Emerging Tech

US taps IT and consumers to solve the 21st century energy challenge

The U.S. is attacking the problem of its outdated power grid with new vigor. Here is my summary of the Obama administration's plans and the initiative's two biggest obstacles.

If Thomas Edison could drop into 2011 and take a look at our progress, he would likely be dazzled by the smartphone, high definition video, and digital storage for music and movies -- all decedents of technologies that he pioneered and championed. However, something Edison would recognize all-too-well and would likely be puzzled at how little his creation had changed would be our electrical grid.

That's the narrative that White House officials used to help sell the idea of revolutionizing the U.S. electrical grid at an event for the press, energy industry leaders, and technology industry executives on Monday in Washington. Led by the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, the White House unveiled its strategy for building a 21st century 'smart grid' as a catalyst to make power less expensive, minimize outages, unlock next generation power sources, and empower citizens to monitor and manage their own usage.

Six different U.S. government departments came together for today's announcement on the smart grid.

For technology professionals and the technology industry, if these plans become a reality then it will mean IT will play a vital role in conquering one of the most pressing challenges of the new century and it will open up new jobs and business opportunities for a wave of technologists and engineers.

As part of the event, the National Science and Technology Council released a new report called "A Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid: Enabling Our Secure Energy Future." This report along with the rest of the White House's smart grid materials and its presentation on Monday are packed with details on the current challenges and obstacles and the ways the U.S. can overcome them. But, a lot of the information is locked away in bureaucratic and legal language, so here is my list of bullet points on what the Obama administration is trying to accomplish:

  1. A better grid - Upgrade the U.S. electrical infrastructure to drastically improve storage and transmission. Creating standards will be a critical part of the plan.
  2. Tap tech - Use IT to infuse a lot more intelligence and visibility into the power grid. This will enable utilities to better monitor and predict outages and recover more quickly. It will also drive better efficiency and planning overall.
  3. Citizen power - Enable consumers to have easy access to their own energy usage and better ways to control and self-regulate it in order to save money and energy. Smart meters are key.
  4. New energy - Prepare the 'smart grid' to better handle new forms of power -- wind, solar, geothermal, etc. -- that are going to be an increasingly larger proportion of the pie.

Likewise, here's my summary of the two big obstacles that the U.S. has to overcome:

  1. Innovator's dilemma -  Since the U.S. is where the modern electrical grid was born, this country has an old, well-established infrastructure with a large installed base. Changing the stuff that is already in use and is critical to daily life is painful and expensive. It's like trying to repair an airplane while it's in the middle of a cross continental flight.
  2. Too many cooks in the kitchen - Lots of different states, municipalities, and companies have control and regulation over the way the electrical grid works across the U.S., and so there are a lot of different stakeholders who have a say in how things are done. As a result, any sweeping national changes are almost impossible to push. It takes a lot of buy-in and consensus-building.

The second issue deserves a little extra attention. Later in the day on Monday, President Obama, speaking at the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness in Durham, North Carolina, said that when he first came into office the smart grid issue was something he wanted to move quickly on. But, "I was rapidly informed that the problem wasn't capital... The problem was the patchwork of local jurisdictions," he said. He added that what's needed is to create a local, state, and federal agreement on energy and grid standards so that utilities "don't have to guess" when they are dealing with different jurisdictions to upgrade the grid.

This was confirmed by Bob Shapard, CEO of the Texas utility Oncor, who said that energy companies were ready to invest in upgrading the infrastructure. "This doesn't take government money," he said. "If we have the clarity, the utilities can raise all the capital."

So, that leaves the Obama administration to herd the cats. It has to get government agencies on the same page, convince private and public entities to agree on technological standards, get local and state governments to cede some of their jurisdiction to help create a national network, and convince citizens of the benefits of self-managing their own energy use.

It's no wonder that small countries like Ireland and totalitarian governments like China are moving a lot faster that the U.S. in modernizing their energy infrastructure.

Still, energy Secretary Steven Chu succinctly summed what's at stake. He said, "America cannot build a 21st century economy with a 20th century electricity system. By working with states, industry leaders, and the private sector, we can build a clean, smart, national electricity system that will create jobs, reduce energy use, and expand renewable energy production."

