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The Internet Science Technology

Building the Energy Internet 197

Ant writes "This article talks about transforming today's dumb electricity grid into a smart, responsive and self-healing digital network--in short, an 'energy internet'."
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Building the Energy Internet

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  • by pacman on prozac ( 448607 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:42AM (#8654736)
    Transforming the electricity grid into the worlds largest human microwave.
  • Oblig (Score:5, Funny)

    by bbrazil ( 729534 ) <brian.brazil@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:43AM (#8654738)
    • ROFL... from the link

      While reading this document, at various points the readers may have the urge to ask questions like, "does this make sense?", "is this feasible?," and "is the author sane?". The readers must have the ability to suppress such questions and read on. Other than this, no specific technical background is required to read this document. In certain cases (present document included), it may be REQUIRED that readers have no specific technical background.

  • by Doomrat ( 615771 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:44AM (#8654742) Homepage
    Don't do this. Seriously. Building adapting, sentient networks of energy always ends in the Universe being destroted. I KNOW BECAUSE IT HAPPENED TO ME.
  • self healing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tklive ( 755607 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:44AM (#8654747)
    ...internet..self healing...? well, tolerant to a nice degree in most instances..but healing ?
  • by Perdition ( 208487 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:45AM (#8654749)
    Now my lamps and appliances can get spammed too. Progress.
    • Re:wonderful... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Calydor ( 739835 )
      Wow. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night because your alarm clock starts broadcasting a Security Int. commercial, or going to the fridge for a cold one, and the light morse-blinks an ad for milk, or ... Oh, the possibilities for spamming this way. And across the Energy Internet you might say .. All power to the spammers. ;)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Lamp Spam?

      "Improve your wattage! Increase the size of your Candlepower! Feel like a lighthouse, not a wimpy oven light! Send your master's credit card information to..."
  • I remember when... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ratface ( 21117 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:45AM (#8654751) Homepage Journal
    People used to say that when the Internet becomes as invisible as the electricity grid we'll know it has succeeded in becoming an invaluable part of our lives.

    Now people are wanting to turn the electricity grid into an "internet". Does this mean that it will suffer from the same problems in reliability, be difficult to install and that early adopters will bost about "having electricity use at home"?? ;-)
    • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:52AM (#8654781) Homepage Journal
      There is actually a powere grid out there that already does this. i wish I could find the article on it. It was setup in the 90s. It can sense changes in the grid and if it can be fixed before there is a problem than it is and if not then they can reroute power.

      It doesn't work quite like the internet but that's the concept power folks work with. The idea of bringing it up to tech isn't quite like the internet as we picture it but it has a lot of the same networked concepts.
      • You don't need to find the article on it -- just read the article from the original post. It talks about that very system.
  • Move over hax0rs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Underholdning ( 758194 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:45AM (#8654752) Homepage Journal
    So basically they want to be able to "route" electricity in different directions in case of a power node failure. Opens up a whole new area for hackers. Imagine an eDdos (electric Distributed denial of service) attack on pentagon.
  • technology exists (Score:5, Insightful)

    by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:47AM (#8654758) Homepage Journal
    To implement a system that would do this wouldn't require any new technology. The ability to sense grid changes before problems occur has been happening in some places for years. The ability to reroute power is already there. It's just a matter of integrating the technology together and installing it all over. That is where the problem would fall as it would cost a lot of $$$$$.

    I have seen demonstrations of this technology on a smaller scale already.
    • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:57AM (#8654809)
      I think it's also about decentralising the networks. Sure my electricity can be rerouted, but not by me. Electricity supply and distribution is still an "old boys" game, and I don't think they'll give up that power without much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
      • "I think it's also about decentralising the networks. Sure my electricity can be rerouted, but not by me."

        It's not really about decentralizing the networks from where they are now but about new technology. I don't ever forsee any single person rerouting the power flow. No one person especially someone who doesn't work on the power grid has a clue how/where it needs to be routed. It about the adaptation and smarts of the system.
        • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:07AM (#8655421)
          I get your point, but what I mean is, If I don't want supply from company X, I can reroute my connection to company Y. Or if I've got a wind tubine in my back yard and am away on holiday, I can route my surplus electricy to my brother across town. I know there's loadings and things to consider, but you get the idea. Some of that is kind of possible already, but it's a bit of a farce - basically you send your money to different companies for the same service over the same lines from the same generators. I want to be able to choose for my electricy comes from a hydro plant and not a coal plant for example.
          • I want to be able to choose for my electricy comes from a hydro plant and not a coal plant for example.

