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Smart Power Grid Could Wreak Havoc On Itself

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the off-is-the-new-on dept.

Power 331

MrSeb writes "Smart power grid monitoring that lets you pick the exact cheapest time to run the dishwasher or recharge your electric car may put too much power (so to speak) in the hands of the consumer, according to a new study by MIT. Researchers say that users receiving minute-by-minute pricing information might cycle off-peak power use more rapidly than utilities can spool up their power plants. In other words, it's OK if you're the only person charging your Chevy Volt at 2am in the morning, but if a whole town does it exactly the same time... there will be issues."

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Smart Meters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987166)

Smart Meters [youtube.com]

Time to get power storage systems (2)

bobs666 (146801) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987296)

We need to store power so that we can only use that power at a constant rate 24/7.

Re:Time to get power storage systems (4, Funny)

Tofof (199751) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987574)

Great idea. Maybe we could do this with a high-energy-density liquid! Something like long hydrocarbon chains that are straightforward to break when we want to reclaim the energy...

Re:Time to get power storage systems (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987660)

Too bad they are a bitch to make. Digging them up is one idea, but it releases a lot of stored carbon dioxide and burning the stuff in ICEs is pretty inefficient.

Re:Distributed (2)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987728)

Both storage and production should be distributed as widely as possible. If half the homes in your neighborhood have solar panels, wind turbines, and on-site storage, then there will be much less need for the coal-fired "utility" plant to adjust to localized spikes.

if everyone is using off peak hours (5, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987198)

they will quickly become peak hours, I have the upmost faith in our utilities to gouge us for whatever they can

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987220)

... I have the upmost faith in our utilities to gouge us for whatever they can

That reminds me of a joke about solar power. It will be widely available as soon as power companies figure out how to run a sunbeam through a meter.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (2)

Stellian (673475) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987308)

That sounds like a grid that is not smart enough; if everybody charges his Chevy at 2AM, then 2AM will be the new peak hour and it will cost an arm and a leg to charge at that time. If the price information is delayed versus the instantaneous power consumption, then yes, a spike should be expected when the the price drops, but this could be countered by distributing the price information with random delays and only in some areas.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987676)

The effect of that would be the same as not having smart grids at all.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987820)

No it would not be. The time an appliance started using power would just be staggered. Which is the ideal.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987326)

I don't think it necessarily works that way in this case. How many businesses do you know that can just stop using power during peak hours? Office building ACs, for example, during the middle of the day?

Sure, for actual flexible usage - like people at home doing laundry - you may have a point. But I always thought that the point was to shift home usage from business hours to closer to non-business hours, and especially non-AC hours during the summer.

Not that "our utilities" aren't trying to make money... of course they are, they are for-profit. However, it seems it may be in their interest to try to shift usage to make it more even throughout the day.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (2, Interesting)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987378)

well I can assure you most places do not shut off their AC when they leave, do you know how much time it takes to get the office back down to 60? (no seriously thats a fad here AC must be 60 so you get a chest cold when you walk in from 103 degree temps, cause little Susie secretary has not spent a day outside since school)

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987654)

Don't forget everybody plugging in their cars once they get to work, so they can drive to lunch, then charge again to be able to drive home.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (2)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987720)

Susie Secretary likes to set the thermostat to 60, then turn on the 1850W space heater under her desk and flip the breaker.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987784)

while wearing a sweater (a light sweater but none the less) in fucking August

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987760)

True, but the systems themselves will (should) run less at night. As the outdoor temperature drops, so does the rate at which the building warms up. Plus you won't have the personnel thermal load, the lighting thermal load, maybe computer equipment thermal load if IT lets them shut down at night, etc.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (3, Insightful)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987418)

You're exactly right ... the power used by businesses far exceeds the amount used by even busy households. Corporate ACs in 20 story buildings use far more electricity than people running appliances at night in their homes. Peak will remain peak, and even in the worst case, 'smart' enough grids should be able to distribute the load across the 'down' cycle, instead of everything running at 2am on the dot.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (2)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987492)

That really depends I would expect lots business DO have some ability to control or at least scale their usage.