Also read

For more details on the U.S. smart grid plans, read:

Footnote: No enthusiasm gap

Enthusiasm may be the best thing the U.S. has going for it in facing the two major obstacles to the smart grid. The participants in the event -- from officials in various agencies to business leaders in energy and technology to a couple high school students who've pioneered smart meters in their school -- all spoke with the enthusiasm you don't typically see at government events. They all seemed to have a sense that a big opportunity is standing right in front of us.

And, a lot of people want to get in on this opportunity. One indicator of that was the huge line to get into the event itself (see photo below). Keep in mind that this wasn't a public event. Twenty minutes before the event was supposed to start, there was a line of over 100 people waiting to get through security at the White House's Eisenhower Building. Based on line chatter, these were mostly government officials and leaders from the energy industry.

Once I got in, the White House official who escorted me to the conference room asked, "Was there a line out there?" I explained that there were still about 100 people waiting to get in. He was shocked. "Whoa, really?" he asked. Once I made it into the South Court Auditorium -- which seats about 150 -- it was already over half full. The event was standing room only and I'm sure there were a lot of people who never made it in.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

63 comments
nustada
nustada

The solution is simple, if the money spent in Iraq alone was used instead on renewable-energy assuming it kosts, we could have been inergy independent already, when factoring in divdends. cost of wars since 2001 about:$1,200,000,000,000 (this number is actually conserveatively low) kWh usage in the US about: 20,000,000,000,000 Cost per kw about: 10c (After tooling up as a national effort) Cost to build to capacity=$2,000,000,000,000 (assuming starting from 0) As the project would roll out, savings would be almost immediate, and would result in dividends that would have bridged the $8T cap in cost Now if we simply take the resources being used on the 5 illegal wars the "united states" are wagin against the interest of the american public, we could be energy independent and have an upgraded grid.

dnarex
dnarex

I believe that in your opening sentence you intended to use the word descendants (i.e. offspring of an individual or thing) and not decedents (who are dead individuals).

brianpwells
brianpwells

Replace "electrical grid" with healthcare system and the many of the problems are exactly the same. It is going to take a long time for both...

nhadley
nhadley

Stop wasting time and money and concentrate research and development on Hydrogen fuel cell technology. The end result will support electricity created locally -- at the point where it is consumed. Just think of the BENEFITS !!

dhays
dhays

A combination of Government and private industry is what is needed.

brendancquinn
brendancquinn

Hi Jason, You reference Ireland as a country moving ahead in this area. Could you put in a link where you got a reference to Ireland moving ahead with a new advanced network?

jturner
jturner

if we became more responsiable in our use of the resource we already have we wouldn't need more and could even reduce the strain on the current system. if i could have the money from all the elecetricity used in LasVegas at night for one day i would probably never have to work again.

VessiVes
VessiVes

It is Nicola Tesla who pioneered radio and wireless communications and not Edison. It is a shame that we've forgotten the genius who propelled the world into a new era. He was working on long-range wireless energy transfer (see Wardenclyffe Tower project). But JP Morgan, who financed the construction of the tower, pulled Tesla's funding as he didn't liked the idea of free energy.

pomru
pomru

TESLA invented the AC Grid. Edison was a prick that tried to discredit him in order to push his much less inefficient DC grid, with its many more wires and generators. He even staged public electrocutions of elephants to show how dangerous AC power was, never mind he was murdering elephants.

travisdh1
travisdh1

Upgrading the power grid isn't about "letting consumers control" anything, it's about the government telling you what you're allowed to use and cutting you off. They've done such a great job with keeping the social security system running, that means we should let them have control over everything we do apparently.

