Math and Power and the System with No Name

Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 07:40PM

Toby Considine in Distributed Energy, Energy, Markets and Innovation, Smart Energy

Toby Considine in Distributed Energy, Energy, Markets and Innovation, Smart Energy

Every once in a while you run into something that just does not fit into any categories. The world welcomes a better mousetrap, but won’t even consider a mouse dispatcher that sends the mice outside to mow the lawn. We all want things that fit the categories we know. It is hard for a new category to make our purchasing lists.

For the last year, I have been talking to a company that manages energy based on math. The founder created new math to understand how dolphins process signals over time. We create three dimensional models based on what is effectively instant access to shadows and shapes. Dolphins assemble three dimensions based on time-delays in echoes—sound is much slower than light. The founder then applied this math to digital processing of power.

Normal complex-instruction set computers are slow to do certain kinds of math. We all use special-purpose vector-processing CPUs to do graphics (“graphics chips”). In a similar way, this mathematician had to come up with special-purpose CPUs to analyze and fix power in real time. But what does it mean to digitally fix power?

These novel CPUs are now built into special purpose computer systems that take the normal dirty power we all get and make it look as much as possible like the idealized model of a three dimensional power wave. This redefines what we mean by dirty power. Normal power conditioning creates “trapezoids”, power shapes that only mimic a sine wave. True digital power quality is something quite different. And we don’t have a name for what it is.

I have written here before that the effects of digital power quality can be pronounced. Florescent lights stop humming. Motor vibration is reduced and heat generation is reduced. A closer look shows subtler effects. Power output of motors is increased. Impedance is reduced and harmful power harmonics are reduced. Outside the device, power factor tends toward one, which may reduce power bills.

A large facility with a motor load reduced power requirements by 20%, according to a 3^{rd} party engineer monitoring a trial. Data centers have seen power requirement reduction of 10%, as harmonic stresses are reduced. High-rises with digital power conditioning on each floor may not need to upgrade neutral
throughout the building.

Sites close to the Carolinas, where 3DFS is headquartered and can monitor installations closely, can experience something new. But 3DFS is a startup, and their product is not a better mousetrap. It is something else. It is power conditioning based on novel advanced math. And for too many of us, we start the day hoping there will be no math required.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (http://www.newdaedalus.com/).

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