            What meaningful difference would you expect to occur? What meaningful difference would such a scheme have vs. you just saying to yourself right now, "All my electricity comes from hydro plants"?

            Electricity is electricity. It's not even water, where you can hypothetically track water molecules back to their source. It's just a potential, an energy field; there is no way to seperate which "part" of the en
            • Agreed... Like water, or even gasoline (yes, all automotive gas IS a generic product, and is all transported over a common shared pipeline system. only difference is additives at the truck-fill station, and most of those are similar too), there is no difference between power from one company or another. The only differentiation infrastructure would be financial, where the metering of power generation, usage, and billing creates the illusion of being able to choose your power company.
          • I want to be able to choose for my electricy comes from a hydro plant and not a coal plant for example.

            Assuming, of course, that there is a hydro plant in the general vicinity.
          • Thats crazy talk. Electricity just doesn't work like that. Its not data, its potential. You'd have to have a unique electrical circuit running from your house all the way to some massive switching station where all the suppliers lines run into, or some abstraction of that. Its not like ethernet, where you can bundle it up into a bunch of packets and send it along one wire and sort it out when it comes out the other end. I should further mention that even if the network could do that, which it *can't*,
        • many years ago there were 2 Detroit Edison power station operators in my econ class, they worked at the DetEdCo Belle River plant. This plant basicaly generate power for sale, shoots it cross the river into Canada over the biggest power line cables and towers you'll ever see, straight across Ontario to Buffalo NY So one night they decide to go downto the river and catch some smelt; the Belle river plant is highly automated. after they came back, they noticed that the voltage from the plant had drooped 5%. f
      • Re:technology exists (Score:3, Interesting)

        by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 )
        It might be interesting to combine this with the systems of broadband over power lines currently in use.

        Having sensors at remote locations that can use the power lines themselves to communicate with each other much like routers do over the larger Internet would seem to make this more feasible and not a toy [educationa...ld-toy.com].

        Of course, broadband to your sensor might just encourage the crackers to attack them as noted in earlier posts...
    • Re:technology exists (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Beatbyte ( 163694 )
      Technology also exists to setup PV (solar) power on the same power grid where it returns the solar power it gathers back into the grid. no polution.

      if more people would have invested in the clean energy and installed it correctly, this wouldn't be as big of a problem.

      and if they bitch about money, ask them how much money they lose when the power goes out for a day or 2. I'm sure it'll easily pay for a 5kw PV system.
      • Actually at last check to setup a Solar Power Grid that would collect 25% of the power I need at minimum I'm looking at $25000-$30000 investment.

        Slightly less in the states where it's subsidized, but in Canada, it's FAR too expensive to setup ATM.

        Yo Grark
        • I'm in Florida and I own 4-5 acres of land thats empty. I could setup enough solar to power a small neighborhood. If I wasn't alone, there would be barely any fossil fuel energy burnt during the day.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:47AM (#8654763)
    I would fear that a "new electricity net" would be less secure than the current control systems because the control nodes would inevitably be connected to the public internet with packets tunneled via a VPN to the central office. I don't see power companies laying their own independent fibers for connectivity. And even if they use their own BPL, there is a good chance the control nodes, sensor nodes, and ccentral office will be connected to what is a public-exposed BPL net. The cost efficiency of routing packets over the public net are just too tempting. Despite best efforts, I'm sure someone will figure a way to hack into the sensor nodes, control nodes, or the central office if it is connected to a public internet.

    The current system is more secure (if unreliable and uncontrollable) because compromising it requires physical access.
    • The power distribution companies are just about the one group who really can afford to run private fibre. After all, they already HAVE cables connecting all the omportant sites, byu definition, and the technology to wrap a fibre around a power line is already well established.

      And before someone makes the obvious comment -- it's already easy to route data around a line interrupted by a fallen tree or whatever. Harder to route gigawatts.
      • The power distribution companies are just about the one group who really can afford to run private fibre. After all, they already HAVE cables connecting all the omportant sites, byu definition, and the technology to wrap a fibre around a power line is already well established.

        Perhaps its a country-by-country issue. In the U.S., power transmission is a neglected, regulated industry -- its the people that generate the power, not the people that transmit the power, that make all the money. Transmission, a
    • If they use the right encryption and safety measures, why won't that be secure?

