The Smart Grid

The « Smart Grid » : Intelligent Electricity Delivery Network

By Joël de Rosnay, April 27, 2011

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A possible alternative energy model for the future is the Smart Grid, sometimes referred to as intelligent electricity networks. Traditional ways of thinking about energy production and consumption is too linear. We pit one energy source against another: nuclear vs solar, wind vs biomass, etc. Which leads to narrow-minded statements such as “It is impossible to replace France’s nuclear power with 230,000 wind turbines or 580,000 ha of solar panels.”

If we are to face tomorrow’s energy challenges, we need to consider solutions from a global perspective. A systemic approach allows us to take into account various sources of renewable energy, and combine them into an interdependent framework. This is referred to as the Energy Mix or Multimodal Matrix model.

It is apparent that renewable energy sources are depend on cyclical environmental conditions. Wind turbines obviously require wind, while solar panels stop producing power at night. But there are ways to smartly combine these renewable sources with permanent ones such as biomass, biogas, geothermal resources, hydroelectricity, and even ocean wave power.

Central to electrical energy production is what’s referred to as “baseload”, which is the minimum amount of power a utility needs to produce in order to meet a region’s continuous energy demand. Many industrial and political leaders are quick to warn that renewable energy could never meet baseload demand. They still advocate the continued use of the four permanent sources we have come to rely upon: nuclear, fossil fuels, coal and gas. But this type of argument is clearly outdated when we consider the incredible production potential an of integrated renewable energy network seamlessly operating as a symbiotic whole.

This systemic approach to renewable energy is feasible if we integrate four key factors: 1) energy conservation (“negawatt power”), 2) engine efficiency (65% of industrial energy consumption runs on electrical engines), 3) massive energy storage capacity (electrical, wind or solar), and 4) widespread Smart Grid deployment.