Tech Wiz: The micro-personal micro-grid for powering devices…

Portable. It is an interesting word. First off it is not something that cloud service providers like to talk about. AWS, Azure, IBM, Google, and Oracle want you to put workloads in the cloud, and leave them there. Portable, however, for the concept of a micro-personal micro-grid is critical. The value of such an addition is your ability to work anywhere. It empowers you to, as they say, talks longer and not worry. You can create this via a battery, but batteries have to be charged before they are used. With personal power production, you can generate the power from the resources you have. That is incredibly powerful. That said, portable is a relative term, Put it in a backpack? It better be something you can carry.

The other thing when building your micro-personal micro-grid is to consider what you need to change. For me, the quick answer is I change three things. My headset, my phone, and my portable projector. All three of these items actually can be charged via a USB cable. That said, my portable solar array has both USB, DC and AC plug outputs. It is probably overkilled. I also have an emergency jump start battery in all family cars. Those batteries can also be used for emergency electronic charging. You don’t want to overuse the emergency batteries, however, because you want them to have power when you need them. Now, the portable solar system I have weights 12 pounds, that is something to consider!

The two other generation systems I Have to weigh less but have limits. Solar power works as long as the sun is up. Not as much power is generated when it is cloudy, but you still get power. Wind turbines do require wind, although if you are in a car or boat, you can change devices while you are moving (the wind is created by the motion). Water turbines require moving water, making that also a bit of a need.  You cannot tow a water turbine behind a powerboat; you will cause problems for the water turbine. It becomes a balancing act over time that you have to consider. The need for power is always critical, when you need it, but not always something we plan for. Having portable power available makes a huge difference!


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More on Personal Power production….

Production of personal power is an interesting concept. There have been solar, wind and water generation systems for years. It is the portability aspect that has become interesting. One of the things you notice fairly quickly if you wander up and down the piers of a marina is the number of wind turbines on sailboats. Fewer, interestingly on power boats but many on sailboats. The explosion of hybrid cars in the past ten years has also provided an interesting view into the reality of cars and emissions. All of these things in the past ten years is more because the devices are smaller, more efficient and provide value. The value is, of course, the power they can provide, at the point of generation.

There is a US federal agency that is engaged and auctions the wind. Well, they don’t auction actual wind, they auction the locations that will support wind generations. The harbor of Copenhagen Denmark is dotted with wind generation systems just offshore. The wind turbines make for wonderful courses for sailboats to navigate. If the sailboat misses and hits the wind turbine, it is just the tower. The Turbine itself is 40 or 50 feet above the waterline if not more. If a cruise ship hit them, it would be a huge problem. But the tiny sailboats can drift between them without issue. Offshore of the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia (as well as other states0 there are also wind farms.

Driving across northern Indiana, you see huge wind farms. These wind turbines are providing clean, renewable energy as long as the wind blows. Just outside of the University of Maryland in Maryland is a huge solar array. It is probably a little over an acre overall. In Dubai, there is a wonderful solar array in the desert. In Maryland you worry about water, in the desert of Dubai, you worry about sand! Clean energy is growing every single day. Hopefully fast enough that we are going to see a reduction in the overall speed of climate change. We’ve not yet reached the point of known return in the production of greenhouse gasses but the runway isn’t that long.

Everyone deserves a chance to breathe without struggling.


Tech Wiz

TW and TE (again)

The concept of micro-personal micro-grids supports the broader concept of work anywhere. Work anywhere anytime came to be in the early part of the 21st century. There was an explosion in the number of businesses that offer free wi-fi to their patrons. Starbucks famously gave people free wi-fi in exchange for a cup of coffee. Work anywhere stretched one thing beyond its capacity, the battery. If you look at processors for computers, cell phones and tablets they have improved every year to a degree over the last thirty years. Moore’s law used to apply to processors (the speed would double everything 18 months), but that slowed a bit over the past five years. Now it is cell and tablet processors that are doubling every 18 months in capacity.

Batteries on the other hand not so much. Plus if we truly take work anywhere to its ultimate value, that means you can work anywhere. On a boat in the Chesapeake Bay. Deep in the woods of Ohio. Somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia or Oregon perhaps Idaho (I have a friend that loves Idaho). Work anywhere means working anywhere. This combines two themes I’ve been sharing for the past three years (or more). The first is the reality of the micro-personal micro-grid. That being a power grid configured to power the needs of one person. Work anywhere sometimes means you work beyond the existing plugin power-grid. IE, there are currently no public recharge, or privately owned power ports in the forest. Tree’s that offer public charging haven’t grown yet. Maybe, that is a new variety of tree in the future. For now, if you go deep in the woods, you go without power.