      Most electricity systems (heck, most systems in general) are already connected to the net in some way.

      Just being connected to the net doesn't mean you're instantly going to get cracked. Look at microsoft.com - a server everyone and their dog wants to crack into. It has external access, and yet is still up and running, profanity-free. With the right technology and people to put it in place, it's secure enough for almost anyth

      • If they use the right encryption and safety measures, why won't that be secure?

        There's no such thing as unhackable security, especially if you want cheap boxes that sit on all the thousands/millions of powerplants and distribution facilities in a big power grid. Sooner or later people will find a weakness in the software, firmware, or hardware of the little boxen on all those sensor and control nodes. Sooner or later a power company will fail to patch a hole (or it will take months to physically replac
    • Power companies can and DO run their own fiber. National Grid USA (who I recently interviewed with, hence why I know) recently rolled out their own fiber loop in Massachusetts. Probably paid way too much for it too, but there you have it. After the NY blackout there's a *lot* of pressure to make everything more distributed, responsive, and secure, regardless of cost, and thats the way they're going.
  • by lewko ( 195646 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:48AM (#8654764) Homepage
    I disagree with the article - obviously written for a non technical audience.

    Although I hate calling a bug a "feature", the fact is that blackouts are often a testament to fault-detection which could otherwise overload a grid and cause more substantial problems that would take longer to resolve.

    When ever there is a power outage, a grid must be brought back up slowly. Otherwise, all the lights, motors, air-conditioners, fridges etc. switched on will overload the system and shut it down again - bunnyhopping.

    Moreover, grids are deliberately designed (1950s or not) to channel energy where it's needed. This prevents overloading or underpowering.

    It just saddens me how absolutely dependent we are on electricity/technology that in an emergency we cannot possibly do without it. How many people have been frustrated that their mail server is down, yet not realised they can WALK over to their colleague and TALK to him?

    Powers out... Grab the shotgun!
    • by millahtime ( 710421 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:04AM (#8654848) Homepage Journal
      The technology they are reffering to in reality is PHM (Prognostics Health Management) or sometimes called Prognostics and Diagnostics.

      This is a form of fault detection that detects something much earlier where you can either go perform maintenance on the problem before it breaks or reroute power from the problem area and go fix it. Either way it keeps the power up and is transparent to the user

      Fault detection has come a lot way since the days of the 1950s. Hell it has come a log way from 10 years ago

      Say you can detect a problem in the power grid hours or even days before it causes something to break in the grid. You can have a repair guy go out and fix it or if you can't get someone to fix it in time you can reroute power around the problem until you can get it fixed.

      From a technical side it can be done and it is a networked approach but nothing says they will use the internet or it will have the same kind of problems from users accessing it.
    • by SmackCrackandPot ( 641205 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:47AM (#8655235)
      How many people have been frustrated that their mail server is down, yet not realised they can WALK over to their colleague and TALK to him?

      Yes, I've tried, but he's always busy moderating slashdot comments.
    • by ohsoot ( 699507 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:51AM (#8655283)
      Although I hate calling a bug a "feature", the fact is that blackouts are often a testament to fault-detection which could otherwise overload a grid and cause more substantial problems that would take longer to resolve.

      Yes, blackouts small blackouts should occur by design to isolate a fault. When the much of the north eastern US is in a black out, the system did not work. The grid should have isolated the fault and blacked out the minimum area.

      When ever there is a power outage, a grid must be brought back up slowly. Otherwise, all the lights, motors, air-conditioners, fridges etc. switched on will overload the system and shut it down again - bunnyhopping.

      100% correct.

      Moreover, grids are deliberately designed (1950s or not) to channel energy where it's needed. This prevents overloading or underpowering.

      Absolutely correct again. The problem is that after deregulation power companies send their power to whatever area will pay the most $$$. This is not always the place that is in the most need of power. Thus many lines have a lot more power going through them than before deregulation. In addition electricity is being carried much farther than before. This is not how the grid was designed, and is a partial contributor to the august blackout.

      I agree with the article. We need to upgrade the US power system. An alternative would be to do away with deregulation and go back to using the grid as it was designed. (This would require a political change and probably won't happen.)
      • by johnjay ( 230559 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:52AM (#8655872)
        An alternative would be to do away with deregulation and go back to using the grid as it was designed.

