Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
It’s that time of year again … no, not when turduckens appear on dinner tables nationwide and it becomes somehow acceptable to call the marshmallow a vegetable. It’s time for the 2009 edition of “Freeing the Grid,” an annual report card to states on their net metering and interconnection standards. Together, these two key policies empower energy customers (that’s you) to go solar and reduce your utility bills.
Although there is still plenty of room for improvement, this year’s report shows solid progress across most states—an indicator that these once-obscure policies are becoming accepted best practices. Oregon was this year’s star pupil. Meanwhile, there were still a number of states that didn’t even show up to class. Want to see if your state made the grade? Download 2009’s Freeing the Grid here from the report’s lead author, Network for New Energy Choices.
Thursday, November 19th, 2009
If Internet companies and some utilities have their way, the smart grid will rely on the existing infrastructure of the information superhighway in order to function. They argue that by relying on existing standards like Internet Protocol (IP), the smart grid will grow faster and more organically than if utilities adopt an assortment of proprietary methods. Issues like security become easier to address too because the Internet manages exceptionally sensitive data quite well with existing technologies. To that end, the players dominating in the Internet arena including Google, Microsoft, and Cisco are all banking on the Internet’s role in the future of electricity management.
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
What is the current smart grid infrastructure? How will we deploy the smart grid? Answer these questions and more by joining some of today’s leaders in the smart grid movement, next Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at Greentech Media’s The Networked Grid conference. The morning and afternoon keynote speeches will be given by PG&E’s Andrew Tang, senior director, smart energy web, and Oracle’s Linda Jackman, vice president of product strategy and management, utilities business. Also joining them will be speakers from California’s big three utilities and its public utilities commission, PG&E, SDG&E, SCE and CPUC, as well as companies such as ABB, Cisco, Control4, Coulomb Technologies, Enernex, Google, GridPoint, GTM Research, Intel, Oracle, Siemens, Silver Spring Networks, Stanford Research Institute, Tendril, Verizon Wireless.
Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Thank billions in government funding for helping to lift clean technology investment in the third quarter, said the Cleantech Group and Deloitte in a report Wednesday.
The quarterly analysis reiterated that the recession has kicked but not killed investments in this sector, which remain down 42 percent from the third quarter of 2008. Biotech and IT combined receive less funding than clean tech, which continues its climb from the second quarter, the report noted.
“The two largest venture deals (Solyndra and Tesla Motors) and the largest IPO (A123Systems) this quarter were all recipients of U.S. government funding,” said Cleantech Group managing director Dallas Kachan in a statement.
Friday, September 25th, 2009
The U.S. Department of Energy has granted a $43 million loan to a Massachusetts-based company to prove the value of a new technology in which spinning flywheels are used to improve the efficiency of the electric grid. Beacon Power Corp. will build a 20-megawatt flywheel plant in upstate New York in which flywheels spinning up to 16,000 times per minute will act as a sort of short-term power storage system for the state’s electrical distribution system, according to the Associated Press.
Tuesday, August 25th, 2009
The number of small hydropower projects in the U.S. is increasing as utilities try to avoid concerns about the environmental impact of large dams, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission now has applications for 14,000 megawatts of hydropower projects — enough to power 7 million to 14 million homes — and most are located on small rivers, streams, and creeks. That figure is a 20 percent increase from two years ago.
As the number of projects grows in states such as Washington, Colorado, and Montana, environmentalists are beginning to raise objections to the small dams, which critics say can still block fish runs, interfere with whitewater rafting trips, and carve up wilderness habitat with roads, power lines, and other infrastructure.
Monday, August 24th, 2009
Some projects are just too big to let the private sector handle them alone. Updating our aging one-way system of centralized power production to a smart grid is one of those projects. Left mostly to its own initiative, the energy industry has done very little in technology innovation during the past fifty years to make the grid more efficient and to accommodate distributed power production.
The need is so clear that even a group that supports limited government agrees that building a smart grid that conserves energy, integrates renewables, and diminishes peak power requires the guiding hand of the federal government.
The Lexington Institute has published a paper that neatly summarizes the smart grid challenges, and concludes that “Just as the grid of today required presidential initiative, the smart grid will take a high-level policy push, too.” The public policy research group, which says it “actively opposes the unnecessary intrusion of the federal government into the commerce and culture of the nation,” adds that “Smart grid will most likely require federal, state and local government incentives” and that “Policy action is worthwhile to move promising technologies closer to full adoption.”
Friday, August 21st, 2009
Ford Motor Company has developed an intelligent charging system that previews how its production vehicles will interact with the grid. The unnamed system enables all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle owners to restrict charging to when electricity prices fall below a certain threshold, or even “when the grid is using only renewable energy such as wind or solar power,” according to Ford.
Being able to drive “emissions free” could be a huge selling point for the upscale and eco-minded early adopters who will be buying EVs and plug-in hybrids during the next few years. There’s a natural synergy for customers to put solar on their homes and buy hybrids/EVs, who can then drive free of fossil fuel guilt.
Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
California, which has often led the nation in emissions reductions and environmental initiatives, is not the standard bearer in producing renewable energy today. If you consider all forms of renewable energy — solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, then California isn’t at the top in total production, and as a percentage of energy produced, it’s not even in the top five.
Washington, with its longtime investment in hydropower, produced nearly 58 percent more renewable energy from electricity than California, according to 2007 data. In California, 25 percent of all energy produced comes from renewables, which is lower than Idaho (84 percent), Washington (77 percent), Oregon (65 percent), South Dakota (50 percent, Maine (49 percent) and Montana (34 percent). Note that this is electricity generated not consumed. Many of the upper Midwest states actually export energy, while California imports the most energy in the country.
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
Imagine directing traffic in Manhattan when the power is out, no one knows how to find the bridges or tunnels, and most of the drivers are speaking different languages. That scenario is similar to what smart grid company Gridpoint is up against in building software than will enable electric vehicles, charging equipment, utilities and grid operators to all get along.
Gridpoint is developing version 3 of its Smart Charging software (due to ship to customers in September) that will schedule and monitor vehicle charging while keeping track of the grid’s health. The software includes tools that enable utilities to understand how vehicles individually and in aggregate are impacting power demand. Utilities can compare recent vehicle demand on the grid with what would have happened with no control over vehicle charging to see how well their attempts at shifting the load are doing. The Smart Charging software also provides day-ahead demand projections based on previous charging data.