These undercover charging stations could crack the case for EVs

In true summer blockbuster form, undercover cops are often the cinematic heroes.

But this summer, there’s a new star to cheer for.

The undercover charging station.

You ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, Grid, Charging Stations

Expand Article

These undercover charging stations could crack the case for EVs

Blueprints of an electric vehicle at a charging station

So, the company developed a small charger. It’s so small that it can be installed into everyday things that are already in a community.

Key Points

  • New technology might make electric vehicle charging stations cheaper to install.
  • Using existing structures cuts down on costs and makes stations more accessible.
  • They also use a slow charge, which will help level out electric demand on the grid. 

In true summer blockbuster form, undercover cops are often the cinematic heroes.

But this summer, there’s a new star to cheer for.

The undercover charging station.

You read that right: Charging. Station.

German startup company Ubitricity is coming up with solutions to make electric vehicle charging stations cheaper to install and easier on the power grid.

So, the company developed a small charger. It’s so small that it can be installed into everyday things that are already in a community.

For instance, London just installed 82 of the chargers into streetlights. These chargers are cheaper to install since they rely on existing structures instead of having to build a complete charging station from the ground up.

These small devices offer electric vehicle owners who live in urban areas a place to charge up if they don’t have a garage or an accessible outlet at home.

A vehicle would generally need to be plugged in overnight to fill the battery using the pint-size stations. But that might actually be a good thing for the electric grid.

Big spikes in electric demand from quick chargers can strain the grid. These low-power charging stations help avoid those spikes and would generally use electricity at low-use times, like in middle of the night.

There aren’t any undercover street light charging stations in the U.S. yet (that we know of anyway, but, you know, they are undercover, so we could be wrong). The company is hoping to expand to cities in the U.S. soon. And that’s a plotline worth seeing.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Electric Vehicles, Grid, Charging Stations

Summer school session: A brief history of energy in the US

Its summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little between trips to the pool.

The EIA recently released a report on the energy consumption in the United States ...

Tagged: EIA, biomass, history, Coal, petroleum, electric, Grid

Expand Article

Summer school session: A brief history of energy in the US

Its summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little.

The first energy used in our country was biomass. The fuel started to gain some popularity again in recent years, but has now leveled off.

Key Points

  • A new chart gives a good visual history of energy consumption in the U.S.
  • Biomass was the first energy used in our country.
  • The 1960s saw a spike in consumption when the electric grid expanded. 

Its summer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a little between trips to the pool.

The EIA recently released a report on the energy consumption in the United States from 1776 to 2040. It’s really interesting to see how our energy use has changed throughout the centuries.

Here are a few highlights:

  • The first energy used in our country was biomass. Biomass started to gain some popularity again in recent years — including wood as well as liquid biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel — but has now leveled off.
  • Coal was king for about 75 years before being dethroned by natural gas and petroleum.
  • Petroleum consumption increased with the rise of automobiles, helping it surpass coal in the early 1950s.
  • The electric grid expanded in the 1960s, increasing energy consumption overall.
  • Coal peaked in 2000, then started its rapid decline. In 2015 alone, coal fell 13 percent, the highest annual percentage decrease of any fossil fuel in the past 50 years.
  • The EIA predicts that natural gas will be the top source of energy by 2040. 

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: EIA, biomass, history, Coal, petroleum, electric, Grid

The answer to all our energy problems might be right in front of us

Mine!

I heard this at least a gazillion times this morning. Toddlers like to stake claim to things. Minnie Mouse plush toy? Mine! Building blocks? Mine! My empty coffee ...

Tagged: Grid, NOAA, electricity, renewable energy

Expand Article

The answer to all our energy problems might be right in front of us

Overhead power lines

Wouldn’t it be great if we could share extra solar power from one area of the country having sunny day with another region that’s having a cloudy day?