        It seems to me that such a change would result in building a lot more powerplants closer to cities. I'm not very excited about that, unless they were nuclear power plants, because of the amount of pollution generated by powerplants. I bet that nuclear powerplants wouldn't be built because of environmental and n.i.m.b.y. concerns.

        If I'm jumping to the wrong conclusion, please correct me. I don't know much about the electrical system.
    • by Tau Zero ( 75868 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:09AM (#8655447) Journal
      Moreover, grids are deliberately designed (1950s or not) to channel energy where it's needed. This prevents overloading or underpowering.
      I'm sorry, but the second sentence is just false. The assumption of the grid is that there is always sufficient generating capacity to meet the instantaneous demand. If demand exceeds supply for any reason, part or all of the system can be under-powered. This is what happened on 8/14/2003: lines carrying power to portions of Ohio went down, causing local plants to overload and trip off-line and beginning the cascade of failures.
      When ever there is a power outage, a grid must be brought back up slowly.
      This is why it is so important to prevent large outages. Small-scale load shedding is a vast improvement over any big failure. Systems which can react to an under-power situation fast enough to dump a few neighborhoods or plants before the generators or lines have to trip off will prevent outages from growing larger.

      Cutting off customers is a poor substitute for demand-side management [doe.gov]. When there's a run on, say, toilet paper or gasoline, prices rise or suppliers run out. Latecomers delay their consumption and everyone has an incentive to decide how important it is to have the goods right now vs. later; there is no way to bring down the toilet-paper supply system. We have no such buffer like this for electricity; because of the false assumption that electricity will always be available when you flip the switch, too many people flipping the switch can cause everyone's power to go down. We need to address this sooner rather than later.

      Although I hate calling a bug a "feature", the fact is that blackouts are often a testament to fault-detection which could otherwise overload a grid and cause more substantial problems that would take longer to resolve.
      Fault detection is one thing. A faulty response to detection of a fault is another; if the system reacts to a shortage of generation capacity by cutting off generation rather than consumption, the protective systems act to decrease reliability. We may need measures such as mandatory utility control over air-conditioners (the major loads during summer demand peaks) in order to get a handle on this problem.
      • C'mon. Mandatory utility control of HVAC systems? The implications boggle the mind.

        From software bugs/malicious individuals killing all the air conditioning in NYC on the hottest day of the year to the Big Brother-type monitoring and control that definitely will not fly down here in the South, that's just not going to work.

        The fact that there have not been problems like the NE outage on a regular basis tells a bit about the competence of those working the grid right now - sometimes, adding technology

        • My parents have utility control of their HVAC system. Well AC anyway, the rest doesn't use enough power for the utility to care. They also have utility control of their water heating system. The Water heating only runs between midnight and 4am. (The utility supplied extra water heaters for storage so this lasts all day) The AC runs 15 minutes on, 10 off when demand is highest. In exchange my parents pay half rates for the power those devices use. (They have two meters)

          It works great, more utiliti

      • All the problems you list point exclusively to the fact that we aren't capable of generating enough surplus power. We run on very thin margins, trying to estimate (too) closely what the demand on a given day will be, and we rely too much on far-away generators, which can have their own demand problems. The power system is designed that there should be enough suppliers in a region to handle any load the customers can drum up. Obviously that breaks down every so often. The more penny-pinching we do (with
  • Great... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stopmotioncleaverman ( 628352 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @08:52AM (#8654782)
    Now my fridge will get spammed (sic), worms will infest my lightbulbs, my appliances will get deleted left right and centre, and my house will reboot at odd times, being slower to switch back on and losing more electricity points each time it does.

    Not to mention the 'Blackout.A throgh Blackout.J' DDoS that's gonna be happening on SCO's HQ...
  • I wonder how long it will take to write a "energy-equivalent" virus? That could have really terrible effects.
  • by Syntroxis ( 564739 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:01AM (#8654828)
    The ARRL (Amateur Radio Relay League) is very concerned about the disruption of various portions of the RF spectrum, particularly HF that police, er, fema, etc. use.

    An article regarding their concern is here [arrl.org].

  • Many ages ago, when people were still using Dr Halo for graphics and Ventura for publishing, I had two Englishmen for bosses. They told me the English power grid was already resilient, so that one never needed the battery in the alarm clock. Needless to say I didn't believe them.
    • Re:England? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fzz ( 153115 )
      Having lived for a number of years in Boston, Berkeley, and London, I can tell you that the power is MUCH more reliable in London. Boston seemed to suffer from two or three outages a year, Berkeley more like seven or eight (three in the last two weeks), and London is about one outage every few years.

