Capacity first?

…then Reliability, then Efficiency?

Developing an electrical network is a question of priorities. As is developing anything I guess… Which priorities do you think are most important?

You probably agree that the first step in building an electrical system is bringing access to electricity to most of the population, right?

Capacity to efficiency

This might seem solved, but in reality, access to electricity is still far from being universal. Still 1,2 billion people don’t have access to electricity. It’s in fact part of sustainable development goal 7, and, actually, the road to SDG7 is the road to Energythaca.

While building additional lines and power generation units to solve access to electricity, the values of reliability and efficiency are normally not on the top of mind for system planning. What if access to electricity is provided by renewable microgrids, would values like reliability and energy efficiency be achieved at the same time? Sigue leyendo

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The grid as an emergency supply?

It’s official. Finally Spain has the most toll-intensive consumer power generation (what is called self-consumption) law in the world. The so-called “sun tax” is in place.

It is important to understand the worries of the regulator here;

Given the high fixed costs of the system, further reductions of electricity demand (as with self-consumption) increase the price of energy in a Grid independence cycle. The goal of increasing the toll on self-consumption is to ensure the system costs are covered, delay the implementation of self-consumption (starting in the islands and small systems), delay consumer energy storage (in fact it is also a “battery tax”) and (try to) avoid further political problems. Of course, it is not the best solution, academics and regulatory experts agree that politically fixed costs that have to be paid by all citizens shouldn’t be in the tariff but evenly paid from the nation’s bugdet (like the extra-costs for electricity in the islands).

Image by Cancia Leirissa on freeimages.com

“Grid Emergency Exit”                                                       Image by Cancia Leirissa on freeimages.com

What are the consequences? Rising prices, and the fact that fixed costs (for the contracted power) are surging, push the active consumer to look for the following solutions:

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Why I supported GravityLight (twice)

The concept of the GravityLight is simple and yet very innovative. It consists in a light powered by gravity, it is charged by lifting a weight and letting its descent run the generator and the light.

Of course, it is only possible now thanks to the LED lights and other efficiency gains. With old light bulbs, the duration of the same concept would be ridicule, but now, a simple lift of 2-3 seconds can provide for almost 30 minutes of light.

Gravity Light Image from Wikimedia Commons

The running costs are null, and compared to the alternative of kerosene lamps, the impact is enormous in reducing costs, environmental impact, as well as reducing fire risks and negative consequences of smoke on the health of the users….

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Take the panel with you

Solar Panels are getting cheaper every day, so this idea might convince you less today than it could have some time ago…

Anyway, suppose you have bought yourself one 300 W solar panel for your flat. In fact you found a smart orientation that covers your “base load” for the fridge and all the stand-by consumption and also lowers your consumption once you arrive home. It happens you have a e-bike that is prepared for you to plug your panel, for your daily commuting, keeping your battery fine or even charging while you are working. Additionally, you own an Electric Vehicle. During the week-ends, you can dock your panel for the journey and lower your consumption. And it happens that you are as wealthy as to have a second house in the forest, which is off-grid, so you use the battery of the Electric Vehicle for your consumption and you also plug your panel when you arrive.

Panel cycle

This is just an example of maximizing the asset utilization of a panel, for house self-consumption in two locations, and also for mobility. This will not be the case for most people, of course. Besides, regulatory frameworks may promote the use of the panel to feed the grid when it would be underused only for self-consumption and could be connected elsewhere for other purposes. Anyhow, the point of having portable generation opens more possibilities for generating one’s own energy, in this case at home and also for transportation. It is also an application for extending the access to electricity in developing countries.

In fact, if a person consumes (as it is the case in Spain) 3487 kWh/year of electricity and 9908 kWh of total energy at the home, together with 12000 km/year of driving, which can be calculated as 2400 kWh (with an EV doing 20 kWh/100 km) it makes a total of 12308 kWh. In order to source this with solar PV, he would need approximately 6 kW of solar panels working 2000 equivalent hours. These 20 solar panels he cannot take around with him that easily. For the moment…

P.S.: Allow me to include the crowded house video as the song I thought about while writing…

Democratization of power generation – The ongoing innovation

There is quite some discussion on the subject of energy independence and energy democracy recently (for example, this article, or the lateral power concept from Rifkin’s TIR or the initiative from Energy Democracy TV). I’d like to post my “vote” for energy democracy and explain why it is an inevitable transition and an ongoing innovation, from dependent to empowered (literally) prosumers.

Increased energy independence of a country normally refers to a reduction of oil imports, mainly benefitial to trade balance, but it is not so straight-forward how an individual benefits of this country’s independence. If, for example, the change reduces his gas or electricity bill, he will be, but if the energy he purchases is still from the same utility at the same price, is he any more independent?

Another way of understanding energy independence concept is the “off-grid-ing”, islanding both from the network and utilities, through renewables plus storage and/or electric vehicle, for example. I’m relatively against this as it is opposed to the networked economy, where interdependence and cooperation benefits all stakeholders. It also is economically inefficient as there has to be additional generation&storage dimensioned for off-grid availability. The same self-sufficient user interconnected, even in peer-to-peer networks or communities, needs less investment, can have additional income from selling power, and has more security of supply from other generators.

This brings us back to the point of energy democracy, on who generates power and who has access to it? There lies the innovation on energy democratization. On the following video from innovation and market we can have a look at innovation process:

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