Key Points

  • Sharing might be the answer to keeping energy affordable.
  • Researchers found that a national grid would keep energy affordable and reduce emissions.
  • A national grid would allow sunny areas to share solar energy with cloudy regions.

Mine!

I heard this at least a gazillion times this morning. Toddlers like to stake claim to things. Minnie Mouse plush toy? Mine! Building blocks? Mine! My empty coffee cup? Yep, even that was claimed by a 1-year-old daughter today (and yes, I did pry that mug out of her sticky little hands. Don’t mess with my morning coffee routine).

As toddlers eventually learn, life can go a little easier for you if you learn to share. And the same might be true for keeping energy affordable.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could share extra solar power from one area of the country having sunny day with another region that’s having a cloudy day?

Researchers are looking into it. NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory recently published a paper that found switching to a national grid would make electricity cheaper and cut emissions. Being able to share our power around the country could mean that instead of trying to find a solution for storing energy, we could just move it around to meet everyone’s needs.

Let’s back up. If you’re not down with the ins and outs of the grid, here’s a quick refresher from the Department of Energy: The grid is made of three smaller grids. They’re called interconnectors that move electricity around the country. The Eastern Interconnection operates in states east of the Rocky Mountains, The Western Interconnection covers the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountain states, and the smallest — the Texas Interconnected system — covers most of Texas.

Here’s a great video on how the grid works. It’s worth a watch. It’ll make you laugh out loud. No really, it’s more entertaining than cats wearing tights.

Switching to a national grid might be more difficult than it sounds. Updating the infrastructure would be comparable to building a new interstate highway system. A big project that would require lots of investment and cross party political agreement. And yes, that might be even more difficult than getting a toddler to share her favorite toy.

Read more about the research here


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Grid, NOAA, electricity, renewable energy

Can hackers cut our power?

Cybersecurity is a big deal. It’s not easy staying safe from the bad guys.

Case in point: USA Today recently reported ...

Tagged: hacker, Grid, cyberattacks, Department of Energy, power system

Expand Article

Can hackers cut our power?

Cyber hacker

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is examining vulnerabilities of the national grid. The Energy Department is also on it.

Key Points

  • Hackers are trying to compromise the grid.
  • There were 1,131 cyberattacks to the Department of Energy’s computer systems during a four-year period.
  • It’s a real threat, but lots of people are working to keep our power system safe.

Cybersecurity is a big deal. It’s not easy staying safe from the bad guys.

Case in point: USA Today recently reported that hackers made it into the Department of Energy’s computer systems more than 150 times from October 2010 to October 2014. Yikes.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The numbers: There were 1,131 cyberattacks from October 2010 to October 2014. Of those, 159 were successful.
  • The expert opinion: “The potential for an adversary to disrupt, shut down (power systems), or worse … is real here,” said Scott White, Professor of Homeland Security and Security Management and Director of the Computing Security and Technology program at Drexel University. “It’s absolutely real.”
  • The plan: The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is examining vulnerabilities of the national electric grid. The Energy Department is also on it. It has an Office of Electric Delivery & Energy Reliability doing lots of things to keep the grid safe — including doing lots of research.
  • The silver lining: The attacks on the Department of Energy’s computer systems weren’t to the grid directly. Utilities own and operate the grid and provide another line of defense to keep it safe.

Black Hills Corp. and other electric utilities, what are you doing to keep our grid safe?


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: hacker, Grid, cyberattacks, Department of Energy, power system

The next generation of tiny houses

When my friend Hillary camps, she takes a semi-truck load of stuff along. The first I camped with her I couldn’t believe one person could own so many totes full of gear. Portable ...

Tagged: Ecocapsule, Grid, energy efficient, tiny house, wind power, solar power

Expand Article

The next generation of tiny houses

Ecocapsule

If you’re looking to significantly downsize and reduce your energy bill to nearly zero, the ecocapsule might be something to consider.

Key Points

  • A new microdwelling can help you live off the grid.
  • It’s powered by wind and solar, and collects rainwater.
  • The 86-square-foot home is well insulated and energy efficient.

