The other face of Smart Grid

The “smart” electric grid may be just a little too smart. Once a smart meter is attached to a home, it can gather a lot more data than just how much electricity a family uses.

It can tell how many people live in the house, when they get up, when they go to sleep and when they aren’t home.

It can tell how many showers they take and loads of laundry they do. How often they use the microwave. How much television they watch and what kind of TV they watch it on.

Almost 200,000 smart meters are now being installed between Fort Collins and Pueblo, and across the country 52 million smart meters will be installed by 2015, according to a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimate.

“This is technology that can pierce the blinds,” said Elias Quinn, author of a smart grid privacy study for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

“Insufficient oversight could lead to an unprecedented invasion of consumer privacy,” Quinn warned in his report to the PUC.

Law enforcement, government agencies and corporations, such as Microsoft and Google, already are eyeing all that data.

The transformation of the electric grid into a smart, sophisticated two-way energy and communication system is seen as a way to better manage power and improve efficiency.

The federal government has put up $3.4 billion to help speed smart-grid development.

The technology, however, poses new questions for consumer and privacy advocates, state regulators and federal officials.

How do you protect the information? Who should have access, and what happens if it falls into the wrong hands?

“Privacy and cybersecurity are among the greatest challenges in implementing the smart grid,” said Nick Sinai, energy and environment director at the Federal Communications Commission.

Tackling privacy issues

Federal agencies and some states — including Colorado and California — are now moving to deal with privacy and security risks posed by the smart grid.

The Colorado PUC opened a docket in August to gather comments on whether the state rules governing privacy are sufficient.

The commission is reviewing the testimony to decide whether further action is necessary, said PUC spokesman Terry Bote.

New rules are needed, said Bill Levis, director of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel.

“The Fourth Amendment guards against unreasonable search,” Levis said. “. . . But I don’t think the founding fathers could ever have thought of this kind of stuff.”

Sinai said one lesson from the Internet is that it is cheaper and more effective to build in privacy and security protections at the start.

In the meantime, utilities continue to install smart meters. Xcel is installing 23,000 smart meters in Boulder as part of its SmartGridCity pilot, according to company officials.

By the end of this year, all 96,000 Colorado homes and businesses served by Black Hills Energy will have smart meters, with the help of a $6.1 million federal grant.

Fort Collins has plans to install 79,000 smart meters with the help of $18.1 million in federal funds.

Colorado utilities, executives say, have been collecting and protecting customer data for years.

“The level of data we receive with the smart grid may change, but the privacy principle remains very much the same — specific data stays between us and the customer,” said Megan Hertzler, director of data privacy for Xcel Energy.

Still, Xcel is “getting a lot more requests for customer usage information now that it is seen as more desirable,” Hertzler said.

Most of the inquiries are from companies that want the information for marketing. Xcel has not released any of the data, executives said, and declined to name the companies making the requests.

The key differences between the meter on the side of most houses now and the smart meter deal with time and communication.

Meters are currently read once a month; smart meters take readings every 15 minutes. Future models may take readings every six to eight seconds.

And all that information doesn’t wait for a meter reader. It is instantaneously communicated to the utility by fiber-optic cable, broadband or Wi-Fi.

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Mitsubishi plugs in smart grid project

Mitsubishi Electric on Monday said it will invest about $76 million in a smart-grid project, part of a companywide push into equipment for modernizing the electricity grid.

The company will create two installations–a residential-size building and a commercial facility–which will have on-site power generation through photovoltaic panels and local energy storage with rechargeable batteries. The flow of energy will be managed and optimized by power electronics and smart meters to test the performance of the equipment.

Mitsubishi Electric said the projects are part of a corporatewide push to supply smart-grid technologies for the electric power industry and meet global demand for low-carbon energy.

In one experiment, Mitsubishi Electric will set up a mini-power station built around a four-megawatt solar array. It will include equipment, such as switches and smart meters, to manage the flow of energy and a battery.

