is not physical. It is carried and recorded on physical media but in and of itself it is non physical. Bits can be duplicated, transmitted and stored indefinitely without loss. This is not the case with energy. The laws of physics favor energy conversion
  • Yet none have used to term "Peer-to-Power". I'm ashamed of you Slashdotters, and your lack of obvious punnery.
  • by suitepotato (863945) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @05:25PM (#13646746)
    The reasons are many and varied and mostly center on physics. If you look at best case scenarios with current off the shelf technology and the efficiencies as you scale up, there's a sweet spot where the size versus distribution versus etc. all reaches an optimum level. Our present system is much closer to that sweet spot than microgrids or the other end of the spectrum, one giant planet-wide power station.

    We could use high temperature superconductors, fission reactors and with fusion later when they get it to work, and a lot of clearing of the way by the federal government for deployment which is now held up by people using the environment as a smokescreen when what it comes down to is a lot of NIMBY and more to the point a bountiful opportunity for pitiful and pathetic unimportant people to make themselves feel important.

    I live in a state where every highway project takes years longer and millions more because the enviros hold up everything *after* the damage is already done until they've milked out the publicity for themselves and finally it gets done in the end and there was no change and nothing saved in terms of environment and plenty of time and money wasted. All for their inane ego festivals.

    Right now those same imbeciles are doing everything they can to keep the power transmission companies from fixing outdated and antiquated transmission lines and equipment which first keeps efficiency low and cost of the power transmission high, second it keeps jacking up the danger of massive local outages every year, third it increases the danger to the workers who maintain the system, fourth it increases the chance of creating a regional chain reaction outage, and fifth it increases the chance of a catastrophic failure on one of the big circuits going through the woods and starting a fire.

    They are also trying everything they can do to prevent us from tying into regional grids through the west side of CT into New York and across the sound to Long Island. And lastly doing all they can to stand in the way of a gas tanker and pipeline facility. The sanity of putting liquid natural gas ships more than ten miles offshore is obvious in this new age of mega-terrorism and conversely the insanity of making the tankers put into ports near population centers equally obvious. They just don't care. It's all about them.

    The best thing we can do with our end of things as consumers is insulate, make efficient use of what we consumer, and use solar electric, thermal, and hydro *where* economical and efficient on our homes. When superconductive storage systems finally come around, we can store the energy compactly that way onsite and until then, unless we want to deal with the danger of poisonous battery chemicals and five thousand pounds of them per home, we're better off simply having a system where we use the energy we generate first and the main grid's power secondly.

    But generators aren't going to cut it. We're going from a few hundred stations to a few million and with less efficiency and more pollution and no inspection. Tack on inspection and you can add the psycho enviro leftists to the far right terrorist under every bed paranoids as one more group pushing us closer to a police state; no way would they let fossil fuel generators increase like that without mandating mandatory inspections on your property at any time for any or no reason with no prior notice and reserve the right to shut you down whenever they felt like it.

    I don't see a need to create a massive new intrusion on our rights. Like I said, insulate, make efficient use, be efficient in generation where it is fitting to generate it yourself.

    Fittingly a lot of the enviros of today were the Mother Earth News types of twenty-five years ago advocating that we all use wood and coal stoves, forge and smelt our own metals, and operate pig farms to feed methane stills. Their former zeal for old low tech is utterly incompatible with their stated beliefs of today. Much like the pictures of them in mullets, gold chains, and neon orange leisure suits were twenty-five years ago.
    • by bluGill (862) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @09:52PM (#13647906)

      Actually the Mother Earth News types of 25 years ago where exactly the same as they were now: hypocrites who didn't realize that their actions where hypocritical. They were always in favor of pollution restrictions on everything, and being self sufficient on your own wood heat. Both at once.

      I remember (Just before the original mother went out of business) their shock when they realized that their efforts to prevent pollution had reached the point where their beloved woodstove was no illegal to make.

      In otherwords they were like everyone else. I want to make the world a better place, so long as it doesn't effect me in any way. (Think greenpeace bumpersticker on a SUV)

  • by Dr. Mu (603661) on Sunday September 25, 2005 @09:04PM (#13647702)
    In Britain, entire neighbourhoods share one large secondary power transformer. They can do this because the voltage delivered to the home is twice what it is here in the U.S., so the I^2R losses over the longer service distances are not so great. In such cases, neighbourhood power grids are a reasonable endeavour.

    But in the States, a pole-mounted transformer may serve only two or threee homes. Here, the technical issues resulting from bridging multiple transformers might make the prospect of a neighborhood-wide grid less economically feasible.

  • Already In Use (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Monday September 26, 2005 @03:40AM (#13649004)
    At my university (University of Colorado at Boulder), we have an on-campus 33MW power plant. Waste heat from the plant is piped around campus to heat buildings, and the electricity generated is enough to power the campus, with 8MW left over that is sold to the grid. The facility also produces chilled water through a massive vapor-phase system that is used to cool the physics and other nearby buildings.

Entropy isn't what it used to be.

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