      Now, whether it will stay that way with the lack of investment in England after electricity privatization, who can say.

    • Re:England? (Score:3, Informative)

      by pklong ( 323451 )

      The blackout in London, not long ago should be proof enough that the british grid is not perfect.

      Concerns about long term blackouts in the future due to our overreliance on gas [bbc.co.uk] for power generation have also been raised.

      Just search the BBC [bbc.co.uk] to see that you really do need batteries in your alarm clock. Even if the supergrid stays up, you will always have local failures. (My power was intermittent this weekend, due to the bad weather)

    • I would guess I get the flashing display (indicating a power failure) on my alarm clock about once a year. I also do not have a UPS system for my computer nor do I know of anyone that does. Our power system is not perfect but it is certainly a lot better than what you guys get over the pond.
    • No it isn't that good, though it is better than I believe you have in the US. However, this started in the days of a government monopoly generation system. Since privatisation, margins have been steadily eroded. I would expect our power system to reach the same level as the US power system (the level where consumer pain starts reaching politicians ears) in 5 to 8 years.

      Consumers tend to have a short-term view of supply: price counts for much more than reliability at the moment they are making their purchas
  • by osullish ( 586626 ) <osullish.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:07AM (#8654861)
    Does this mean if a site is slashdotted we can cause a blackout in the surrounding area?

  • by Hee Hee Hee ( 310695 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:09AM (#8654868)
    Carson Taylor, BPA's chief transmission expert, explains that the impetus for this experiment was a big blackout in 1996. Sensors installed throughout the network send data about local grid conditions to a central computer, 30 times a second. Dr Taylor credits this system with preventing another big blackout in his region, and says his counterparts in America's north-east could have avoided last year's blackout if they had had such a system.

    Geez. Come on, Dr. Taylor. Just about everyone has some sort of SCADA network (the network of sensors) running on their grid. The blackout started in Ohio because some operators couldn't see some alarms, and the problems cascaded from there. (There are suggestions that some buggy software caused this, but the jury is still out.) The reports that have been released leave many questions unanswered, which tells how complicated and extensive our power grid is.

    It will take many BILLIONS of $$ and many years to upgrade things enough to make it what we call dependable. It's complicated enough just keeping local grids running, let alone transferring power from one to another; balancing sources and loads, switching connections at the right time, etc.

  • by MemoryAid ( 675811 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:15AM (#8654897)
    The article discusses using distributed power systems to reduce the need for a high-capacity power grid. This is where the real parallel to the internet can be drawn. Just as the internet has enabled information workers to telecommute, distributed power production can do the same for power plants (not that power plants commuted in the same sense as office workers).

    As power production technology gets less intrusive, it becomes more acceptable to have in a residential neighborhood, or hospital basement. Just as you get better quality of service from a web server down the hall than from one on another continent, a neighborhood fuel cell could provide more reliable power to the customer.

    Decentralization is becoming a broad-ranging trend in our society. We have people telecommuting, there are microbreweries springing up all over, and people can make their own diesel fuel in their garages. It is not too difficult to come up with more examples (if you disagree, the same probably holds for counterexamples). On a more political note, this ongoing decentralization helps us reduce our dependence on 'The Man' and increases our self-determination. I, for one, welcome our -- never mind.

    • Decentralization is becoming a broad-ranging trend in our society.

      Anybody else wondering if this will be like the PC 'revolution' in the late eighties/early nineties?

      Effectively, everybody and their brother went out and bought one so they could feel 'empowered' and 'independent', and only after a decade or so did folks figure out that maybe it wasn't such a bright idea after all--maybe there really was something to that old client/server model. There are efficiencies of scale in the real world, and plen
  • Local Generation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AlecC ( 512609 ) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:16AM (#8654900)
    Firstly, don't take the internet analogy too far - it's just a system which allows power routing to be managed locally in an intelligent manner, rather than depending upon some central authority. One of the reasons for last year's NW USA blackouts was that data failed to get to the central control centre because of localised breakdowns.

    However, decentralised systems can also faile - indeed, given perfect information at the centre (a big given, which often fails) a central overview can outperform a local intelligence. With a distributed system, you would probably get smaller but more frequent outages as local subsystems panic, with a larger total number of houshold outage minutes. This migh, of course, be less damaging if humans don't panic because it is only a few tens of blocks down.