When my friend Hillary camps, she takes a semi-truck load of stuff along. The first I camped with her I couldn’t believe one person could own so many totes full of gear. Portable sink for washing dishes? Check. Enough dinnerware to host a family reunion at a moment’s notice? Check. Tent large enough to house the entire field of Republican presidential candidates? You better believe it. And don’t even ask about her blow up mattress and full sheet set. Interestingly, she chose to pack a pillow about the size of a postage stamp. Because a full-sized pillow would be breaking the “roughing it” camping code.

Hillary, my friend, this invention is not for you.

Architects in Slovakia have created an “egg-shaped, wind- and solar-powered microdwelling.” It would fit in Hillary’s tent’s front porch.

The tiny home is described as a “frontier dwelling” where people can live off the grid. It’s solar and wind energy can be stored for times when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow. The pod’s natural curves collect rainwater, and thick insulation keeps the inside at a comfortable temperature.  

Each inch of the 86-square-foot space has a purpose. The design is intended to accommodate two people with a place to sleep, dine, study and store items, and it even has a toilet and shower.

No word yet on a price, but it should be on the market later this year. If you’re looking to significantly downsize and reduce your energy bill to nearly zero, it might be something to consider.

If you decide to have a huge garage sale, let me know. I have a friend who would probably purchase the entire contents of your kitchen cabinets to round out her camping collection. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Ecocapsule, Grid, energy efficient, tiny house, wind power, solar power

Back to school solar quiz

School supplies are the best. I could shop for folders, pencils and backpacks all day. But lurking in the school supply section at Target when you’re in your 30s gets you some ...

Tagged: solar, Energy Quiz, solar panel, Grid

Expand Article

Back to school solar quiz

Sharpened pencils

In honor of all things back to school, we’re taking a quiz today. A solar energy quiz.

Key Points

  • The cost of PV solar panels is decreasing. A lot.
  • There’s a lot more solar power on the grid today than a year ago.
  • California is knocking it out of the solar power park. 

School supplies are the best. I could shop for folders, pencils and backpacks all day. But lurking in the school supply section at Target when you’re in your 30s gets you some weird looks. Thank goodness my daughter is starting preschool this year, giving me a totally legitimate reason to drool over the amazing pencil selection.

In honor of all things back to school (I’m eyeing you, pumpkin spice latte), we’re taking a quiz today. A solar energy quiz. And I may, or may not, have failed to get a passing score.

First, go here to test your solar IQ. If you did well, feel free to brag in the comments section below. If you didn’t fare so well, just shrug it off. You’ll do better next time. You’re smart enough. You’re good enough. I don’t know you personally, but I bet people like you.

Anywho, here are a few interesting takeaways from the quiz:

  • The cost PV solar panels is decreasing. A lot. From 2008 to 2014, the cost went down by 80 percent. The Energy Department attributes this dramatic change to its SunShot Initiative that supports the development of more efficient solar cells and cost-effective manufacturing processes. I guessed 60 percent. I was wrong.
  • There’s a lot more solar power on the grid today than a year ago. Thirty-two percent more in fact. According to Energy.gov, solar accounts for less than 2 percent of U.S. electrical generating capacity, but it’s growing quickly. Nearly one-third of all new generation capacity that came online last year was solar.
  • California is knocking it out of the park. It is the first state to get more than 5 percent of its annual utility-scale electricity from solar power. That’s about 9.9 million megawatt hours of electricity. Arizona came in second.  

Now back to Target to purchase no less than eight glue sticks and three sets of paints. Any school that plans on going through eight glue sticks sounds like a winner to me. Oh to be 3 again. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: solar, Energy Quiz, solar panel, Grid

These flying linemen are the coolest thing you’ll see today

Human external cargo. It’s as cool as it sounds.

Check out this video of linemen flying through the air, suspended by a rope attached to a helicopter. The Southern California ...

