Nextek’s Chief Technical Officer, Ben Hartman, was in Washington, DC last week to attend GridWeek 2009. Sponsored by the GridWise Alliance and the Department of Energy, GridWeek is an annual event that gives organizations and businesses the opportunity to focus on the Smart Grid and its development across the nation. The Smart Grid is important to the Nextek community because once the infrastructure is in place, it will enable the same rapid deployment of innovative services that we saw after mobile wireless and the Internet appeared in the 1990’s. The overall aims of the Smart Grid are to improve stability, security, efficiency, demand response and the integration of distributed resources such as renewables. The Smart Grid alone will not achieve these goals just as the Internet itself doesn’t make a Google, eBay or Amazon. Rather, the Smart Grid is the Energy Internet that will foster the development of new services that can easily set incentives for customers to save energy and money, often without their direct intervention or inconvenience.
Customers will be able to connect Solar Photovoltaic arrays and small wind turbines more easily. Utilities will be required to provide standardized data to customers (and authorized third parties) that shows historical and real-time consumption, what tariff the customer is on and what other tariffs are available. Perhaps most important, utilities can provide pricing signals in real-time to customers who are in a Critical Peak Pricing period (usually a hot summer afternoon) giving them an opportunity to be eligible for bonus payments if they reduced their load during those few hours.
US Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu and US Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke were the featured keynote speakers of the event and many industry experts were also there to educate the attendees about how the Smart Grid will be created and implemented (i.e. its infrastructure), as well as how it will integrate distributed generation technologies such as solar PV, small wind and fuel cells. Former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt was also there and compared the emergence of the new energy grid’s infrastructure and applications to the tremendous upheavals that transformed the wireless and internet world during his watch at FCC.
Here at Nextek we feel that the Smart Grid won’t be nearly as smart or efficient, until it provides consumers with an easy way to integrate the power they pull from the grid with power generated from distributed generation and renewable sources such as solar PV, wind turbine and fuel cells. What this will do is provide consumers with a way to use alternative energy sources and energy storage at peak demand times – reducing their costs as well as reducing demand at the utility, thus negating the utility’s need to build additional power plants to meet that demand.
With Nextek’s Direct Current (DC) building networks, we take and use all the power when, where and how it is created. DC from solar photovoltaic arrays goes directly to fluorescent and LED lighting, DC-input variable speed drives for fans and pumps, as well as all the electronics in the building. Battery storage, a natively DC device, can be used to back up this DC network during black-outs or even during those critical peak pricing events to reduce the load you demand from the utility. Batteries on a DC network are inherently more efficient because you do not have to convert their power from DC to AC to use them.
So we’re all for the Smart Grid and the efficient distributed generation sources that will be incorporated into our national system soon. But we also need to think about when, where and how this power is generated and used. It turns out that Edison was right! Keeping power as DC within the building is a better way to meet the high energy demands of our increasingly digital world.
For more information about GridWeek 2009, visit www.gridweek.com.