I appreciate those who have taken the time to read this blog. I’m sorry, but I’ve come to the realization that my objectives are fundamentally incompatible with the government, regulatory, and business environment in the United States. (more…)
One of the most critical, confusing, yet underestimated (and often overlooked) problems in a complex problem like managing energy, security, etc is the regulatory and business structure in place to ensure the participants have the appropriate incentives to do what’s in the best interest of the public. (more…)
The objectives for any project are often forgotten as the individuals / organizations involved focus on their individual objectives, and understandably so. Often it is not clear what are the most important objectives, what objectives are in conflict with each other, and who has the incentive and job to oversight. The reasons behind the deployment of the smart grid are multifold, so it’s no surprise there is a lot of confusion around why smart grid. When objectives are in conflict with each, typically the results that are easiest to measure win out. In the case of smart meters, it’s how fast are they deployed and at what cost. I’m most familiar with the deployment in California, so let’s let’s look at how complicated this is. I assure you, looking at the objectives is a lot more complicated than the technology. (more…)
More often than not, those involved in an undertaking have completely different objectives and this is the cause of most failures. Addressing the core reasons for doing anything is often the most important, the most controversial / complex, and thus the most avoided. But when it comes to something as important as the future of energy and our environment, we collectively cannot afford to avoid looking carefully at our national energy strategy and the motivations of the various players in this market. There are broadly 2 reasons why one would be involved in the electric car industry: (more…)
The great challenge of infrastructure is often the hidden deterrent to adoption for many technologies. There are many issues with Electric Vehicle adoption that are very well covered in a book by Bernie Landoz which is available on Kindle (link). But I’d like to now comment on the EV infrastructure as I’ve recently attended several meetings regarding this issue and met with several vendors who provide EV infrastructure. The key issues to keep in mind are: (more…)
Solar energy seems like the ideal clean energy technology. It fits conveniently and unobtrusively on your roof, it produces most of its power during peak times, and it doesn’t require maintenance. This is in stark contrast to other technologies like Wind which is not good for the home because it requires about 30 feet elevation above the trees, it produces most of its power off-peak, and it requires maintenance. But as with most desirable things, the question is how much does Solar Power cost relative to alternatives. There are some consumers, for example movie stars, who will pay a premium for clean solar energy, but the vast majority of the market will not. So let’s look at the numbers. (more…)
This is a pre-requisite to solar energy which is the next blog entry. It’s essential to first understand this topic, because the economic justification for residential solar energy panels in the US is all about peak power (and tax benefits). This is true about many alternative electrical power generation technologies. In addition, reducing our dependency on oil while reducing greenhouse gases requires technologies such as electric vehicles. The electric car is only half the equation; the other half is the power grid and this is much more complicated than electric vehicle technology. It’s about base power, peak power, tariffs, the political process, international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, tradeoffs in being clean vs. being competitive, consumer behavior, etc. Technology itself can be complex, but technology is easy compared to the technology business. The power grid is an extremely complicated topic, and we will not delve into the intricate details here. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview (or a reminder) of the key points about the power grid that are essential to know in order to understand the role of alternative energy and electric vehicles.
Clean electric vehicles have arrived to help us save the environment and move us closer to energy independence (i.e. not relying on and funding unstable regimes). Understanding if and how much these vehicles contribute towards reducing global warming and increasing energy independence is a complex issue which I have addressed in another place. Here, I want to point out that in order to understand this issue, we first need to understand the different kinds of electric vehicles.
After my recent tour of the Solano Windmills just outside San Francisco, I thought, OK this is a good time to finally start this blog. Nextera energy was so kind to host us and provide us with a great tour, and also thanks to PG&E and the folks at the CPUC (The California Public Utilities Commission) for setting this up. I remember years ago watching the movie “Less Than Zero” and at the very end, was a scene where the main characters in the film went on a road trip and drove by a huge wind farm. What a surrealistic vision that was; seeing these massive windmills spinning around, churning out clean energy; an awe inspiring utopian vision of a smart and benevolent government making the investment to take care of it’s citizens and the environment. Now years later I wanted to see it for real – and ask a lot of questions. When I visited Nextera’s High Winds facility at the Solano Wind location I was not disappointed. As I drove across the Bencia Bridge just outside San Francisco, I glanced over my right shoulder and could see the windmills from more than 10 miles away. This was exciting. I thought about all the work I had done in alternative energy, and now I was going to find the answers to many of my unanswered questions; answers I could only find by talking to the line people running these facilities. These were answers I would not find on the Internet or talking to energy experts.