The residential-scale system will feature a 200-kilowatt photovoltaic array with a home energy-management system, which uses a smart meter and network-connected appliances.

The home system recalls work being done by Panasonic in this area. The industrial giant is developing a line of energy systems for the home, including energy-efficient TVs and appliances, solar panels, batteries, fuel-cell hot water heating systems, and a home energy-management dashboard.

Samsung, another company well known for its electronics, last week announced that it plans to invest $20 billionin energy and health care over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, an executive from battery supplier BYD said last month that the company plans to supply a combination of equipment, including solar panels and batteries, to homeowners.

Data collected from these various research sites will be used to develop new products and architectures that could enhance the performance of existing Smart Grid technologies. Mitsubishi is placing particular emphasis on the photovoltaic segment of its business. It has identified China, India, North America and Southeast Asia as regions to target.

Several major Japanese corporations have taken a greater interest in the Smart Grid recently, including Toshiba (which landed a relevant partnership with SunPower in early March), Zhimizu and Kyocera. And South Korean giant Samsung also just announced that it will sink $20.6 billion into green technologies, with a special focus on solar.

But Smart Grid efforts aren’t only heating up in Asia. At the end of last month, General Electric joined forces with Nissan to research the impact electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles may have on national electric grids — and how predicted grid overload crises may be averted. Other U.S. corporations like Cisco Systems, IBM, Intel and Microsoft have also been vocal about offering Smart Grid products to utilities and homeowners alike.

However, with consumer-friendly plug-in cars like Nissan’s Leaf and General Motors’ Chevy Volt preparing to launch as early as this year, it seems like Smart Grid solutions to major challenges are needed now — not in several years.

Some analysts say that less than 10 electric cars on the same block could cause power outages. If this is true, Mitsubishi, General Electric, and the rest will need to race electric vehicle market adoption to make sure the grid can handle the next generation of transportation. This sounds dicier than it should be.

World’s leading provider of 4G now into Smart Grid

The world’s leading provider of 4G WiMAX and wireless broadband solutions, is showcasing its best-of-breed award-winning 4G WiMAX infrastructure and optimized smart grid connectivity solutions at UTC Telecom 2010 May 23 — 26 in Indianapolis. Alvarion will highlight its market leading 4G WiMAX technology which ensures low latency, QoS, scalable, real-time and secure broadband communication for mission critical grid devices.

Alvarion Smart Grid Session: Alvarion’s Eedo Liftshitz, director business development, will be part of a session discussing “4G WiMAX for the smart grid — why WiMAX?” being moderated by Monica Paolina, from Senza Fili. This session will take place on Monday, May 24 from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. in Room 108 and will focus on the smart grid solution implementation, specifically addressing wireless architecture, communications infrastructure and end-to-end system integration. The panel will also include vendor experts on smart meters, distribution automation, smart meter aggregation and end-to-end system integration to provide the perspective of the entire ecosystem.

Alvarion will also participate in a panel discussion on Tuesday, May 25 from 3:00 — 4:15 p.m. in room 104 titled “4G emerging technologies — what’s right for you? – Part 2.” This panel discussion, hosted by Ashish Sharma, vice president of marketing for Alvarion, will provide an opportunity to ask questions about the next generation technologies from equipment manufacturers, carriers and utilities.

Alvarion’s broad portfolio of wireless solutions is ideally suited to build the next generation smart grid infrastructure. The industry leading portfolio includes WiMAX products for licensed, license-exempt, and 3.65 GHz quasi-licensed frequencies, point-to-point and point-to-multipoint license-exempt broadband wireless products, license-exempt backhaul products and a variety of end user devices for fixed and mobile services. Alvarion’s all IP solutions provide advanced features such as low latency, enhanced coverage and capacity, enhanced security based on standardized WiMAX protocol and quality of service. Because of the all IP nature, these solutions can be easily scaled and result in a very quick network rollout.