Orodreth
Orodreth

Anything short of taking consumers off the grid is short sighted. The energy agencies need to help private business develop electrical generators that provide 100% of the energy requirements for a home whether its at night, cloudy snow weeks, 100 to minus 30 degrees outside. It would take storage and conversion of energy but leaves the grid as a backup for consumers and primary source for large business consumers, hotels, manufacturing, high rise offices, etc. I don't understand why new home construct doesn't include solar panels and water conservation. It would take time but making renters, home, farm owners independence from the grid greatly reduces use of fossil fuels. Even using highly efficient, natural gas powered generators in consumer homes would reduce the need for grid electricity.

skipdykoski
skipdykoski

Nearly everyone picks a side - government or business. The real answer will be successful when everyone let's loose a little of their side. Definitely government is absolutely necessary to set and enforce standards, provide basic R & D that may not show any applicability nor profitability for decades, act as an intermediary between industries and agencies that may have different agendas, etc. Definitely business is absolutely necessary to actually implement and finance the new smart power grid. The major hurdle is each party letting loose a little to find a successful middle path. Egolessness.

blarman
blarman

One of the main reasons many people shy away from the so-called "smart" grid is because many government interventionists have made plain their plans to control exactly how much power they think you are allowed to have. Just as with this nonsense with CFL's, this is more about a government power grab than about "modernizing" the industry. If you look at the designs for the power meters, every single one of them the government is pushing includes the ability for a third party to remotely kill your power. This isn't about innovation - it's a power play, pure and simple. The other thing I would mention is that it is the government who won't allow the building of any power plants: no more dams or nuclear plants: it's all solar or wind - which cost so much to maintain that they don't even break even. I live in Montana near several huge wind farms, and those things spend more time in maintenance than spinning.

blarman
blarman

One of the main reasons many people shy away from the so-called "smart" grid is because many government interventionists have made plain their plans to control exactly how much power they think you are allowed to have. Just as with this nonsense with CFL's, this is more about a government power grab than about "modernizing" the industry. If you look at the designs for the power meters, every single one of them the government is pushing includes the ability for a third party to remotely kill your power. This isn't about innovation - it's a power play, pure and simple.

charonpa
charonpa

I will not comment on the technological or political opinions expressed within this article or the comments attached to it. Just the facts. ------------------------------------------------------ "If Thomas Edison could drop into 2011 and take a look at our progress, he would likely be dazzled by the smartphone, high definition video, and digital storage for music and movies ??? all decedents of technologies that he pioneered and championed. However, something Edison would recognize all-too-well and would likely be puzzled at how little his creation had changed would be our electrical grid." ------------------------------------------------------ Movies: Edison? OK. Electrical Grid: Thomas Edison? Look up "War Of The Currents". Radio Transmission: Edison, Marconi? Look up "US Patents". Tesla. Enough said.

Zenith49
Zenith49

'Decedents' are dead people, perhaps the author really wanted 'descendents'? There may have been six agencies involved in the story, but the seals/logos only showed five with the office of the president being represented twice. Article may have been good, but the glaring errors out-shined the info.

MrRich
MrRich

Very cool story. An obvious magnet for the 'anti-government' crowd. But if there is one thing the government should do it is to clear the local regulatory hurdles to enact a national standard for a smart grid. As IT practitioners, we need to insist that the smart grid is not vulnerable to an attack on public key encryption, such as is the case with RSA SecureID. Food for thought: The electric meter on my house was replaced last year after perhaps 30 - 40 years of service. My guess is a meter relying on encryption would have to be updated every 5 years (at the present rate of increase of processing power) to remain secure. Let's not attribute our power distribution system to Edison.. It is Nikola Tesla and Westinghouse whose power distribution system we still use today. Edison fought AC power distribution. Tesla was into all things vibrating. The man behind the hum. (Now can anyone explain why Europe chose to run at 50Hz instead of 60Hz?)

