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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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GridWise and Smaller Dams

Today’s Wall Street Journal brought a report in the IEEE Spectrum to my attention, on the use of small dams for electricity generation in Africa. They are of particular use in a country with less than 10% of the populace “on the Grid. In their articles, they describe a small 60 KW generator driven by water power as sufficient for the needs of a small hospital with 100 nurses and doctors. Without the heavy load placed on the grid for the latest imaging technology, the hospital can get along with this amount. The entire generation system cost $15,000 to build.

The GridWise Architectural Council looks to re-cast North American power delivery into new market forms that enable innovation and change. One predictable side-effect of the principles of the GridWise might be faster migration to local generation and storage.

These moves would be potentiated by the combination of Time-Of-Day billing and open markets for power purchase. This will encourage load shifting to a greater extant than before. If I run my house on a battery, and charge the battery from the Grid, then I can easily shift load to times when the grid demand, and thereby the price, is less. Generation, whether by trendy new fuel cells or old fashioned generators also achieve similar benefits.

What changes with GridWise is the easy visibility of economic benefits to load shifting. You can find the economic benefits not a month from now, aggregated for 30 days, but today. One of the first principles of cybernetics is that a tighter feed back loop leads to better control.

One issue in not-quite-off-grid living, what I call near-grid living, is the base load, what I call the twelve o-clock flashing problem. If the supply slips below the base load, you come home to a house in which everything is flashing12:00. There is so much gear in the modern house or office that is on all the time, whether it is the clock on the stove or the fast warm-up on the TV. Small local power sources might be better to handle this small base load, reducing the strain on batteries and temporary generators. With this base-line removed, a larger percentage of the peak load will be shiftable in response to the pricing signals of the market.

Small micro-generation, either tied to a single building or to local distribution grid, is one way to take this base load off-line to the big grid.

This article made me wonder if small dams might be part of a grid-wise picture. It is no secret that I think that GridWise aligns well with the Galvin Electricity Initiative and their emphasis on local generation and micro-grids. Is this suggestion meant for the still off-line Africa part of the prescription for the too-much-on-line North American market?

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