I have been quiet here for too long, and have made a New Year’s resolution to get back to writing. Many of my recent projects I cannot write about, for competitive or contractual reasons. Still, there are some big themes coming to light, ones that I have been writing about for years, and that are now hitting the market.
Microgrids, broadly defined, have been a place with a lot of demonstrated movement in this last year. The most expensive thing about the obsolete grid is the assumption that everything happens centrally, and that the local node does not have any responsibility. This might be true if our world was run on incandescent light bulbs and ceramic space heaters. In a digital world, aggregate load and rhomboidal curves are growing problems, ones that cost a lot of power and shorten the lives of a lot of equipment.
Storage remains the most important enabling technology for alternate and distributed energy. The storage symposium at the California Energy Commission on December 1 brought some powerful choices into the open. Grid-scale storage is important, and will grow more important. I think that neighborhood scale, and even commercial building scale storage will have more effect in the long term. Look to announcements in the mid-year.
Smart water and smart energy continue to entangle themselves. Pumped water is pre-consumed energy, stored for future use. Reliable distributed energy fits naturally with reliable distributed water pumping, which is the key to avoiding sewage spills. This challenge has been met with portable generators and other technologies that require nimble deployments of work forces. Batteries with up-front capital costs and life spans of only four or five years, don’t make sense here. I look to experiments with 25 and even 45 year storage systems in 2015.
Golf courses have a reputation as despoilers of the environment, with over fertilization and chemical pest control leading to run-off and despoliation of habitat. For years the best practices in turf management have made that reputation un-true for the best run golf courses. Look to a combination of distributed energy, energy storage, water pumping, and the DC club house to appear at selected locations this year. Golf courses may be just the right size to lead the way in new microgrid approaches.
New players keep cropping up applying digital signal processing to power distribution. Early players, some of which I have written about before, have struggled to connect work in their labs to customer service oriented organizations. Early adopters are scared off by costs that have not dropped yet, and not quite understanding the offerings. New players like 3DFS are preparing production offerings. One of these guys is going to make it big, particularly in light industrial or commercial settings which rely on motors.
The high cost of per-site integration remains a brake on microgrid deployment. Semantic integration is going to be critical to reducing this integration cost. Maybe this is the year…
I hope to be more diligent in writing this year. Keep those notes coming.