tbostwick
tbostwick

We already offshored all our internet backbones buried in the ocean. Congress couldn't even fully stop that one..... and now, the same idiots would like to maneuver our power supply for the USA in the same way. In other news, Germany and now Italy have rejected nuclear power and will invest heavily in other technologies...... Yes, let's leave something as important and critical to a countries infrstructure to NOT let them handle it. Why yes - those private corporations can reap billions and billions for the next milennia off normal citizens, and for what? Another system paid for by the corporate world, run by the corporate world and profits exclusive to the corporate world... NO THANKS! Great move - we're 30 years behind in this project, needs to be done. Gather all the appropriate agencies, build it - millions of jobs. Raise taxes too - I see it as a wonderful investment that WE ALL need to be a steward for, and take care of it as American citizens should. Let's see - world population growing - will approach 9 BILLION in less than 20 years and folks like you don't want citizens in a country that is built on taxes and paying for public projects, to send another one off to BIG CORPORATIONS - amazing - no wonder our country is getting farther and farther behind.

tbostwick
tbostwick

We already offshored all our internet backbones buried in the ocean. Congress couldn't even fully stop that one..... and now, the same idiots would like to maneuver our power supply for the USA in the same way. In other news, Germany and now Italy have rejected nuclear power and will invest heavily in other technologies...... Yes, let's leave something as important and critical to a countries infrstructure to NOT let them handle it. Why yes - those private corporations can reap billions and billions for the next milennia off normal citizens, and for what? Another system paid for by the corporate world, run by the corporate world and profits exclusive to the corporate world... NO THANKS! Great move - we're 30 years behind in this project, needs to be done. Gather all the appropriate agencies, build it - millions of jobs. Raise taxes too - I see it as a wonderful investment that WE ALL need to be a steward for, and take care of it as American citizens should. Let's see - world population growing - will approach 9 BILLION in less than 20 years and folks like you don't want citizens in a country that is built on taxes and paying for public projects, to send another one off to BIG CORPORATIONS - amazing - no wonder our country is getting farther and farther behind.

Architect
Architect

If you search Wikipedia you'll find that the internet started with governmental agency assistance from the likes of the 'National Science Foundation' (NSF), Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) out of the Defense Dept and other governmental agencies. Some advocate everything being done by the free market, but the free market is full of greed and is prone to catastrophic failure. For me I believe that minimum standards originating in the private sector, but codified as a nationally recognized agency by legislative authority similar to a building code are the key to a smart grid.

shepherdr
shepherdr

Tread lightly on the 'Smart Meter'. In Ontario we were sold this Bill of Goods on how great it would be with Smart Meters and how the Power Corps were going to install a 'Real Time' usage monitor in your home, so, at a glance you could see it was time to run around the house and turn off some lights etc. Well, we got Smart Meters installed on 90% of homes, no usage monitors, (I guess they don't want us to know when we are using too much power after all) the local power authorities do not have the infrastructure or billing capabilities to handle 'Time of Use' billing, and the bottom line, we will pay about 25% more for Hydro, because the less expensive 'Time of Use' power is, you guessed it, when 'normal' people are sleeping. Rather than repair the actual 'delivery system' (those overhead wires, transformers etc) they power corps charge us 10% delivery loss, for their poor infrastructure, then the government sold us the 'Smart Meter' bill of goods, so, I reiterate, Tread Softly ...

tmcclure
tmcclure

It leads to political influence and corruption. Let the free market solve the issue. Look at the internet. It evolved without any government help. Now they want to get their hands on it. We are screaming to keep government out of it, because we all know what will happen. Services will get worse, and regulatory cost will go up. In the end only the most influential will benefit.

forensicfred
forensicfred

Wind power fails when no wind! Also grid likes to know when power is coming to meet need. IF POSSIBLE the way forward is TIDAL TURBINE POWER. It is totally predictable and never fails. Just what a total grid needs. The expert is Dr. R F Nicholls-Lee ,Southampton University UK. Contact rnl@soton.ac.uk

blarman
blarman

In would be nice for everyone to be able to generate enough power locally so that we didn't have to "ship" it all over. Want to know the ugly truth, however? Local power plants as part of a systematically planned infrastructure can do this. It just means that for x number of people you have to have another power facility, and many local governments take the "not in my backyard" approach. Take California for example. Millions upon millions of people and a high demand for energy, yet they "ship" in the energy from Idaho and Montana simply because they refuse to build more local power to support themselves. Want to know the real reason why most homes don't come with solar panels? They are really expensive and don't generate enough power to power more than one heavy appliance on a good day. If you calculate payback, it is usually >30 years. And that doesn't include the storage batteries you need to support the system which have to be changed out every five years. Getting off the grid sounds nice, but the reality is that the grid is the most efficient way to generate and deliver power we have found. Until that changes, "getting off the grid" is neither practical nor economical.

