August 22, 2003

Distributed Power and the Smart Grid

Thanks to Tyler Cowen of the Volokh Conspiracy for noting this Washington Post article about distributed power.

As the article mentions, 8% of US power is currently generated by distributed means, usually under the label of cogeneration. So we're not talking about rinky dink, pie in the sky alternative power schemes but something that is contributing significantly to today's grid and is likely to increase in future.

Unfortunately, the limits of our dumb grid show up quite quickly in the article too. The University of Maryland had local, distributed generation but when they disconnected from the grid recently due to power fluctuation, they found that they had no way to quickly shut down enough non-essential consumers of electricity (like UPS batteries) and ended up taking their local grid down after 3 minutes due to overload. A smarter grid would have been able to shut down a fraction of the air HVAC plants and rotated what was running and what was not so that temperatures remained tolerable but the grid would have stayed up.

Posted by TMLutas at August 22, 2003 11:44 AM