“Our all-IP end-to-end 4G WiMAX and wireless broadband portfolio for smart grid connectivity exemplifies innovation and leadership in this growing market,” said Ashish Sharma. “As the utilities look to create their smart grid architecture, our field proven solution based on the latest 4G technology will provide them with an optimal business case.”

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Montana Smart Grid Potential

Project developers Grasslands Renewable Energy proposed a system that would link up 3,000MW worth of wind farms, ironing out the intermittency with energy storage systems to provide a constant 1,000MW output of clean “baseload” energy.

The company, a joint venture between Rocky Mountain Power Inc. and Absaroka Energy LLC, said yesterday that the ten wind developers who have signed letters of intent to join the project account for more than 3,000MW of potential generating capacity.

As well as pledging intent to join, the wind developers have contributed funding to the Wind Spirit Project, Grasslands said.

One of the wind developers signing up was Windmaker Energy, part of Whitefish-based Mother’s Power Inc. Its managing partner Jeff Arcel said: “Montana and the surrounding region have some of the best wind resources in the nation.  The Wind Spirit Project’s unique and innovative business model will allow wind developers from diverse geographic areas to work together in new ways to fully realize our potential.”

State Governor Brian Schweitzer has backed the project, saying: “Montana can and will lead our nation in wind energy development. But until we solve our transmission constraint problems, little of this great resource will be developed. The project proposed by Grasslands Renewable Energy is an important first step in ensuring quality energy jobs for Montanans and clean energy for America.”

As well as wind farms in Montana, the Wind Spirit project could link in with wind projects in North Dakota, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Grasslands has said it will rely on proven and new storage systems to store energy for release when the wind isn’t blowing. It is looking into technologies including pumped storage hydro projects, which uses electricity to pump water into a reservoir where it can drive turbines to generate electricity when needed.

The company is also investigating battery and compressed air energy storage technologies.

By hybrid blogger Posted in News!

Smart Grid Revolution Starts With Big-Electron Storage

The paradigm of the “smart grid” has been embraced eagerly by everyone from staid old utilities to Silicon Valley venture capitalists, from startups and industrial giants to the Department of Energy, with its generous stimulus grants for the development. Why not? Who wouldn’t want to go from the ostensible dumb grid to a smart one? Easy sell.

Big opportunities for everyone in a transformative electric network: for consumers to make smarter energy decisions, vendors to sell smart hardware and software, utilities to optimize their assets and get green “cred,” and of course, for investors to facilitate and benefit from both real and frothy growth. Win-win all around. Bigger, greener, better, smarter.

So will the electric grid come to resemble the architecture of the Internet’s pervasive communications grid? It can and it will, but not entirely for the reasons proffered by smart grid cognoscenti. You need to know just two things–two macro trends–to know why the smart grid is coming, and will be a big secular trend. First is the rising use of electricity and collateral radical increase in its importance. Second are the technologies to make the grid smarter have come of age, and just in time.

First, the demand. More than 70% of U.S. energy is used for non-transportation purposes, with the majority (60%) of all non-transport needs being met with electrons. The use of energy in the form of electricity (measured in “barrels of oil equivalent” per year) has risen 75% in the past 30 years. The Energy Information Administration forecasts the trend continuing for another 30 years. Energy used for all other purposes (again, excluding cars, planes and trains, which for context use about 5 BBOE per year) has been essentially flat for three decades and will stay essentially flat, even as the U.S. economy has grown, and is forecast to grow.

Global spending on electric transport (transmission and distribution infrastructure) already runs about $100 billion annually, with the U.S. accounting for 20% of that market. It’s an easy bet on this macro; a lot more money will be spent on electric grids. That’s pretty much all you need to know to bet on this sector, but there’s more. Add to this trend the imperative to achieve more efficiency from the electric system, reliably and securely. This can only come from adding more smarts to the grid. Growth will be proportionally faster on new technologies to add smarts to the old.