blarman
blarman

Please explain the following: #1. What constitutional authority grants the Federal government the ability to regulate the power grid? #2. Why the government should even be involved at all? I would contend that it is NOT the government's role to set/enforce standards, but that that role is more specifically and better left to consumer choice. The government hasn't had to get involved in VHS/Betamax, DVD/Blueray, or a host of other standards - the market has determined the outcome quite successfully. If customers are willing to pay for "smart" meters, let them. But it should be their choice - not some bureaucrat living thousands of miles away.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

"In 1886 Westinghouse and [William] Stanley installed the first multiple-voltage AC power system [the precursor to the grid] in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The network was driven by a hydropower generator that produced 500 volts AC. The voltage was stepped up to 3,000 volts for transmission, and then stepped back down to 100 volts to power electric lights." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Westinghouse Tesla was the theoretician; Westinghouse made it work.

jesse_masone
jesse_masone

Correct. Edison fought our current power grid, designed by Tesla at Westinghouse, with a vicious smear campaign and only relented when AC's adoption was inevitable.

troy.kinney
troy.kinney

It was Edison that favored DC current over AC current. Tesla had the intelligence to know AC current could be pushed over larger distances by alternating the current and thus it was much cheaper at the time. Edison was more about the money he could make with his ideas rather than the utility of them. Tesla was an amazing inventor that seldomly gets his due. Who knows exactly where we would be today without his innovations?

Bduffel
Bduffel

Well...yes, in a capitalist system new stuff is developed and pushed to market and if people buy it, then somebody makes money...and that's the absolute reason the USA has all the cool stuff we have and so many people are willing to leave their home countries and move here...because capitalists have the freedom to, and like to gamble on good ideas...so, my question is WHY the Utilities, who say money is NO problem haven't already moved forward to implement improvements that would lower costs and in so doing, raise profits? why wait? First out of the gate sets the pace...just kinda makes me wonder...oh...and why do I NOT want Gov't involved in establishing standards??? well...because I can't think of ONE single program that the Gov't has established that is as efficient and effective as a publicly run program would be...Gov't Program Directors RARELY have even a tiny bit of real world experience and common sense to base the standards on that everyone else winds up having to live with and pay for...just saying...

tbostwick
tbostwick

And I can't wait until the next Civil War or when the idiots such as those in the Tea Party and such, finally go away - to another country perferably. Our WHOLE country is built on "if you want something, we all share in paying for it" Instead, it's too easy to give away the project and privatize it because those who BIG CORPORATIONS are in fact, too lazy, stupid, ignorant or all three to actually do the hard work of making smart policy for now as well as our future. If quick profits and large coffers aren't in the picture, the project isn't worthy in their eyes.....

tbostwick
tbostwick

And I can't wait until the next Civil War or when the idiots such as those in the Tea Party and such, finally go away - to another country perferably. Our WHOLE country is built on "if you want something, we all share in paying for it" Instead, it's too easy to give away the project and privatize it because those who BIG CORPORATIONS are in fact, too lazy, stupid, ignorant or all three to actually do the hard work of making smart policy for now as well as our future. If quick profits and large coffers aren't in the picture, the project isn't worthy in their eyes.....