They could say cool the building down to a cooler than normal, but still liveable temperature while power is cheap so they won't need to run cooling as soon or as long during peak later for example. Say crank the place down to 67F between 7 and 8a and then let the place creep up to 74 before you start the AC again during office hours.

If the cost per kwh is much lower at night, perhaps you do more production on your third shift and your first and second shifts are lighter, for examples.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987806)

That's sort of what we do, except we have to pre-cool and run the AC during the morning/afternoon to prevent the office from going above 80.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987706)

Actually, just to set the record straight, the Utilities are regulated by your local Public Service Commission, so profits are limited and controlled.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (2)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987522)

Most uses of power during different times of day is obligatory -- you can't schedule all your air conditioning at night, and you can't schedule your lighting for the day.

In principle, everyone can charge their Volt at 2AM as long as the power company knows ahead of time its going to happen -- the problem TFA posits is that people would be sufficently unpredictable about when they would use their power, or would allocate their power usage in a perfectly rational way in order to minimize their cost per unit, causing power consumption to become unpredictable, neither of which is likely to happen in aggregate.

The way the power company is liable to solve this problem, which will totally work but people don't like, is they'll give you a schedule and tell you to only run your clothes washer at certain hours, or your car charger at certain hours, and the Smart Grid(tm) will give your power company the liberty to switch off your high-demand appliances at times they don't have the supply.

That's what a Smart Grid does -- people think it will let them pay spot prices for electricity, no no no, it's about the power company collecting Google-style metrics of power consumption on an appliance-by-appliance, outlet-by-outlet basis, and then giving you 10% off your bill if you consent to having a remote power cutoff installed on your washing machine, air conditioner, and car charger.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987748)

people think it will let them pay spot prices for electricity, no no no, ...

Hard to believe that people can be so naive if confronted with a P_O_W_E_R_ _C_O_M_P_A_N_Y.

CC.

Re:if everyone is using off peak hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987652)

The smartest comment in all of slashdotington.

Re:Utmost (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987790)

Upmost is a b-grade peripherals manufacturer [upmost.com.tw] in Taiwan. I think you meant utmost instead. ;-)

How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987200)

The big question that seemed/seems lost in all this "The electric car is gonna save the world!" hype is how an energy grid that can barely handle our energy needs AS IT IS is supposed to function when a significant portion of the population replaces their evil petroleum cars with electricity-draining electrics. When I've asked that question in the past to my usual suspect lineup of hippie friends (who also think that organic food and wind turbines are going to save us all too), the only answer I ever got was a vague "Well, most of that'll be happening at night, when the power demand is down anyway." But we're talking HUGE power usage spikes with those cars. Think of how much our system is already taxed when HVAC units have to cool a 10-degree-higher heat wave. Now imagine half the population plugging cars into the gird every night that draw WAY more power than any consumer HVAC unit.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (2)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987250)

oh, we'll have to beef up generation and the grid all right, but that still can be more efficient and cleaner than millions of little fossil fuel burners and the distribution system to feed them

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (0)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987346)

yea I will hold my breath for that to happen, in the meantime who is going to beefing up this enormous nationwide grid? thats right a team of workers pouring out of a 2 ton quad cab V8 Chevy

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (4, Informative)

orgelspieler (865795) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987444)

yea I will hold my breath for that to happen, in the meantime who is going to beefing up this enormous nationwide grid? thats right a team of workers pouring out of a 2 ton quad cab V8 Chevy

Them's fightin' words, son. Any self-respecting lineman drives a Ford. And we sure as shit don't carpool.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987564)

not a worry, the consumption of utility company vehicles is negligible, and we're talking about installing things that will have decades of lifespan. Heck, an economic stimulus package of this type would actually make sense and be profitable, instead of propping up losing business models and rewarding failure.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

Yaur (1069446) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987810)

Instead of millions of little ones we are just going to have thousands of big ones. Its a step towards a solution but not a solution in and of its self.

easy (1)

RelliK (4466) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987294)

Existing grid can *already* support converting 70% of all the cars to electric, provided that they all charge at night. You really do not appreciate the difference in power usage difference between day and night. Build more power plants & transmission lines and you can get that number even higher. The article is a troll, btw.