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

Now that Toyota’s plug-in hybrid development is no longer a secret, the company is putting plug-in prototypes on the road in Japan and California to further improve the technology. The Toyota Plug-in HV, a test platform based on the production hybrid Prius, has been approved for public road use by Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport – the first certification of its kind. Toyota will field eight vehicles in Japan to verify the electric-only cruising range and optimal battery capacity.

The Prius PHEV is based on a third generation Toyota Prius (model ZVW30) outfitted with 5.2 kWh lithium-ion batteries co-developed with Panasonic,which enable all-electric operation at higher speeds and longer distances than the conventional Prius hybrid.

The Prius plug-in total all-electric range is 13 mi (21 km) with speeds up to 62 mph (100 km/h).The lithium-ion battery pack can be charged in 180 minutes at 100 volts or in 100 minutes at 200 volts.The Prius plug-in is rated at 134 mpg-US (1.76 L/100 km; 161 mpg-imp) with a combined efficiency based on a 43.6 % of driving in EV mode and CO2 emissions of 41 g/km. Fuel efficiency operating as a gasoline-electric hybrid, like the regular Prius, is 72 mpg-US (3.3 L/100 km; 86 mpg-imp) with CO2 emissions of 76 g/km.

A global demonstration program involving 600 pre-production test cars began in late 2009 and will continue in 2010 in Japan, Europe, Canada, China, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.The commercial version is expected to sell for around USD 48,000 (ouch)  and production during the first year is expected to vary between 20,000 and 30,000 units.

The Plug-in HV features two major changes over the production Prius. Toyota has doubled the battery capacity to 13 amp-hours by installing a larger nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery pack. Accordingly, the overall weight of the prototype is about 70 pounds greater than a stock Prius. Toyota says the larger NiMH battery pack is meant to simulate the level of performance the company expects to achieve when it eventually develops its own more compact and powerful battery systems, presumably with lithium-ion batteries. The other major modification is the addition of plug-in capability. Plugging into a standard 110-volt household outlet via a socket located on the rear fender will fully replenish the batteries in three to four hours.

The increased battery capacity means electric-only driving range is extended to approximately eight miles. The Plug-in HV is also capable of driving electrically at speeds up to 62 mph before the 1.5-liter gasoline engine turns on. Maximum electric-only cruising speed in the production Prius is 42 mph. This electric-only range is not as great as some of the unofficial Prius conversions that have been demonstrated in California and elsewhere. Nevertheless, Toyota reportedly claims that even with this experimental number, substantial gains in fuel economy and a major reduction in total tailpipe emissions over current conventional hybrid systems can be achieved.

Specifications

The Prius Plug-in uses three different batteries, two to provide all-electric drive and a third battery engages when the first two are depleted, allowing the car to operate in hybrid mode, like a regular 50-mpg Prius. According to Toyota, when the vehicle starts, the plug-in operates in all-electric mode, drawing electrical power directly from the first battery pack. When its charge is depleted, it disconnects from the circuit and the second pack engages and supplies electrical energy to the motor. When the second pack is depleted again it disconnects from the circuit and the system defaults to conventional hybrid mode, using the main battery as the sole electrical power source. Pack one and pack two will not reengage in tandem with the main battery pack until the vehicle is plugged in and charged.

Demonstration program

According to Toyota a total of 600 Prius plug-in demonstration vehicles will be available for lease to fleet and government customers, 200 will be delivered in Europe and 230 Japan in late December 2009, along with 150 models to be released in the U.S. by early 2010. All program vehicles will be sent to limited geographical areas and will be equipped with special data tracking devices designed to allow Toyota to monitor the car’s usage for further development of the plug-in hybrid system.

Canada

In March 2010 Toyota launched its demonstration program in Canada with five Prius Plug-ins in partnership with academic institutions, hydro-electric producers, and governmental agencies in each of the four provinces participating in the program, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec. Canada is home to Toyota’s global cold weather research center in Northern Ontario, and the country’s cold weather will serve to evaluate its adverse effect on battery performance and range.