Mrs Bomblatt in unpaid observerland
Mrs Bomblatt in unpaid observerland

I agree with that, and I immediately become concerned when the government wants to install something in my house. Just another way to increase taxes and intrude in your private life.

rsimms
rsimms

rmcclure: You are completly wrong. The government invented the internet and nurtured it to it's current state. The military and educational institutions were using this technology long ago. Unfortunately there are histories you will never know unless you were on the inside. I don't know how to help you educate yourself, but don't believe every negative comment you from political pundants.

j3hess
j3hess

The free market is a myth deployed for political effect - like the myth utilities used to tell about how nuclear power would generate electricity too cheap to meter. Even private property is the result of regulation; without private property there is no basis for market exchange. (Don't confuse property with mere possession - they're vitally different.) Markets require enforcement of contracts, weights and measures, protections against fraud and counterfeit, police and courts. Markets grew with the emergence of cities and government. Government provides services that markets can't - public goods. They provide standards and protect the trust that strangers need to trade with each other. No one is proposing that government replace or take over the power industry. Government can support R&D and establish standards which reduce uncertainty and create a better climate for business.

blarman
blarman

Actually, the Internet started via development of ARPAnet, a communications network designed to help the military maintain a command-and-control infrastructure despite nuclear war. And the Internet was nurtured by educational institutions such as Cal-Berkeley which helped to develop it, but until corporations became involved and realized the commercial applications such as Compuserve, the Internet was relegated to academia. It was only after the telephone networks realized that access to the Internet could get them big bucks did they invest in laying more wire to support the Internet. The whole reason the Internet exploded was because the government DIDN'T get involved!

mckinnej
mckinnej

You picked a really bad example to support your position. The Internet started with the government and universities. It was great until the "free market" realized they could make money off it. It has been going downhill ever since. They will not be happy until we are all paying for each bit we send and receive.

tbostwick
tbostwick

Yes, let's leave something as important and critical to a countries infrstructure to NOT let them handle it. Why yes - those private corporations can reap billions and billions for the next milennia off normal citizens, and for what? Another system paid for by the corporate world, run by the corporate world and profits exclusive to the corporate world... NO THANKS! Great move - we're 30 years behind in this project, needs to be done. Gather all the appropriate agencies, build it - millions of jobs. Raise taxes too - I see it as a wonderful investment that WE ALL need to be a steward for, and take care of it as American citizens should. Let's see - world population growing - will approach 9 BILLION in less than 20 years and folks like you don't want citizens in a country that is built on taxes and paying for public projects, to send another one off to BIG CORPORATIONS - amazing - no wonder our country is getting farther and farther behind.

tbostwick
tbostwick

Yes, let's leave something as important and critical to a countries infrstructure to NOT let them handle it. Why yes - those private corporations can reap billions and billions for the next milennia off normal citizens, and for what? Another system paid for by the corporate world, run by the corporate world and profits exclusive to the corporate world... NO THANKS! Great move - we're 30 years behind in this project, needs to be done. Gather all the appropriate agencies, build it - millions of jobs. Raise taxes too - I see it as a wonderful investment that WE ALL need to be a steward for, and take care of it as American citizens should. Let's see - world population growing - will approach 9 BILLION in less than 20 years and folks like you don't want citizens in a country that is built on taxes and paying for public projects, to send another one off to BIG CORPORATIONS - amazing - no wonder our country is getting farther and farther behind.

slam5
slam5

Free market solve the issue? It will never do that. internet is started by government research. There is government control in there, although it isn't our conventional government, look at the organization that runs it, IEEE, IETF, etc. All of them is arm of government in some form. A lot of the crime on internet is caused by the free for all when one crime is committed by one person in country A has no accountability in country B where the victim is. US government is only trying to establish a standard on how the power grid is build and not to build the power grid itself.

info
info

And if the free market gets in on it, it leads to influence by the very wealthy and the same corruption. Only it's more localized rather than Nation-wide. In the end, it won't matter. People will see the stodgy old bureaucrats and power company owners in 'the backwoods' as narrow minded and greedy because they think that other, richer people are 'out to get them', with government help. The problem is, they're also right... When was the last time you've seen a wealthy business owner cooperate with a smaller company to help it move forward, and not look to gut it out and profit for themselves?

info
info

The whole point here is that ALL alternative energy sources will be accommodated for, and used by, the 'new grid'.