Tagged: linemen, transmission lines, Grid, cost of energy

Expand Article

These flying linemen are the coolest thing you’ll see today

Human cargo

Maintaining our grid is part of what makes up the cost of energy, so it’s interesting to see those energy dollars at work.

Key Points

  • These linemen fly through the air to work on transmission lines.
  • Transmission lines are part of the electric grid that delivers energy to our homes and offices.
  • Maintaining the grid is one of the expenses that make up the cost of energy. 

Human external cargo. It’s as cool as it sounds.

Check out this video of linemen flying through the air, suspended by a rope attached to a helicopter. The Southern California Edison linemen are taking flight to replace aging insulators on a transmission line. The lines are in the middle of dense forest, so the only way to access them is by air.

Maintaining our grid is part of what makes up the cost of energy, so it’s interesting to see those energy dollars at work. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes things that go into keeping our energy available when we need it. Here is a great infographic that explains how the grid transports energy hundreds of miles from the source to your home or office. It’s not as cool as the video of flying linemen, but it does make you stop to think about the vast system that we depend on.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: linemen, transmission lines, Grid, cost of energy

More than a cup of sugar: Borrowing energy from our neighbors

My daughter June and I love to make cookies together. And thankfully, even if I’m unprepared for an afternoon of baking and don’t want to load everyone into car seats and brave ...

Tagged: Co.Exist, alternative energy, Grid, peer-to-peer, Uber

Expand Article

More than a cup of sugar: Borrowing energy from our neighbors

Bowl of sugar

Soon, I might be hitting my friends up for some solar power.

Key Points

  • The electric grid hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years.
  • Some day we might be able to buy energy from our neighbors.
  • This would be a major shift from the centralized system we have now. 

My daughter June and I love to make cookies together. And thankfully, even if I’m unprepared for an afternoon of baking and don’t want to load everyone into car seats and brave the grocery store, I can beg my friend across the cul-de-sac for a cup of sugar.

But soon, I might be hitting my friends up for some solar power as well.

Co.Exist recently released its annual collection of world-changing ideas. At the top of the list was a new way to get electricity.

The grid hasn’t changed much in the past 100 years. A big power plant generates electricity, those electrons travel great distances along power lines and then eventually get delivered to your home. For the most part, utilities are responsible for the whole process.

But as rooftop solar panels and personal wind turbines become more affordable, that model could soon change.

Co.Exist writer Ben Schiller offers a couple ideas on what that change might look like. He imagines a sort of Uber for utilities. Instead of buying power from utilities, we’d have an open market. Install a rooftop solar panel and sell the energy you don’t need to your friends. This peer-to-peer energy market could completely shake things up, creating a whole new market for energy outside of the utility services we’re used to.

The change couldn’t happen overnight. A system would need to be created to trade and purchase energy on a more individualized basis. Infrastructure would need to change. And realistically, buying energy from a neighbor would need to prove more affordable than getting it the old fashioned way.

See the full World Changing Ideas of 2015 list here. In the meantime, I’ll stick to relying on my neighbors for sugar and chocolate chips. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Co.Exist, alternative energy, Grid, peer-to-peer, Uber

Pacquiao delivers power punch to Philippines’s grid

I hope you enjoyed what was termed “Sportsmageddon” in our house this weekend. The Kentucky Derby, NFL draft, NBA, perfect golfing weather and  — of course — the fight. 

In ...

Tagged: Manny Pacquiao, Palawan Electric Cooperative, Philippines, Grid

Expand Article

Pacquiao delivers power punch to Philippines’s grid

boxing gloves

Fans in the Philippines were just hoping the TV stayed on to cheer on national hero Manny Pacquiao.

Key Points

  • The Mayweather Pacquiao fight was a big deal this weekend – especially in the Philippines.
  • Blackouts are common across the country.
  • Citizens were urged to conserve energy to make sure TVs could stay on.