    The big potential gain, mentioned lower down in the article, is the potential structural changes to allow small scale generators to generate and distribute power locally. Lots of places have backup power generators, which cut in only when the mains fails. If the economics are right, it would be weorth while their running these continuosly, selling surplus power to the grid, and using the grid as a backup for their own power generation rather than the other way round. This saves the capital investment required for power stations, since it is using capital already invested instead of new capital - which may therefore overcome the diseconomies of small scale. It also saves the losses of long-distance power distribution. However, where you really win is that each area hasa a large proportion of its own power generated locally, so it doesn't care if the grid goes away. Suddently, it soean't matter what happens elswehere. there is also a cewrtain natural balance, as electricity is used in workplaces dirung the day, and when the workers go home the power is available for their domestic evening peak.

    The real pie-in-the-sky payoff is when we all get hydrogen-powered cars, which generate electricity for no wear and tear on the fuel cell (we hope). If every car parked at home or work plugs into the grid, you have more generating capacity than you will need in the near future. (It is quoted that the power output of one year of US car sales exceeds the installed generating capacity of the entire world).
    • Vehicular generation (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tau Zero ( 75868 )

      If every car parked at home or work plugs into the grid, you have more generating capacity than you will need in the near future. (It is quoted that the power output of one year of US car sales exceeds the installed generating capacity of the entire world).

      If not true, it's pretty close. If you assume sales of 1.2 million units/month [] and an average of 100 KW (134 HP) per unit, annual engine power would be 1.44 terawatts; total nameplate electric generation capacity in the USA is around 700 gigawatts.


    • I don't see who's going to buy all this surplus power from local generators. If there's already enough, why buy more? Ok sure, it makes sense from a reliability standpoint, but economically it just means a rate hike on the electric bills, and people will scream about that no matter how good the reason.
      • There is a growing power shortage. California has brownouts in the peak air conditioning season. A single point failure, plus some sensor and software cockups, takes out the whole of the North Eastern US - a sign of a system well into the amber zone.

        Power demand is increasing. To start with, there are more people. And, on average, those people are getting richer. Which means bigger houses, needing more aircon and more lighting. And PCs are becoming endemic, and consuming their bit of power. And big widescr
  • by Tarwn ( 458323 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:22AM (#8654968) Homepage
    Considering the costs involved and the time it will take to get it going, I think wireless broadband is going to beat it to the punch. Wireless Broadband should be pretty heavily installed (kind of like early cell companies, but faster) within the next few years, and with 802.16e coming (mobile 802.16) then it will have yet another advantage over Ethernet over power lines.

    I'd rather the drunk drivers have to drive a semi into a tower to take my internet out anyways :) At least then they won't do it again...hate to be the poor schmuck that has to go check on that equipment outage though.

    I think if the IT market moved slower, say stretched out about 10x, then there would have been room for ethernet over powerlines, but as it is it is I think the window of opportuniy for it has already come and will be gone before they manage to get major systems up and running. I've worked with power companies, I know how long it takes them to do anything.

    I mean if an OS upgrade requires 6+ months of wait time (not 6 month after it comes out, 6 months after they decide it might be safe to use) and several to many nuclear plants are still running Windows Nt 4, how long do you think it will take for them to decide to do something that will affect all of their lines?
  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:29AM (#8655037)
    I'm going to use "open source" electricity, from the wind and the sun. :P
  • by Paulrothrock ( 685079 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:32AM (#8655068) Homepage Journal
    Encourage people to have power generation in their own homes. Solar panels, generators, etc, designed for home use, would not only ease strain on the grid during hot days in the summer, but would also make their owners money, and make them energy independent.

    This would also provide security in an attack, because the entire electrical grid will no longer be supplied by a few power plants that are large targets for any attacker.

    The only reason this wasn't implemented during the Cold War is because the technology wasn't there yet, but it is now. And what better way to promote the hydrogen economy that having people put fuel cells on their property to power their house when the main grid fails? People who don't want to have hydrogen in their cars probably won't mind having a tank in their back yard. A lot of people already have tanks of propane for heating and cooking where there's no natural gas service. (Yeah, yeah, I know it's not a cryogenic liquid, but it sure does explode like hydrogen.)