PhilippeV
PhilippeV

You're wrong! DC current transport is MUCH more efficient as it avoids currents contantly alternating in the wires (more: US use 60Hz, vs. 50Hz in Europe, this even increase the energy dissipated by faster currents in the wires, as well as by electromagnetic radiation). Both Edison and Tesla were conscient that a very high voltage was needed for transporting the energy because it divides the current (and the Ohm effect in wires, due to resistance of metals). But to get a high voltage and then to use it in your home securely at lower voltage levels, you absolutely need transformers. Why Tesla favored AC over DC ? Simply because at that time, the high-power thyristor still did not exist. For huge powers (several megawatts in a wire), the only applicable technology was to use passive electromagnetic transformers, and they can only work with AC voltage/current. AC also causes another problem: phase shifting between voltage nad current, and that is unavoidable over long distances, it transforms the initial magnetic field into an electric field, so that the current goes for some time in the reverse direction of the electric field: this causes electrons in the wires to decelerate and reacelerate, consuming additional power in the wires). To avoid this phase shifting. And when both effects are combined to produce dephasage, this creates a part of magnetic field orthogonal to the wire where the electric field of the current is going, so that both become electromagnetic radiation that is dissipated. With DC current, you completely avoid the electromagnetic field, at it only remains an almost static electric field, which is oriented along the cable, so that there only remains the resistance of the wire to create ohmic effect dissipated as heat, but no emission of magnetic field. Long distance transport of electric power (notably in submarine cables between countries) now use DC exclusively. High-power thyristors are used to convert this power back to AC, but only for much short distances in the power grid. DC power also avoids the synchronization issue between countries that use different frequencies (50Hz or 60Hz) to interconnect their power grids. If things must be done, it's certainly to promote DC distribution, i.e. replacing high-voltage passive electric transformers by high-power thyristors to convert the voltage. Such installation can be costly (this is just an investment problem, but it least it is doable for long distances and high powers, then progressively deplyed for medium voltages to shorter distances). In homes too, we could save a lot if our installation was based on DC rather than AC (yes our power usage is quite small, but multiplied by millions of homes, this dissipation caused by AC throughout millions of wires in the distribution grid, is very significant): More than 50% of the power produced by plants is lost in the grid itself before it even reaches our homes. The only solution for that was to reduce the distance between power plants, but this also limits the possibilities for interconnecting and securing grids (even internationally), and building plants near mst important usage centers is an evident problem (security for nuclear plants, lack of availability of water resources, availability of soil surfaces to build wind or solar plants within major metropolitan areas). But with DC distribution, you would much less suffer from the distance problem. So yes Tesla was right, in his time. This is no longer the case today, and Edison was more innovative and a precursor of how a power grid should work (even if this was not possible at his time). But we can change. Immediately, it would not cost a lot to reduce the frequency from 60Hz to 50Hz in US. It would save energy in the grid, even if this requires adapting interconnections by implanting thyristor-based power convertors (using DC as the intermediate power) in the grid (we can profit of this change to convert parts of the grid to DC).

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Our WHOLE country is built on "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door." Innovation and excellence, not mandates, taxation and socialism. "Making policy" for someone else is not work. Creating desirable, useful products and services that others will buy is work. Find a big rock. Push hard on it. If it moves, you have done some work. If it's still in the same place when you're done, you haven't. You may sweat a lot, you may be tired, but you haven't done any work. That's the definition of work - effort times distance. "Those who do not work will not eat." - Captain Miles Standish That's the spirit that built a great country. Equal OPPORTUNITY for all, not equal outcome regardless of your work output. When the country rewards non-productivity, suddenly there's a lot of it. (non-productivity, that is.) Just look around.