The other part of work anywhere is the ability to interoperate with what you receive. I published a post a while ago about the concept of the screen as a service. Many Micro-projectors are light, provide a projection for your laptop, tablet or phone. This allows you to interact with larger information sets such as massive excel files or huge documents you need to read. Even, web conferences can be had in the forest. Just don’t forget that squirrels don’t need invites to leave your camera off! All you need for these small projects is a little shade and a rock to project on. Who would want to be relaxing in the forest all day, and take 20 minutes for a meeting! This represents freedom, from Cube world. But also allows people to live, without being forced to be out of touch 10 hours a day in an office.


Tech Wiz

TW on TE continued!

As a water fan, one of the things I am playing with right now is the generation of power via water. Enomad is a water generation device. You need moving water, and you get power! Look this isn’t going to power your house, but it is enough while camping to generate and recharge your portable devices. The device is light and small enough that you can easily carry it with you (portable). It requires running water to operate. I will be testing it live in the next few days and will do a full formal review. Portable power is an interesting area within the concept of a Micro-Grid. I talked about building your personal Micro-Grid by adding power generation at your house. The even smaller perhaps Micro-Personal Micro-Grid would be the portable reality of personal power.


There are also micro-personal micro-grid wind gene operation tools and personal portable solar tools. Most of them come with the generator and a storage battery. The larger the battery, the more devices you can power. The larger the battery of course, the heavier the device is. The other thing to consider is you cannot tow a device like the enomad behind a power boat. You could, however, tow it behind a canoe or kayak and generate power. You can while hiking stop by a babbling brook and recharge your GPS, phone or tablet. Or, more likely recharge your phone, because cell phones chew up batteries in the wilderness, there isn’t always something to connect the device to regarding signal, so it spends more time searching.

As long as the sun shines (scientists project 4-5 billion more years on that front) there will be wind, water, and solar power. The reality of your micro-grid is you can save money. You can also help the environment. Climate change isn’t fake news. I know that many people, including quite a few here on Virily, publish misleading and sometimes incorrect information on the science of climate change. The problem is that the media at one point called the problem of global warming. Yes, there are parts of the globe that are warmer now than they were ten years ago. There are parts of the globe that are colder. The problem isn’t global warming. It is the change in the actual climate. More hurricanes last year and two that hit the US in the same year. That doesn’t happen often. More hurricanes projected for this year. Storms are more severe in the past ten years than they have been in the past hundred years, and rain patterns have moved. Wildfires in California are worse because of the drought in California. As the climate changes around us, we, humanity are at risk. Create your micro-grid and your micro-personal micro-grid. Generate power and help make the world a better place!


Tech Wiz

More of The TW on TE

One of the things driving me crazy is that I put some things away recently and I cannot remember where. I didn’t, include a tile (a system that allows you to find lost items quickly). I should have, but I didn’t. I know, I was thinking at the time that I would be able to quickly find the item when I needed it. Yesterday I needed it, and now I am searching for it. I guess I am, to use the nautical term, hoisted by my own petard.  Funny how sometimes you do things to yourself. In this case, it is wholly my fault. I ended up having to use a different version of what I needed to get the job done. I didn’t have a lot of time to launch a hard target search to borrow Tommy Lee Jones line from the movie The Fugitive.

I’ve spent a lot of blog space over the years talking about Transactive Energy and the future of what energy will hopefully become. The ability to operate off the grid is going to become more and more important. If we look at the existing impact of climate change, it isn’t the old-fashioned “global warming” issue. While global warming is bad, and the temperatures have gone up in the past century, very rapidly, it is the energy created by the change that impacts us. Storms are bigger, there are more of them, and the impact of the storms is greater on humanity. Think about the number of 100-year floods, storms and the sheer number of hurricanes last year. The impact is huge already, and it is going to get worse.

Personal Micro-Grid lets’ you go offline. You get power from the system in your yard, on your roof and so on. You are not dependent on the power grid. If you think about storms, and the impact of the storm on the area around you, you understand the reality of power. Power companies have to get the critical infrastructure back up quickly. Then, in theory, the remaining systems that fix are bound to how many customers can we get back to functional by fixing something. They have to triage issues and balance time against the number of people impacted. Fix problems not in the order they occurred, but in the order of the speed and impact of fixing them.

Solar takes you out of the equation during the day. If you get the new Tesla battery system, you are out of the equation all the time. Solar + wind or Solar + geothermal also gives you that. Or Solar + Generator, in all those cases you cannot draw power from the grid in emergencies. Your neighbors will want to come to your house for a blackout movie party. Plus, you can do laundry when you want to, not when the laundromat is open!