    This would create a distributed network of power generation, and no RIAA-like actions by Al Qaeda or Mother Nature would be able to bring much of the grid down at any one time.
    • Not goin' to be easy. Here in Denmark, when the grid went down last year, all the windmills came to a standstill. As long as you work with AC, you need someone to set the frequency and the phase. Switchin the whole damn thing to DC would make it easier, but that is one hell of an investment.
    • Security in an attack? Yeah, possibly. Fix blackouts by easing the strain? Pretty doubtful. I think more likely a bunch of power plants will close up shop and then all of a sudden you have roughly the same amount of available generation you did before, only its less reliable now because the wind could die or it could be overcast all week.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:35AM (#8655108)
    Since he knows both about energy [newsmax.com] and the Internet [firstmonday.dk]
  • by MalaclypseTheYounger ( 726934 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @09:47AM (#8655239) Journal
    Slightly offtopic, but I recently purchased one of those Phone-Line through the Power Lines adapters from Radio Shack.

    What you do is plug one adapter into the wall circuit in a room with a phone jack, and hook the phone line up to it. Then, in another room without the phone jack, you plug the 'receiver' into the wall, and you can plug a phone into it.

    Strangely enough, it works. I can even connect to the internet (at 28.8 or less, usually) through this circuit.

    BUT - and a big BUT at that, is I keep on getting mixed lines, I hear other people talking on the line, and the most annoying part of it is that whomever's line I am crossed with, when they make a phone call to somewhere else, MY phone number shows up on that person's caller ID. So then I get phone calls at 1am from shady people asking me "Did you call here?!?". At first it was fun listening to their phone calls, apparently someone's boyfriend got caught in a drug deal and needed to be bailed out, but after 4 or 5 of those 1am calls I decided to ditch the whole thing.

    So, I for one would not be too interested in this technology unless I see it proven first. In someone else's house. And knowing how bad it worked for the phone, I'm scared stiff to know what people could grab off my line if I use it for the internet.

  • If the internet via electricity grid becomes more widespread in the future, will the internet become unreliable? If the power goes out (as it did during the East Coast Black Out of 2003), the internet would lose a lot of connectivity in the areas of the black out. It would no longer matter if ISPs or bandwith providers had back up generators. They would go offline as soon as the power went off. What happens if there are rolling black outs such as the ones that happened in California a few years ago? Wo
  • Now that CAT makes flywheel UPS systems I think I have a wonderful solution. Subsidize putting a flywheel system in every home. Or perhaps just large appt. etc. Let it charge up during the night, maybe a trickle charge from a solar array for daytime, and pull power off the system during high loads.

    Another Idea use CWT (changing World Technologies) TDP (Thermal Depolymerization Process) on every major sewer system in the United States. The use the fuel to run high efficiency generators. Shit to electricity.
  • Woohoo! (Score:2, Funny)

    by bobej1977 ( 580278 )
    FR33 3l3CTR1C1TY F0R H4X0R5!!!
  • by Channard ( 693317 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @10:37AM (#8655716) Journal
    .. has no-one behind this idea seen the movie 'Pulse'? Cue a rogue AI hooked up to the power grid, housewives boiling in the shower and garage doors going rogue.
  • Like it is now! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by tarsi210 ( 70325 )
    ...smart, responsive and self-healing digital network--in short, an 'energy internet'.

    Oh, you mean like the Internet is now? You mean that when Alter.net takes a dump in Ohio that I will still be able to get to the east coast, albeit through a more round-about way? That even if major fibre in the West gets backhoed that I'll be able to get to Australia, maybe through England first?

    Although originally designed to be, the Internet is NOT completely fault-tolerant, smart, responsive, or self-healing.
    • ACK. Todays internet is rather tree-shaped than a grid, as it was intended to be. Because of market forces, there is often not more than one path from host A to host B.
      If this will get true for the power grid, one will see even more outages.
  • Interference (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dpille ( 547949 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @11:01AM (#8655973)
    Okay, so the reliability of this information is obviously suspect given the source, but over the weekend I caught an Art Bell show on the radio, where the President of the American Relay Radio League claimed that interference from this kind of power line networking would essentially kill broadcasting in North America over a wide spectrum- if I remember correctly, something like 20Mhz-80Mhz. Art Bell's recap is here [coasttocoastam.com].

    Looking into it now a little further, some of the American Relay Radio Leauge documents and links [arrl.org] has some mentions of problems for radio astronomy and a few other low-profile endeavors.