Mrs Bomblatt in unpaid observerland
Mrs Bomblatt in unpaid observerland

That may be where you think we started out. Where we are currently is that the "lazy, stupid and ignorant people ", as you call them, have to work to support the millions of other lazy people who want something but don't want to pay for it. so everyone else has to "share in paying for it" so they can "share" in enjoying it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to notice that when some people want something that they don't want to pay for, all they have to do is to get the government's sympathy and suddenly other people will have to bear the load. Privatizing a project is not necessarily a lot easier than just leaving it to the governmnent. Just, sometimes, a lot smarter. And leaving it to the government sometimes means it's less likely to get done. Or, if it does, it will be done pretty much like most government projects - here, there and nowhere, depending on how powerful your congressmen and senators are, planned and designed and executed by people with no business sense and no accountability in the real world. In any event, if the government get its hands on the project, they will probably outsource it. So yes, there will be jobs... but who gets them will be the next question. as for how our country started: "You must obey this, now, for a law - that "he that will not work shall not eat"." ??? John Smith. The Generall Historie of Virginia, 1624. This country was not built on taxes. It was built on hard work and risk-taking and entrepreneurship. Do you go to work as a volunteer? Probably you like to be paid for the time and effort you put in. I know I do. I have no problem paying for something that I want. If people don't want it, nobody will bother to make it. If people want it, someone will come up with a way to make it. It's simple supply and demand. Big Corporations don't just land on the planet that way, and they don't make themselves. They start out by being one-man enterprises, or a few people getting together with a good idea that enough people like, and so they grow - giving many people employment in the process. If they are big, it's because we made them big by buying their products or services. Eventually new businesses come along with something new and people will go for that. Nothing lasts forever, unless it works. And even then it may be superseded by innovation. Finally, I don't know where you get your nine billion people figure (earlier post: "You're kidding -right?). We're at 6.9 billion now; in twenty years we will be just over 8, at about 8.2billion. see http://www.npg.org/facts/world_pop_year.htm. That's somewhat less extreme than I inferred from your post.

sboverie
sboverie

Modern corporations were given rights to own property and a few other legal rights through the 14th amendment; the 14th amendment was the amendment that gave citizenship to former slaves. Before the 14th amendment, charters did the functions of corporations. A charter had a single purpose and ended when the purpose was done; example is building a bridge to link communities were built by a charter. The second is that the major corporations do not actually innovate; they will buy innovative companies instead. The wealthy can buy anything they need, the poor have limited resources and tend to make the things they need or do without. Do not look for the big corporations to do anything to change the status quo; they are at the top because they work well with the status quo. Small, emergent companies are the best bet for innovation.

blarman
blarman

America is built on Choice, and that MY choices are not the same as YOUR choices. The problem with the government dictating ANYTHING is that then someone else is making MY choices for me. They want to tell me what kind of car I can drive, which house I can own and what job I can work at. The problem with our market system is NOT in the corporations. Corporations exist solely because people are willing to pay for the goods/services they provide. The problem is the government regulations that inhibit or disincentivize companies from making the changes. Do you have any idea how many government regulations the phone companies have to go through to get anything done? They have to get local, state, AND federal bureaucracies to pass their plans before they can do anything. And let's not forget that the energy companies are governed by Public Utility Boards that set the prices they are allowed to charge and the ways they are allowed to do business. You act as if Utilities are part of the free market system. They aren't and there is some merit to why they aren't. But let's just make sure that everyone understands that Utility companies do not get to do whatever they want - the government is ultimately calling the shots. Want to complain? Point fingers at those PUB's and all the bureaucracy.

tmcclure
tmcclure

Large corporation work with smaller business all the time. Look at manufacturing. Do you think HP makes all of it's own parts? No they rely on many smaller companies. All of which benefit from the relationship. I'll trust an honest wealthy business owner over a politician any day. I emphasize honest, as there are many corporations in bed with government. such as GE. I believe in a real free market not the crony capitalism we have now.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...that wind and solar will be difficult to integrate until new storage technologies are developed. Chemical batteries don't cut it at this level. Currently, the only technology that is effective at storing surplus generation capability is reservoirs.

rsimms
rsimms

It is good to read something by a person who technically knows of what they speak. Apparently you are no ameture in this field.

JCitizen
JCitizen

just switch to the new fuel cell tech that just came out. Solid fuel hydrogen batteries. They store hydrogen and low pressure, and WOW are they powerfull. They have an RC racer out now, that is breaking all records!

imuni4fun
imuni4fun

Vanadium Ion batteries are a good match for consuming excess generation during peak times and then returning it during trough times. These batteries are very expandable in both storage capacity and throughput and are already below grid parity in locales in Hawaii and other sites.

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