View Full Version : Microgrids

07-05-2008, 07:40 PM
During the course of my travels I had an occasion to work in an area where the UNDP (http://www.undp.org/#) had coordinated an electrical grid in which each house was limited to ~20 amps. This allowed for 24/7 power for all, but it of course limited the amount of electrical devices that could be run at one time in each household. A trip out to your residential panel in America, for a reference point, will typically reveal a ‘load center’ from 100 to 400 amp in size.

The 2007 RSMeans (http://www.rsmeans.com/) Facilities Construction Data provides bare material costs of $162 for an indoor 100 amp, 8 circuit residential load center and $1,150 for an indoor 400 amp, 42 circuit residential load center. Commerical 20 amp panels begin at $455.

Lowes (http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productList&N=0&Ntk=i_products&Ntt=residential%20load%20center) does not list prices, but they do provide pictures of load centers.

Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/EETD-microgrids.html) has been thinking about microgrids.

Instead of relying solely on large power plants, a portion of the nation's electricity needs could be met by small generators such as ordinary reciprocating engines, microturbines, fuel cells, and photovoltaic systems. A small network of these generators, each of which typically produce no more than 500 kilowatts, would provide reliable power to anything from a postal sorting facility to a neighborhood.

The May 2008 Edition of Popular Mechanics (http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/transportation/4258053.html?page=3) has an informative graphic on microgrids.

Microgrids will be small areas—like the residential and industrial neighborhoods shown here—where energy needs are roughly matched by local generation. A control station will juggle demand, buying and selling power to the main grid. During a regional blackout, a microgrid can run in “islanded” mode.

http://www.michaeltotten.com/images/Typical%20Electrical%20Poles%20Fallujah.jpg This was typical of what I observed in Iraq:

Watcher In The Middle
07-06-2008, 05:18 AM
information on Microgrids:

Link to Article (http://certs.lbl.gov/certs-der-micro.html)

This is a very "hot" topic, even here in the Midwest. There's a lot of interest, especially in light of the price increases that we will be seeing with natural gas fired units. There's going to be sticker shock this winter, if current gas price trends are any indicator.

An interesting side note is how the issue of microgrids is starting to play out in some local communities. There's several issues being raised, and it's interesting to see how the different parties are lining up. For example:

1) Both the major local utility (initially), and several environmentalist groups are not in favor of the microgrids. The local major utility is coming around, but not the environmentalists. The utility was looking at this as loss of business, but then started to look at all the aspects (bad press from service disruption, less pressure on having to build expensive new capacity, etc.), and they are much more open to the microgrid concept. Now, still got to make it work, but they are at least ready to make the attempt.

The environmentalists, not so much. Their big issue is global warming, and they feel that these smaller microgrid based "operating areas" will not only increase the potential for global warming, but will be much harder to deal with, because not only would there be more of them (vrs. several large power producers), but the microgrids will all be local based, and trying to regulate local microgrids for global warming is going to be a terribly difficult "sell" to the politicans. It's one thing to go after big corporate interests, it's a whole different situation to go after units of local governments, i.e. Taxpayers/Voters. Remember,as the late Tip O'Neal used to say, "All Politics is Local".

2) The funding issue. Now, this is actually coming around. Many states now provide for local units of government, such as municipalities and Counties to create what are called "Special Service" taxing districts, where tax exempt bonds can be issued for capital development within a specified area, which can easily apply to a microgrid service area.

3) It's still a few years out, but if we get a really good 2-3 day electric power service "interruption", things will boil over really fast. People used to 24/7 availability of unlimited electric power get really, really cranky when they got to deal with several days of no juice. Particularly if it's really hot (no A/C) or really cold (remember, most 90+ gas furnaces have electronic control units with micro circuit boards). That's when you will see things jump into high gear.

07-06-2008, 02:49 PM

Thanks for the additional background and info on microgrids in the midwest. Stanford University has the Woods Energy Seminar podcasts (free) on iTunes. There 32 of them, and some slides, on various energy aspects.



07-09-2008, 05:06 AM
There are environmentalists that support microgrids. Amory Lovins is fine example. The significant fact there is that Lovins is actually a mover and shaker in the industry, having worked with and effected Wal Mart, the Navy and other consumers of energy. He is a Bright Green, one who believes that mankind is smart and will solve environmental problems through hard work and innovation.

Here is a sample of his work, which includes extensive discussion of microgrids in COIN.

