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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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Wednesday
Jun202007

Diversity is the Key

Last week as I drank my morning coffee in the warm Carolina sun, I listened surreptitiously as an earnest reporter interviewed a local Green politician. Usually I find little common ground with the politician – but today, I enjoyed the nuances of his vision in contrast to the reporter’s requests for simple answers.

The reporter wanted to know what he solution he proposed. He sketched out multiple initiatives. “But which one is the answer” seemed her refrain. For example, she asked about biodiesel. He said who was making it, in this county and in the next. She asked “So we should all use Biodiesel?”

No, he replied. She asked “So Biodiesel doesn’t work?” He described the restaurateurs who no longer had to pay for grease removal. He discussed one local producer composting by-products. He discussed a whole ecology around bio-diesel.

“So will all run on biodiesel in the future?” she asked. He pointed out that none of us could survive eating enough French fries to power all the cars on the road with waste oil.

“Should we convert croplands to soybeans instead of corn?” Finally, she began to try even this experienced politician’s patience. He explained that converting new croplands to produce expensive oil made no sense, and would be as wrong as subsidizing to much ethanol.

I left for work at that point. But part of me was musing how similar these conversations were to some that I have about control systems and protocols. There are many fine low level protocols. They each have their place, and will fight it out at that low level. There are fewer enterprise protocols, and they are judged for their ability to interact at the service level.

Real difference-making solutions come from breaking the monolithic distribution model we currently have, with vertical integration from Generation, to Transmission, to Distribution, to Customer Face. This model is premised upon 1930’s theories of natural monopoly that, with today’s technology, are no longer necessarily true.

If we can break up these markets, allow micro-grids and local production storage, then the task of managing stable Transmission gets easier, as the challenges of managing the big grid for stable frequency under the stress of instant availability get less. This will remove the effective tax of near-line capacity on alternate sources of local power, whether predictable or not, and overnight make local generation economic.

We can complete the task by cracking off customer face and generation from the two ends of the grid. This will allow effective consumer choice as to energy type in honestly clearing markets. Freed from the near-line requirements mentioned above, all sorts of alternative generation strategies become potentially viable.

The most important thing to remember is that there is not one smart guy out there; there are a lot of smart guys out there. Today’s market structures for power allow only the largest, most well capitalized players to come to the field. You can see this playing out in the Hog Gas negotiations going on right now. The goal of proper market reorientation should be to break the regulatory and monopoly gridlock and enable a *lot* of innovators.

Of course, having a lot of innovators means that the focus on the one true answer will be less. And that will be good.

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