Re:easy (0)

No, I am Spratacus! (2281684) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987360)

70%? Source, please. If everyone slowly charges their cars over 10-16 hours, this might work, but if many people want to charge their cars at the same time, it will bring the grid down to its knees. An electric car charger can add as much strain to a grid as a whole house.

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987396)

"f many people want to charge their cars at the same time, it will bring the grid down to its knees".

Source please?

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987480)

I'm going to pull numbers out of my [bodypart|item of headwear], but I'd doubt whether an overnight car charge will exceed the power draw for daytime aircon.

Levelling power demand and balancing to production is A Good Thing btw.

Re:easy (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987542)

Maybe YOUR house, Kimosabe. One of those battery powered grocery-getters wouldn't even make a DENT in my numbers.

Re:easy (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987606)

SO, basically, you are telling us you have no clue how much energy an electric car draws or how much energy a hous uses?

4 hour charge, 6.6 KWh. Not really that much.

I suggest you look at AC and Heating electricity usage.

Re:easy (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987764)

I plan to solve the problem by using a portable gas generator to charge my Volt. Then I can be green AND keep a load off the grid!

Re:easy (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987774)

SO, basically, you are telling us you have no clue how much energy an electric car draws or how much energy a hous uses?

4 hour charge, 6.6 KWh. Not really that much.

Slightly greater than the average for the entire rest of the house for those 4 hours. Or, in other words, "that much".

Re:easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987466)

... using polyanish assumptions. Almost all of these studies, pro and con, reject the existence of housewives. They will fuck this up horrible. "Hurry up, quick charge, damn car. Why are you always out of battery when I have to pick up the kids!?!" I know, I married one.

Re:easy (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987670)

I'll bet your wife married a real douchebag.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987304)

The big question that seemed/seems lost in all this "The electric car is gonna save the world!" hype is how an energy grid that can barely handle our energy needs AS IT IS is supposed to function when a significant portion of the population replaces their evil petroleum cars with electricity-draining electrics.

There's plenty of off-peak capacity. The problem arrises when everyone who drove their electric cars to work needs to charge them before they can make the drive home.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987710)

If by 'everyone' you mean people who live more then 50 miles away.
Companies could have covered parking and use solar to help offesst the peak. Assuming slow charge, you would need about 15 Sqr Meters of panel per car being charge to completely offset it. I am assuming 200watts per sqr meter. And yes, I do realize it won't apply to night shifts.

That assume they would completely charge the battery, from 0 charge to full. They wouldn't do that. It would be reasonable to assume they would plan on 1/4 charge on average. So 4sqr meters per care.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987732)

that's a good point. Chevy volt is rated at ~35miles electric. that would get me to work, but not back home again. so I'd need to recharge or plan on using the gas assist engine on the way home. recharge is 10hours at 120V or 4 hours at 240V if temperatures are moderate. (forget winters). If I _needed_ a full charge at work, I'd have to do it at 240V, which is at ~twice average power. Maybe I could handle getting only a partial fillup during the day to spread it out with a 110 line, but still, I'd need to recharge, putting that load on the system at the same time as the office's AC is running at full load.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987804)

A couple of blocks from where I work, there's a parking lot roofed over (carport-style) with solar panels. (Part of a government demo project, the power is fed to the grid.) I could easily see these becoming charging stations as e-cars become more prevalent. Has the nice side effect of keeping the cars shaded and cool, so less need for car A/C in summer, at least for short commutes.

(Guesstimating the numbers -- 2m by 6m of panel per vehicle, panel efficiency <10%, so maybe 1.5 kW per vehicle? 12 kWh for a workday charge?)

we have more then what is needed on generation (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987320)

we have more then what is needed on the generation side but what is lacking is the power transmission that needs to have alot more wires / links.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987364)

Cars will be using hydrogen, not these "im electric, charge me for 12 or 14hours to drive little over 100km and have my very expensive battery in need to be replaced every 3 years or so for more than the car is worth 2nd hand.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987690)

chevy volt: 10-ish hours on a 120V line, 4-ish hours on a 240V line. (temperature dependent) that's 35miles (56km) of electric only driving. the gasoline 'assist' drive is there if you run the battery down. Battery is covered on the 8yr/100000mi warranty, with no more than 10-30% degradation by the end of that time.