Amory Lovins (http://rmi.org/sitepages/pid323.php)

Edited for completeness. I'm watching it now.

03-21-2009, 09:46 PM
From MIT's Technology Review: Lifeline for Renewable Power (http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/21747/page4/)

In one of the more advanced pilot projects testing such a system, the Minneapolis-based utility Xcel Energy and several vendors are investing $100 million to install a smart-grid infrastructure in Boulder, CO. These days, a 115-person Xcel crew is out full time, installing two-way electric meters at 50,000 houses. Homeowners are getting software that lets them view and manage their energy consumption on the Web, and some of their appliances are being fitted with switches that will let the utility shut them off remotely during periods of high demand.

Smart-grid technologies could reduce overall electricity consumption by 6 percent and peak demand by as much as 27 percent. The peak-demand reductions alone would save between $175 billion and $332 billion over 20 years, according to the Brattle Group, a consultancy in Cambridge, MA. Not only would lower demand free up transmission capacity, but the capital investment that would otherwise be needed for new conventional power plants could be redirected to renewables. That's because smart-grid technologies would make small installations of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels much more practical. "They will enable much larger amounts of renewables to be integrated on the grid and lower the effective overall system-wide cost of those renewables," says the Brattle Group's Peter Fox-Penner.

03-23-2009, 06:24 PM
From Business Week, by Katie Fehrenbacher: Securing the Smart Power Grid from Hackers (http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/mar2009/tc20090320_788163.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index +-+temp_technology)

Imagine if the havoc caused by Internet viruses and wormS—downed web sites, snatched credit card data, and so forth—were unleashed on the power grid's critical infrastructure. The results could include targeted blackouts, tampering with power generation (including nuclear plants), or the use of energy consumption data for malicious intent. For while a smart power grid, which leverages information technology to add more intelligence to the electricity network, will give consumers and utilities more control over energy consumption, the transformation from analog to digital will bring to the grid a threat that plagues the Internet: hacking.

Crucial to maintaining security will be establishing industry standards. At the smart grid policy meeting held last week, FERC Acting Chairman Jon Wellinghoff issued a statement calling for the development of "standards to ensure the reliability and security, both physical and cyber, of the electric system." While FERC doesn't itself develop standards, the agency will be asking for input from standards bodies that work on security in the Internet, engineering, and electronics industries. Over the next month and a half, companies and consumers can offer their thoughts as to the direction the standards will take.

The second factor needed to secure the smart grid will be an open platform. This sounds counterintuitive, but as Pacific Crest's Schuman explains, the most robust security systems out there are largely based on already established open standards. In order for third-party developers to be able to contribute their best solutions to a smart power grid, it must be based on an open platform as well.

Ultimately the hurdles to securing the smart grid are not impossibly high. The benefits of offering consumers and utilities more control over energy consumption—reducing energy use and carbon reduction—far outweigh the security concerns.

Long term FOB's with resupply issues might be great test beds... :wry:

03-23-2009, 10:14 PM
Insulation and right-sizing of cooling equipment can cut energy use for space cooling by up to 80%. A smart micro-grid could flatten energy demand to the point that capital costs (in the form of generators or even TGER units) could be significantly reduced and overall energy consumption reduced slightly as well.

This could reduce the amount of logistical support needed to engage in expeditionary warfare by a considerable amount, and more importantly, would have secondary and tertiary effects as the reduced need for fuel burrows through CSS requirements, including significantly reduced requirements for force protection.

While reading a paper by Colin Gray, I found the following quote by Henry E. Eccles, originally published in 1965:

[A]ll logistic activities naturally tend to grow to inordinate size, and unless positive control is maintained, this growth continues until, like a ball of wet snow, a huge accumulation of slush obscures the hard core of essential combat support, and the mass becomes unmanageable. This snowball effect permeates the entire structure of military organization and effort.

A smart grid is also superior when attempting to integrate renewable energy sources with fossil fuel generation.

03-23-2009, 11:59 PM
I'll just say it. There currently is NO POSSIBLE WAY to secure the power grid completely. Dr. Wiess just testified to congress on this issue on last Tuesday.