Europe

Toyota wil lease approximately 200 units in Europe, with approximately 100 going to Strasbourg, France. Other countries where the Prius Plug-in Hybrid will also be introduced are the United Kingdom, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, and another eight European countries that are being considered

France

The demonstration program in Strasbourg was launched in April 2010.The 3-year program involves around 100 Prius Plug-ins and the deployment of dedicated charging infrastructure. The program will set up more than 150 charging points at private parking lots of firms participating in the program, user homes, public parking lots and on public roads

Germany

The demonstration program in Germany will be conducted in Baden-Württemberg with ten Prius Plug-ins and the corresponding dedicated charging infrastructure. The program will be run by German energy provider EnBW.

United Kingdom

The demonstration test in the U.K. will include only 20 Prius plug-ins.

Japan

In Japan, TMC will lease approximately 230 units to government ministries, local governments selected for the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s EV & PHV Towns program, corporations such, as electric power companies, and other entities

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The smart grid flow of data must be protected from hacker’s eyes

Unlike the traditional power grid, a “smart” grid is designed to accommodate a two-way flow of both electricity and data. This creates great promise, including lower energy prices, increased use of renewable resources and, it is hoped, fewer brownouts and blackouts. But a smart grid also poses several potential security problems—networked meter data, power companies’ computers and those of customers could all be vulnerable to tampering.

A smart grid adds a layer of cybersecurity complexity to challenges that already existed with the traditional grid. In the past, a lot of cybersecurity efforts have focused on securing the bulk transmission system—from the utility company’s generating plants to its substations—because those locations are where the worst-case scenario could happen: a large regional blackout, says Don Von Dollen, a program manager at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a Calif.-based non-profit research center. The bulk transmission system remains the top security priority, but with the dawn of the smart grid, power companies now have to think more about protecting the network connections they have with individual customers’ homes, he adds.

With such scenarios in mind, NIST’s Smart Grid Interoperability Panel–Cyber Security Working Group (SGIP–CSWG) in February released the second draft of its Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements, a 305-page document the agency expects to issue formally by July. It identifies potential vulnerabilities and outlines “recommended requirements” that the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation (NERC) can choose to add to its critical infrastructure protection standards. These measures to protect the grid from cyber-tampering would be enforced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

NIST’s cybersecurity group draws its recommendations from a well-rounded core of more than 400 experts, including those from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, as well as volunteers from academia, law firms, IT and telecommunication companies, and independent security specialists. Aerospace manufacturer Boeing and network technology provider Cisco Systems each have an employee serving as vice-chair of the group.
The document is short on answers regarding exactly how to solve these problems. “This is a starting point. It’s meant to give high-level requirements, not solutions,” says Lee. Rather, the intent is to get government agencies, utility companies and other businesses thinking more about security problems they may not previously have considered when components of the electrical grid were not hooked up to computer networks. NIST notes in this latest draft that without R&D advances to network security, local attacks can become distributed or cascading large-scale attack campaigns.

Prius Plug-In Hybrid Demo Program

In late 2009, Toyota began delivery of 600 Prius Plug-in Hybrid vehicles, equipped with lithium-ion batteries, to participate in a global demonstration program. 150 vehicles are being placed with program partners in the U.S. to demonstrate plug-in hybrid technology, educate and inform the public, evaluate performance and better understand the technology’s benefits to future customers.

On the consumer side, this program will allow Toyota to gather in-use driving feedback and understand customer expectations for plug-in technology. On the technical side, the program aims to confirm, in a wide variety of real world applications, the overall performance of Toyota’s first-generation lithium-ion battery technology, while spurring the development of public-access charging station infrastructure.

In October 2009, Toyota announced its first demonstration program partnership with Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity program in Boulder, CO. Ten PHVs will be placed with Boulder residents who will participate in an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Toyota also has announced partnerships with Qualcomm, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Southern California Air Quality Management District, University of California, Berkeley and Portland State University.

