September 26 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Economics Year: 2008 Rating: 2
Today, the lights are still out for nearly a half million people in Houston, Texas- the ‘energy capital of the world’.
Business Week is reporting that ”...13 days since Hurricane Ike ripped through Texas, and nearly one-quarter of the residents of the fourth-largest U.S. city still don’t have electricity.” (Reporting by Christopher Palmeria)
Is the problem electricity production?
No. The power plants are fine.
The problem is the wires. The grid itself
The network is too vast to repair quickly in the fall out of Hurricane Ike.
The problem is storage.
We have no viable way of storing vast amounts of electricity at the local level.
The solution? Making energy storage a priority and create systems that support a local ‘Electron Reserve’.
What are the big energy lessons from Hurricane Ike?
The modern architecture for electricity grids is antiquated and fragile. Central power plants connected to home wall sockets need to be re-invented around software and storage.
Lesson #1 – Don’t assume the lights will always be on!
Today we just assume that the electricity will always be there. But only five years ago we assumed that the cheap oil would always be there. But how vulnerable is the stream of electrons?
In the US and Europe national electricity grids are aging and in much worse shape than most people might recognize. The current grid structure is highly vulnerable to overloads, bottlenecks and events that can shut down major sections of the grid. And over the next twenty years energy grids will be forced to carry more electricity, not less.
#2 – We need to focus on energy storage, not just production
The US national electricity grid needs a major upgrade towards a more distributed system of energy storage and power generation.Being ‘Smart’ is not enough. You need energy stored locally to make an ‘energy web’ work.
#3 – Batteries are not our only option
There are a number of ways to store energy locally. Nanoscale science is sure to advance batteries, hydrogen fuel cells and capacitors. All three are viable candidates with their own sets of advantages and short-comings. Only time will tell which system is most cost effective. So we’ll need to innovate around all three.
Who will be a leader for Energy Storage?
Energy storage is much bigger than Houston after Hurricane Ike. Power disruptions are estimated to cost $60 billion per year and that number could rise if we do nothing to address our inability to store energy at the local level.
To get us there the world will need leadership to make energy storage a priority. And they’ll have to convince giant utilities that storage is a good thing. (Hint: This might be the biggest problem.)
Image: Blackout by amerefan / Flickr/CC