Sunday, September 16, 2012

Smart Grid for a more robust electrical grid

July 31 saw 1 out of every 10 people in the world lose their electrical power all in one country at one time:  India.  It was the biggest blackout in history and came on the heels of Washington, D.C.'s loss of power in June.

The number of people in India affected by the power loss:  600,000,000.  That's twice the number of people that live in the U.S.

But what if we could foster "a degree of customer energy self-management ... [getting] consumers (interested) in the various energy displays, time-of-use rates, smart meters and other tools"?

It would mean that you'd charge your electric car at night and sell any excess power back to the grid for a profit.  It would mean your dishwasher might have a timer built in (or you'd need to stay/wake up to set it to run at night).  It might mean cheaper rates for some times and things, but higher rates for some, too.

But it could make the electrical grid more robust.  And that's the biggest benefit of all; right now, the grid is fragile, waaay past duct-taping, and a major event such as a massive solar eruption like the one that happened in 1859 and caused aurora displays bright enough people could read newspapers by the light and caused telegraph systems around the world to fail, "in some cases shocking telegraph operators" [and] catching telegraph paper on fire spontaneously.  "Some telegraph systems continued to send and receive messages despite having [no power]" according to the Wikipedia article on the event.   

The huge transformers that are an integral part of the power grid are expensive and hard to get, and the National Academy of Sciences calculates that a major solar storm could take out 300 or more of them, effectively downing the country's electrical grid.

2013 is calculated to be a year of solar maximum when the sun is at its most active.  Even though the chance of a massive solar storm is low, there's a seven times greater chance of one than the Earth being hit by a meteor.

Are you ready to live off the grid?   Might not be a choice if the sun acts up...