I hope you enjoyed what was termed “Sportsmageddon” in our house this weekend. The Kentucky Derby, NFL draft, NBA, perfect golfing weather and  — of course — the fight. 

In other areas of the world, it wasn’t so easy to sports binge. Fans in the Philippines were just hoping the TV stayed on to cheer on national hero Manny Pacquiao. 

As reported by Aljazeera, Secretary for the Palawan Electric Cooperative Rante Ramos urged citizens to disconnect major appliances to avoid a mass blackout during the match.

"If it is just for the Pacquiao fight, let us just leave electric fans and TVs on," Ramos said. "We have waited so long for this, and now that it will happen ... it is unacceptable not to have the opportunity to watch it."

Recto warned in a February statement that officials would be made “punching bags” if blackouts prevented the public from watching the fight.

"If the people won't be able to cheer Manny because power is out, they will jeer the government," he added.

Palawan Electric Cooperative, which operates in Palawan, the Philippines’ most populous province, regularly reports hours-long power outages. In fact, the country as a whole has struggled with expensive electricity costs and unreliable service for years.

The Philippines’ unpredictable power grid system has not only affected Filipinos’’ daily lives, but also made foreign direct investment in the country less attractive.

In lieu of adequate government response, Filipinos are taking matters into their own hands — for the fight at least.

Big power consumers – including malls, department stores and hotels – have agreed to disconnect from the grid and use their own power generators from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday to also help reduce the load.

"This is not only for the fight," Ramos said. "We also want to teach citizens to show concern for fellow citizens, and of course to save electricity."

Local news outlets are reporting that the grid held up for the fight Saturday night.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Manny Pacquiao, Palawan Electric Cooperative, Philippines, Grid

Three things ‘The Hunger Games’ can teach us about energy

The third part of “The Hunger Games” movie series came out on DVD this month.

In “Mockingjay Part 1,” Katniss and other district citizens begin to rebel against ...

Tagged: Hunger Games, Energy, Grid, base load

Expand Article

Three things ‘The Hunger Games’ can teach us about energy

The Hunger Games books

Take note, President Snow. A few well placed solar panels and wind mills could have saved you a lot of trouble when District 5 revolted.

Key Points

  • In the Hunger Games, the capitol is too dependent on one energy source so experiences widespread blackout.
  • The capitol also doesn’t seem to have a redundant grid, making it vulnerable to district attacks.
  • District 13 was prepared for war, and had backup power ready to go. 

The third part of “The Hunger Games” movie series came out on DVD this month.

In “Mockingjay Part 1,” Katniss and other district citizens begin to rebel against the capitol and President Snow. As each district begins to show its solidarity, I was struck by a few things these post-apocalyptic heroes can teach us about our own energy systems.

  1. Redundancy is important – One district was responsible for the energy needs of the entire capitol. When District 5 revolts, its first act of war is to break the dam that provides much needed hydroelectricity. One district is able to singlehandedly black out the capitol. Since the capitol is without power for much of the rest of the movie, I can only assume that it didn’t have a redundant grid. Our grids are an intricate web, so that if one line or source of energy goes down, we can quickly reroute power from another source. President Snow could have used this handy guide to learn more about how to make the capitol’s grid more reliable.  
  2. Diversification is important, too – The dam breaking also shows how important it is to have different kinds of energy. One dam going down shouldn’t have meant a total blackout. That’s why we get energy from lots of different places. You’ve probably heard terms like “base load” and “intermittent” energy thrown around. Base-load energy includes things like coal, natural gas and hydro that, for the most part, are there no matter what. You can generally always fuel a coal plant, get gas to the natural gas powered plant and count on a dam to keep on flowing water. Intermittent energy is just what it sounds like. Things like solar and wind are only available under the right conditions (sun is shining, wind is blowing). We need the base load stuff to be available when the intermittent stuff isn’t available. Take note, President Snow. A few well placed solar panels, wind mills and smaller fossil fuel power plants closer to the capitol could have saved you a lot of trouble when District 5 revolted.
  3. Generators come in handy – Whether the capitol is dropping bombs on you for staging a rebellion, or you lose power during a storm, a generator can be a nice way to keep the power on. I’m assuming that District 13 had a pretty great backup power source to keep the lights on while its citizens went to the underground community’s deepest levels during the capitol’s air raid. And, thankfully, they used them safely. Make sure you do, too, by reading these guidelines from the Red Cross.  