More TW on TE

I am going to start today with a question. I wonder why every public building in the US doesn’t have solar or wind on the roof. At the very least buildings that consume huge power and probably could offset their overall cost quickly (courthouses and libraries as examples) reduce the cost of that building. Every single building in the world taller than ten stories should have a solar array on the top as well. First off, the solar array on the roof will reduce the overall heating and cooling cost of the roof. The array isn’t attached to the roof but would be raised high enough for a person to walk underneath. That would allow less sunlight to reach the building roof, reducing the cost of cooling the building.

The other option is to replace the glass of windows, with solar power arrays baked into the glass. It just makes sense to do this globally; the value is the amount of energy produced. A city government could create a city office building Micro-Grid and share the power produced among the buildings. The fact that we don’t automatically do that is sad. One of the reasons is the reality of money up front. Let’s break down the cost of a solar array. A 20kW system runs between 30,000 and 35000 dollars to install. Add batteries, and you are looking at around 40,000 dollars (US) to implement a 20 – 25 kW solar system. That is the cost for one implementation; the government would be buying 20, 25 or more systems so that would probably end up on the lower side of the overall cost.

A large city could of roughly 600,000 dollars generate 400kW per day. Yes, that is far from what a ten story building consumes in a day. But it would also reduce the cost of power every single day. Over the course of a year, you would save between 1800 and 2000 dollars per month. 24,000 dollars per year. Now, you see why many cities don’t hop on the bandwagon. It is 20 years to pay back a solar array of the size for a city. It is cost relief (money not spent) or cost reduction. It is likely that in that 600,000 dollars that the city would produce closer to 800 kW or more. That is still a ten-year window to pay back the original cost. But ten years isn’t a bad timeline.

The reality of cost versus return is, however, missing one more piece. All the buildings in the system would have reduced cooling costs in the summer. That reduction, around 2% or so per year would be a large number as well. The problem with the system today is that all of this is cost abatement not generated money. But the impact on the environment would be significant. Jobs (someone has to put the solar arrays up, someone has to maintain the systems and so on) would be created. The places where they make solar panels would need to ramp up and add workers. The cost of cooling buildings goes down. Plus, the city as a whole reduces its carbon footprint! The value of Transactive Energy and Micro-Grids is a brighter future than the one without.


Tech Wiz

Tech Wiz Micro-Grid, Transactive Energy and a poll!!!!!

There are two things; I’ve thrown out in recent days that I thought should be explained further. The first is the home energy production concept of the Micro-Grid. A micro-grid is a contained system that has a producer (your home) and a consumer (you) of power. It isn’t complex, but it does require a production system. Now, there are some types of production systems that exist.

  1. Solar
  2. Water
  3. Geothermal
  4. Wind

Each of them has benefits, and each has drawbacks. A cabin in the woods by a babbling brook is not a great fit for wind power, but water generated power is a good fit. A house in the forest isn’t a great fit for solar (shade) but may be a great fit for geothermal. The reality of this is you need to get the right type of production system for your specific area. Live in a rainy place? Solar is still possible but may be less effective. No wind? Wind turbines may still work, just again not as efficiently. Pick the right generation system for your area and you specifically. What you are doing, in the long run, is making the world a better place for future generations. Climate change is a growing problem globally. Everything we do has benefit for everyone!

The other side of this, however, is the reality of a home Micro-Grid. There are production periods you produce more power than you can consume. Sometimes by a lot.  Fill your roof with solar panels, and you may find product 25kw or more per hour of electricity. Assuming you have a battery, you can save some of that power, but the rest is lost. Batteries only charge so fully, and the only charge so fast. That extra energy is where Transactive Energy appears. When you produce enough power that the power company could use the power you produce that is the legal state known as Transactive Energy. Now, the problem is that today there is no legal requirement for that company to pay you for that extra power, nor do the systems truly support the required two-way conversation.

Power doesn’t transport well. If you start at one end of the power grid and send 100000 kW through the system, roughly ½ arrives at the end needing the power. That means that transactive energy helps the power company. They can take the overage from your home system and give you credit for ½ the power (they lose ½ in transport). They can provide power to your neighbors from your system. That is the reality of TE, in a Micro-Grid economy. Today there are no specific laws that require the company to use or pay you for the overage. Some companies do today, but not many. As we head into the future of green energy, we are going to have to do something legally, about the issue of Transactive Energy. Imagine a world where power failures, are something used as a cautionary tale. Because you generate your power and sell the extra to your power company!


(Tech Wiz – a link to the poll is here)