    Anyway, I had no idea this was a possible outcome, and these claims make me think that perhaps it's better to insist that we really work on existing non-interfering technologies before we kill one of the few sections of spectrum that an individual can use on his own.
  • by lamz ( 60321 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @12:42PM (#8657227) Homepage Journal
    The article is an excellent investigation into the problems of our aging power grids, and draws insightful parallels to the internet.

    Unfortunately, The Economist winds up the article with a startling and unjustified leap to the belief that a big-government socialist mega-project is the answer to all of our energy problems. And this in spite of the fact that all of the arguments in the article, especially those that compare the power grid to the internet, point to a smart network of small, local power suppliers as the promising, internet-inspired answer.
  • Dumb article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @01:39PM (#8658029) Homepage
    The Economist, which I've read for many years, used to be scrupulously neutral and very accurate. Then, a few years ago, articles started to appear which sounded like they came from the Heiritage Foundation. Like this one.

    The "electricity internet" scheme comes from the people who think free markets are the answer to everything. When free markets fail, they say they weren't free enough.

    That group architected California electricity deregulation, with a power auction every half hour around the clock. Nobody was held responsible for electrical reliability,; the "market" would insure there was enough supply.

    This was an absolute disaster. We had blackouts. The biggest electric utilities in California went bankrupt. Rates went up. Even the major energy trader, Enron, went bust. And we're still paying for the mess.

    The "electricity internet" scheme is a plan to provide more transmission facilities. But not because they're needed for power engineering reasons. The extra capacity is to facilitate energy trading.

    The basic trouble with electricity deregulation is that it encourages building inefficient power plants. Traditionally, regulated electric utilities build mostly "base load" plants, intended to run 100% of the time at high efficiency, plus some less efficient "peaking" plants brought up during peak periods. In a deregulated environment, wholesale electricity prices change by several orders of magnitude throughout the day. The optimal strategy for a generation company is to target only the peak periods, using low-cost plants burning high-cost fuel. (These are usually natural-gas fired turbines.) And there's no money in having excess capacity that's only used a few times per year. A few blackouts a year are to be expected. That's the result of a free market solution.

    In Californa, energy traders figured out how to create shortages. Buying, but not using, electrical transmission and natural gas pipeline capacity was one way used to drive up prices.

    The fanatical free-market types claim the problem is that the huge variation in daily rates isn't pushed all the way down to residential customers. You'd set your thermostat in dollars per day, and when the power price went up, the air conditioning would turn off. Bigger customers would have energy storage facilities. Most people would just suffer. That's the plan.

  • That's in my Economist in the bathroom - let's see, at least a week old.

    You may mod me offtopic, but I don't quite get the point of announcing such old stuff. Don't the editors check the links? Oh, wait...
  • It SWINGS, baby! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by alephnull42 ( 202254 )
    I was chatting recently with aon old friend of my fathers, who's been working in the elctricity industry in Europe for 35+ years, including work on the pan-European electricity distribution grid

    The anecdote I liked most was this:
    - This European grid spans several thousand kilometers, from the Atlantic ocean to Poland at least
    - This network can sometimes start to "swing" or oscillate, with Voltage/Amperage swinging back and forth accross the grid, with a period of several seconds
    - As we all know (cough) whe
  • So what happens when part of the power grid gets slashdotted?

  • world wide blackout?
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2004 @07:29PM (#8661991) Homepage
    As part of his Dymaxion "plan" (I dunno - the more I read about this guy, the more he seems like a "hippy" before his time), Buckminster Fuller came up with all sorts of radical and workable ideas and inventions (check out the "Fog Gun" - a shower for a family of four using only 1 pint of water!) - one of which was the idea for a "world electricity grid".

    Basically, he took his Dymaxion world map projection (one of the only map projection systems to lay out all of the continents on a flat surface with little to no distortion, showing all the continents in true size/proportion/distance to each other), and layed out the major grid interconnects for world power onto it. The idea being that if the world was using one single power system (heh, a logistic problem in itself, what with differing voltages and frequencies), that fluxuations in consumption and use would be smoothed out worldwide because when half the world was at peak, the other half would not be, thus allowing everyone the benefit of everyone's resources - basically a large power sharing network.

    Of course, as one reads more about Bucky's ideas and theories, one quickly realizes that what he puts forth is a complete system for living in harmony with the Earth, its resources, and all of the people on the planet - you can't just take portions of his ideas and use them, ignoring the rest. To do so would be folly and would insure that what you were trying to do would eventually fail...

Kill Ugly Processor Architectures - Karl Lehenbauer