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the entire world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned an M.A.in Political Science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the Governor’s Office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Hunger Games, Energy, Grid, base load

Homeschool Energy: See why electrons are like magic

Everything is more exciting when you’re 3 years old. Christmas is magical. Birthdays are national holidays. Successfully putting socks on all by yourself is cause for clapping ...

Tagged: electricity, electron, Grid

Expand Article

Homeschool Energy: See why electrons are like magic

This little experiment is a good reminder that our complex systems start with a simple electron traveling down a wire. And it creates light!

Key Points

  • Electricity is exciting.
  • It all starts with an electron travelling down a wire.
  • Our modern grid does that on a grand scale. 

Everything is more exciting when you’re 3 years old. Christmas is magical. Birthdays are national holidays. Successfully putting socks on all by yourself is cause for clapping and cheers.

Seeing energy from a child’s perspective is a great reminder of just how cool electrons are.

My friend Chris loves science almost as much as I love Downton Abby (that’s a lot). She hosts a group of kids each week for a homeschool science class. They covered electricity recently, and she sent me this sweet video of the kids’ reaction to making their very own electricity.

This little experiment is a good reminder that our complex systems start with a simple electron traveling down a wire. And it creates light!

Our power plants, wind farms, solar panels and other energy generating facilities create the same thing on a grander scale (with less excitement and cheers).

Here’s a great infographic explaining the electric system.  

But that system is aging. Here’s what energy.gov has to say about it:

"Parts of this network are more than a century old — 70 percent of the grid’s transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old, and the average age of power plants is over 30 years old. Today, our electricity needs are more sophisticated, and the strain on the grid is higher than ever."

Utilities are working to update the grid to keep it safe and effective, building things like new transmission lines. That’s good for those of us who like to know that the light will turn on every time we flip the switch. But keep in mind that those investments will likely show up on your energy bill. Which, if you look at your energy like a kid, is worth the investment for all the magic it produces.  

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: electricity, electron, Grid

Would you survive a zombie (or energy) apocalypse?

If zombies attacked, I’d be dead. Or undead, depending on how you look at it. The only self-defense I know is Tae Bo.

I can’t even watch the Walking Dead. It gives ...

Tagged: Grid, zombies

Expand Article

Would you survive a zombie (or energy) apocalypse?

Night time in the city

We could spend billions of dollars to make a 100 percent safe grid, but would we still be able to afford the electricity that’s travelling on it?

Key Points

  • Keeping the grid secure is important.
  • The grid includes everything that takes electricity from a power source to your home.
  • The Energy Department has spent $100 million since 2010 to protect it from cyber attacks.

If zombies attacked, I’d be dead. Or undead, depending on how you look at it. The only self-defense I know is Tae Bo.

I can’t even watch the Walking Dead. It gives me nightmares for months about zombies trying to get my daughters. Thankfully I’ll likely never have to experience a zombie apocalypse. But there are other kinds of attacks that are more realistic. Like an attack on our energy infrastructure. It might not sound as scary as a zombie attack, but if something ever happened, it would impact our lives more than you might think. To give you an idea, check out this clip from National Geographic’s movie “American Blackout.” It’s no “Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever,” but it’s worth your time. 

A significant chunk of our energy bill dollars go toward keeping our electric grid safe and secure.  I decided to look into just what goes into making sure I’m never without the power I need.