Additional specific partners will be announced soon, with regional programs slated for northern and southern California, Washington D.C., New York City, Portland, Oregon and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Each placement scenario will have a variety of ‘use cases’ or driving conditions (ie: commute length, usage type, access to charging) to gain maximum input to vehicle performance and customer needs.

As it becomes available, dashboard data from the 150 U.S. demonstration programs will be posted to this Web site. This in-use, readily available data will help consumers understand how the plug-in hybrid vehicles are being used, how they’re performing and if the vehicle might be right for them. As the vehicles gather miles, data such as fuel economy, miles driven, charge incidents and additional content will be viewable online. In addition, demonstration partners will be sharing data amongst themselves and comparing usage and performance of the vehicles.

This demonstration program is a necessary next-step in societal preparation in that it allows Toyota the unique opportunity to inform, educate and prepare customers for the electrification of the automobile in general, and the introduction of plug-in hybrid technology, in particular.

For more info click here

Hydrogen Fuel Project in Hawaii

Hawaii’s race to adopt green-energy automobiles picked up speed yesterday with the announcement of a collaboration between The Gas Co. and General Motors Corp. for vehicles powered by hydrogen.

The companies agreed to work in concert, with The Gas Co. pledging to provide the fueling network for the cars, and GM saying it may send dozens of its hydrogen fuel-cell cars here.

“We’re not doing this to show what the technology can do,” said Charlie Freese, executive director of GM’s global fuel cell activities. GM hopes to start commercial production of hydrogen fuel cell cars in the next five years.

“We want to make it part of growth. We want it to be a beginning.”

The partnership was the latest in a series of Hawaii announcements this year related to the ramping up of vehicles using renewable sources of power.

Hawaii is becoming one of the leaders nationally in alternative fuel vehicles, with Nissan announcing that its much-anticipated electric car, the Leaf, will be sold here starting early next year and South Korean automaker CT&T saying it wants to build a $200 million electric-car assembly plant here.

Hawaii, as the most oil-dependent state in the nation, has announced an ambitious plan to wean itself off of petroleum-based energy, including electrical generation and transportation needs. About one-third of the petroleum consumed here goes to ground transportation, according to the state.

The Gas Co.-GM announcement marks the first significant hydrogen-fuel effort aimed at consumers in the state. GM said Hawaii presents an unusual situation for its hydrogen cars because a network of fueling stations can easily be developed.

There has been a chicken-and-egg dilemma to the advent of hydrogen-powered vehicles, because unlike electric cars that can be plugged in, a network of service stations where people can gas up with hydrogen is needed.

Drivers won’t buy the cars without the fueling stations available and fueling stations won’t be built without the cars being sold.

“The goal here is to provide an attractive place for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and other fuel cell technology,” said Jeffrey Kissel, Gas Co. president and chief executive officer.

GM is seeing the collaboration with The Gas Co. as the start of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure that could support tens of thousands of fuel cell vehicles eventually.

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New Platinum Could be Cheaper for More Efficient Fuel Cells

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Houston are talking about a new form of platinum that might be helpful in making cheaper, more efficient fuel cells. This work has been published in the April 25th issue of Nature Chemistry.

The team is trying to modify the platinum’s reactivity. This step will enable the researchers to cut back the quantity of platinum required by 80 percent. They are also quite positive about minimizing the quantity by another 10 percent. This will reduce the overall cost of the fuel cells. Nilsson says, “I think with a factor of ten, we’ll have a home run.”

Fuel cells work much like batteries. An anode gives out electrons and a cathode collects those electrons thus forming a circuit. So what is the difference between a fuel cell and a battery? Fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to complete their energy-producing reactions. The by-product is water and heat.

What metal is chosen for cathode is extremely important. Because some of the metals can’t break the oxygen molecule into atoms. And some bind strongly with oxygen so the important reactions don’t take place. Scientists are trying to attain a balance so that the number of oxygen bonds broken is maximized and the oxygen atoms attach feebly to the catalyst. Platinum helps the scientist in attaining that balance. It breaks the oxygen bonds but does not fasten to the free oxygen atoms too powerfully.