Ken White
03-24-2009, 01:09 AM
I'll just say it. There currently is NO POSSIBLE WAY to secure the power grid completely. Dr. Wiess just testified to congress on this issue on last Tuesday.Been known for a while so Plan b has to be used...;)

Ron Humphrey
03-24-2009, 01:23 AM
Been known for a while so Plan b has to be used...;)

Make sure that whatever pain they bring hurts them too and preferably can be clearly seen as hurting a whole lot worse than us:D

03-24-2009, 02:12 AM
Make sure that whatever pain they bring hurts them too and preferably can be clearly seen as hurting a whole lot worse than us:D

Currently that is the primary protection. Mutually assured destruction is inherently part of the equation when dealing with nation-state on nation-state. When terrorism enters the picture that becomes a bit of thorny issue.

Ron Humphrey
03-24-2009, 02:47 AM
Currently that is the primary protection. Mutually assured destruction is inherently part of the equation when dealing with nation-state on nation-state. When terrorism enters the picture that becomes a bit of thorny issue.

Was how business, local and regional law enforcement, emergency services, heck just about any given group you look at seem absolutely chaotic under "normal" working conditions but let an emergency take place and all the sudden they can turn into a well oiled machine with all the directional paths well defined and each piece working solidly toward a task.

Maybe thats because they spend a lot more time on working out the how to's in relation how to deal with X condition should it happen then they do just working out their normal day to day relationships. Seems like the same should go for limited non-state actors response as well.

If they know that knocking out x,y, and Z may cause panic but it also will bring down the focus that comes with that scenario (meaning in short their gonna get a lot more effective and focused attention than they would otherwise) it should help to adjust their cost benefit analysis on what they want to achieve.

Example: If you take out a small portion of the grid there would be a lot more whining and disgruntlement among the populous then if you take down a big chunk of it. IF the big chunk was taken down there's gonna be a lot more screams to kill the #$@# who did it then there would be whining over why theres no power.

Rambling and almost nonsensical I know but not sure how to put it differently.


03-24-2009, 03:16 AM
Last Tuesday this hearing (http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=d59f00d0-0ad9-41cd-bde8-b96babb08b7e) was very interesting. For a discussion on the power system you can't do much better than Dr. Weiss. His written testimony (http://commerce.senate.gov/public/_files/WeissTestimony.pdf) is pretty good. I disagree with several things he says but that is likely of little substance.

A key point for those thinking about how much this cyber stuff is BS and nerds should stay in the data center.

You, I, we, don't set the rules. In a version of Clausewitz we don't want to think about a total defensive plan is a losing strategy. We have an active cyber insurgency that is costing billions of dollars and we're fighting it with a high intensity military set to defense only. Whiz bang NSA/DOD types with cute tools are like a long range reconnaissance unit far behind enemy lines. They talk about what is going on, but they won't win the war all alone.

The utility infrastructure of the modern world created to centralize management, increase profitability, and decrease man-power requirements are exactly why the problem can't be fixed. The information technology incentives have resulted in the type of linkages that create exploitable systems and capacity to cascading outages. In my opinion cyber warfare is a limited or small war paradigm. Cyber war is a low intensity conflict but there is nothing to say it can't have kinetic real world effects. In fact we know that it has been used to kill people.

Welcome to my world.

05-11-2009, 01:24 AM
From today's BBC website by John Moylan Smart meter plans to be outlined (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8042716.stm)

The government is to unveil plans for every home in the UK to be equipped with smart meters by the end of 2020.

Smart meters allow suppliers to remotely record customers' gas and electricity use, and let consumers see how much energy they are using.

Some 26 million electricity and 22 million gas meters will need to be fitted at a cost of £7bn.

Smart meters end the need to dispatch meter readers, meaning huge savings for energy firms who hope bills will fall.

It is also hoped that smart meters will mean an end to estimated bills and call centre staff who deal with related complaints.

05-11-2009, 09:39 AM
As someone who has been doing Dave Ramsey's budget plan for the last year or so, I can tell you that the ability to track consumption almost always results in more limited and efficient consumption.

Whether it be money, or calories, or energy.

Anything that increases the users ability to track consumption is a good thing, imo.

Presley Cannady
06-08-2009, 11:52 PM
I'll just say it. There currently is NO POSSIBLE WAY to secure the power grid completely. Dr. Wiess just testified to congress on this issue on last Tuesday.

So long as any joker can cook up heavy duty explosives with household items, of course not. And given that even the most compact, redundant generation solutions still have easily countable nodes, you're still at risk for catastrophic failures. Theoretically, you should be able to reduce irrevocable catastrophic risk to a negligible degree, usually by combining some sort of redundancy strategy like local generation, layered grids, etc., with a well planned, temporary evacuation to some place...say...up to fifty miles away.