hydrogen: takes that same amount of energy the volt pulled out of the wall, but first uses it to somehow produce hydrogen from another source, then puts it in the vehicle, attempting to do the same net work. it's already at a disadvantage unless the hydrogen-to-work path is significantly more efficient than the electricity-work path.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987482)

Easy. You have to build more NUCLEAR POWER stations to power all those green cars.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987516)

Yes, the hippie friend is a great source~

Here is what we will do:
we will build more power plants.

Wow, that was hard, wasn't it?

preferably 4th gen nuclear power plants, and industrial solar power.

Full charge most packs at 6.6Kw would take 4 hours, or so.

That's a full charge, something that wouldn't happen most nights on a modern electric car.

So NO it won't be "WAY more power" then home HVAC units. Less, in most cases. That said, HVAC is a poor comparison because it encompasses so many different technology, and such a wide range of energy usage.

the average American household uses 24Kwh per day.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987520)

"Now imagine half the population plugging cars into the gird every night that draw WAY more power than any consumer HVAC unit."

Really? Half the population charging cars is going to draw more power than half the population using A/C? Seriously? Do you have any idea how much energy a compressor uses? Do you have any idea how long it takes to cool down a house 1 degree? Do you have any idea how terribly inefficient A/C units are and how badly designed houses are for heating and cooling efficiency?

Clearly you haven't a clue.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987602)

Now imagine half the population plugging cars into the gird every night that draw WAY more power than any consumer HVAC unit.

Huh? My A/C system uses a 40 amp 240 volt dedicated circuit. They are showing these cars as having a 15 amp 120 volt plug. How much do these cars really need during recharge?

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987656)

We've got infrastructure issues. That's nothing new. We need to upgrade/replace huge chunks of our nation's infrastructure. But that isn't really the fault of electric cars.

Electric cars are supposed to be an improvement over regular gasoline cars largely by centralizing the power generation. So you can (hopefully) get better efficiencies and less pollution and all that.

Obviously that electricity needs to be distributed out to wherever the cars are charging. And right now, if everybody suddenly switched to electric cars, we'd be screwed. But that's secondary to how electric cars are supposed to save the world.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987668)

Get off your high-horse you miserable old fart. The world cannot afford to replace their vehicles with new models, let alone with the massively inflated plug-ins. Drop the mass of the vehicles over time, smaller motors needed, smaller power sources required. Now factor in the perpetually "10 years time" fuel-cell cars running on hydrogen actually hitting the market, and we'll have a mixed bag of powered vehicles.

HVACs are used less at night. Hmm, can't think why. Maybe the sun being on the other side of the planet? You think everyone with an AC unit is going to have an plug-in car? Bwahahaha.

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987750)

Somehow the answer will involve dozens of impossible materials and fantasy technologies proposed by the Space Nutters. Space elevators and space-based solar power will save the world!

Re:How were electric cars EVER supposed to work? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987796)

I haven't seen any "The electric car is gonna save the world!" hype from any greens. Only time you hear that is from trolls constructing straw men.

As to "hugh power spikes" - An typical overnight charge of an electric car would be done at 1.5kw*. A kettle is typically 3kw*. So making a cup of your favourite hot beverage is more of a spike than charging an electric car overnight.

On a fast charge from a beefier outlet, it might be 6kw*. 2 kettles worth.

(*This may vary from country to country given different power standards. But basically the "HUGE power spike" claim will look just as silly when compared to an everyday kettle in any country.)

Could be worse (4, Insightful)

DrData99 (916924) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987240)

You could be charging your car at 2AM in the afternoon!

These researchers misunderstood the idea (2, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987242)

These researchers clearly misunderstood the idea of a "smart" power grid. It is not intended to let you control when you consume your electricity so as to save money. It is intended to let the government/corporations control when you consume electricity.