For starters, here’s an infographic explaining what the grid is. The grid includes everything that takes electricity from a power source to your home. It’s the whole system of transmission lines, distribution lines, substations, poles, wires, meters, etc.  If it goes, your power goes.

The biggest threat to the grid is weather, but cyber attacks are of increasing concern to its security. Since 2010, the Energy Department has invested more than $100 million to improve the grid so it could survive a cyber attack. The whole gang is helping out, including the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the intelligence community, private industry and energy-sector stakeholders. They’re all working on the Roadmap to Achieve Energy Delivery Systems Cybersecurity, a 10-year plan to “enhance the cybersecurity of the electric sector.”

The plan includes things like building a culture where security is top of mind, monitoring the latest risks so attacks can be prevented, having systems that can continue operating if we do have a cyber attack, and continuing to play nice with another in the name of safety (i.e. government, industry, academics  all work together).

It’s easy to let our imaginations run wild, but as with my zombie attack nightmares, it’s important to stay grounded (energy pun absolutely intended). We could spend billions of dollars to make a 100 percent safe grid, but would we still be able to afford the electricity that’s travelling on it?

Are there any utility folks out there who have some insight on what the best local approach is? Please weigh in with a comment below. 

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Grid, zombies

Who should pay for grid expansion?

The current electric grid is in need of expansion. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas will be pumping in $3.6 billion to expand and upgrade their current infrastructure. Northeast ...

Tagged: distributed generation, net metering, Grid

Expand Article

Who Pays for Grid Expansion When Homeowners Generate Their Own Electricity?

the power chart

The utilities say the cost of these upgrades is the financial responsibility of everyone, including those who've become energy independent. Now state regulators are trying to find solutions.

Key Points

  • Who pays for grid expansion?
  • How can net metering affect utlitiy rates?
  • Should there be a monthly fee to those with distributed generation?

The current electric grid is in need of expansion. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas will be pumping in $3.6 billion to expand and upgrade their current infrastructure. Northeast Utilities will be adding grid infrastructure to the tune of $4 billion.

Who pays for the expansion if customers are moving off the grid and are generating their own power? Residential customers who detatch from their local utility and generate their own power will reduce the amount of customers connected to the grid. This could wreak havok on utilities needing to expand their customer base. The potential is there for customers who are connected to the grid to be charged more as distributed generation is added.

The outcome will depend on how individual states configure their net metering strategy. For more information on this topic, read the full article.

What do you think about net metering and who should be paying for grid expansion? Even those who have distributed generation are linking to the grid to sell unused power back to the grid.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: distributed generation, net metering, Grid

Smart... what?

Sure, there are a lot of hilarious videos of goats screaming like humans that you’ve been meaning to catch ...

Tagged: Energy, Nikola Tesla, Grid, Smart Grid, AC

Expand Article

If you only ever watch one video about the ‘smart grid,’ make it this one

Smart Grid

It’s probably the Best. Video. Ever. about the “smart grid” — that electricity infrastructure meant to improve how we produce and distribute electricity.

Key Points

Defines what the smart grid is.

Nikola Tesla created AC.

What makes your lights turn on?

Sure, there are a lot of hilarious videos of goats screaming like humans that you’ve been meaning to catch up on.

But if you spend just four minutes and 26 seconds on this video from “Burn: An Energy Journal” and featured by Fast Company, I promise it’ll be worth your time. And you’ll be entertained and informed.

It’s probably the Best. Video. Ever. about the “smart grid” — that electricity infrastructure meant to improve how we produce and distribute electricity.

The video’s pretty hilarious, too.

“Thanks to Nikola Tesla, we now have ‘AC.’ Which stands for …”

“Animal crackers?!”

“No, alternating current.”

I’m not gonna lie: I laughed out loud. Yes, I’m an energy nerd.

But as the Fast Company article concludes, the video is, “a reminder of the centrality of the grid to the future and a good thing to watch if you have no idea what makes your lights turn on.”

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: Energy, Nikola Tesla, Grid, Smart Grid, AC