Saturday, October 27, 2007

Demand and supply: new scenario for sustainability?

It (almost) stands to reason given the development of personal laptop computers, cell phones, iTunes, Tivo, movies on demand, etc. that it would only a matter of time before someone would think seriously about how to develop a system capable of delivering electricity on demand. It's a concept that fits neatly into the discussion of the "smart grid".

Whether or not such a thing actually comes to fruition remains to be seen, but it is indicative of the kind of creative thinking that's going on these days focusing on how to make the electric grid more efficient. Now lest you think these discussions are only taking place within the ivory towers of European Union academia, y0u may want to check out the Galvin Electricity Initiative. This organization founded by Robert Galvin, the former head of Motorola and headed by Kurt Yeager former
president and chief executive officer of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), is leading a campaign to create an environmentally sound and fuel efficient perfect power system -- a consumer-focused electric energy system that never fails.

According to Yeager, the smart grid would be a lot more accommodating to distributed generation (local, on site power systems) and renewable energy sources like wind and solar. (GW)

Could Electricity Grid Become A Type Of Internet?

Oct. 25, 2007

In the future everyone who is connected to the electricity grid will be able to upload and download packages of electricity to and from this network. At least, that is one of the transformations the electricity grid could undergo.

Dutch researcher Jos Meeuwsen (Technical University Eindhoven) developed three scenarios for the Dutch electricity supply in the year 2050. The starting point is that in this year, 50% of the consumption will originate from sustainable sources.

Due to the security of supply and the connection with the European market, electricity networks will always be necessary says Meeuwsen. Further, due to an increasing demand for electricity it is important to include all possible energy options (including coal and nuclear energy) in the scenario development.

The exact form of future networks will largely depend on the primary energy mix chosen. In all cases engineers face new and considerable challenges in the areas of network and system integration and the development and implementation of new technology. Moreover, in all scenarios the total network capacity must increase. Small-scale networks will adapt characteristics from the current large-scale networks, such as the possibility of 'two-way traffic' and the responsibility to maintain a stable system.

Demand follows supply

In particular, the number of ways in which the total electricity supply system can be held in balance in the future will need to be expanded as more electricity is generated from sustainable sources.

This might even mean a paradigm shift from the current 'permanently matching supply to demand' to 'continuously matching demand to supply'. Meeuwsen foresees a step-by-step integration of energy technology, ICT and power electronics that might result in an electricity system that exhibits many similarities with the Internet. Everyone connected to the system could then, within certain limits, upload and download packages of 'electrical energy' whenever they want.

An important condition is, however, the technical feasibility of the centralised and/or decentralised storage of large amounts of electricity.

Three scenarios

Meeuwsen's three different scenarios for the future of the electricity grid mainly differ in the size of the electricity generation facilities. The scenario 'super networks' consists of large-scale production locations, transportation via high voltages, a considerable import of sustainable energy (in the form of biomass) and energy from offshore wind farms. The 'hybrid networks' scenario also includes large plants with high voltages that originate from offshore wind parks and large biomass stations.

Additionally, small-scale generation takes place in and around cities and villages (wind, biomass and solar energy). Finally, in the 'local' scenario the number of local generators (in the form of micro-cogeneration units, solar energy panels, small-scale biomass plants at neighbourhood level and land-based wind turbines) is the greatest, yet large industrial processes and small consumers still make partly use of electricity from large-scale production resources.

The postdoctoral research 'Electricity networks of the future: Various roads to a sustainable energy systems' is part of the programme 'Transition and transition paths: the road to a sustainable energy system' funded by the NWO/SenterNovem Stimulation Programme Energy Research. The programme aims to develop knowledge in the natural sciences and humanities for the transition towards a sustainable energy supply.

Adapted from materials provided by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.


Post a Comment

<< Home