Re:These researchers misunderstood the idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987488)

Well, to be accurate, it's more along the lines of "you (the consumer) pick the hour, we (the power company) pick the minute." That and the appliance would tell the company ahead of time that it has been told to wait until electricity is $0.0X cents/KWh to start up, so the power company can use that information for planning purposes.

But yeah, these "researchers" sure aren't enhancing the reputation of MIT by pretending the "smart grid" is as stupid as a lamp timer. One wonders who funded this study, since stupidity like this doesn't usually exit the "research" community and enter the media without someone paying for predetermined results.

Re:These researchers misunderstood the idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987494)

I'm not sure if you're joking or not, but at least part of the goal is, in fact, to give the utility some control. Power companies in my area have programs whereby they install a "smart" thermostat that lets them switch off your air conditioning temporarily at times of peak demand. In return, consumers pay a slightly lower price for power all year round. In the past, we've had rolling brownouts on the hottest days. There's been none of that this summer, despite an unusual number of very hot days. I don't know if the improvement is directly attributable to the thermostats, but I'll bet they're a factor.

Re:These researchers misunderstood the idea (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987650)

Unfortunately I'm afraid you may be right:

One way to improve that trade-off, Roozbehani explains, would be for customers to actually give utilities information about how they would respond to different prices at different times. Utilities could then tune the prices that they pass to consumers much more precisely, to maximize responsiveness to fluctuations in the market while minimizing the risk of instability. Collecting that information would be difficult, but Roozbehani’s hunch is that the benefits would outweigh the costs.

Price? Why don't you just tell us how much you're willing to pay...

In the fine words of Yogi Berra... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987248)

"Nobody goes there anymore...it's too crowded."

Do we have the intelligence to do this? (1)

Relayman (1068986) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987252)

I doubt that the few people with the intelligence to do this will even get close to being involved with the "smart grid." Be prepared for a decade of power more unreliable than we have now (almost every company I work with has a backup generator).

Rest of the world (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987286)

The rest of the world already has peak and off peak tariffs. This is really no different.

Given not everyone will get a smart meeter at once, it should be easy for them to map how usage changes along with price and time of day. The suppliers can know before customers what price changes are about to happen, and should be able to adjust their supply accordingly.

Spontaneous Consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987306)

I suspect the electric utilities will be able to sense the usage trend and adjust accordingly. It's preposterous to imagine consumers will change their power consumption habits all on the same day, same week, or even the same month.

Re:Spontaneous Consumption (1)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987424)

I suspect the electric utilities will be able to sense the usage trend and adjust accordingly. It's preposterous to imagine consumers will change their power consumption habits all on the same day, same week, or even the same month.

I think the fear is that devices will be programmed to start running when electricity drops below a certain cost. So, say the price drops below 10c/kwh suddenly everyone's electric car will start charging at once, and that surge could cause problems for the supply network. Of course it's also easily dealt with by introducing random small delays in the price update time or other programmatic methods.

Obligatory ALF reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987318)

"Planet Melmac. Yeah, it was a great place until it exploded."
—"What happened?"
"Everybody plugged in their hair dryers at the same time."

Everybody Panic! (4, Funny)

loftwyr (36717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987334)

He's right! And if everyone in town flushes their toilet at the same time, all the pipes will burst and we'll all die!

Re:Everybody Panic! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987570)

This is why my whole town flushes at 2AM when toilet usage is at its lowest.

Re:Everybody Panic! (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987590)

Actually recent water conservation efforts in the Southern California region have shown that to keep the pipes from bursting under excess pressure we actually need to avoid using too little water. So flush away; it is the incoming pipe that is pressurized, not the drain.

Re:Everybody Panic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987762)

Yeah, because pressurized pipes work the same way as electrical grids. Seriously, who modded this up? I thought this was news for nerds, not sound bytes and stupid analogies for idiots.

Since no one else has noticed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987336)

"4 AM in the morning?"

Re:Since no one else has noticed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987402)

...at night when the sun is down and everyone is sleeping

Re:Since no one else has noticed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987782)

What's the problem? Haven't you heard of 2 AM in the afternoon? Next you're going to complain about ATM machines and PIN numbers.

solutions... (2)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987342)

The solutions here are a case of "No shit Sherlock." Put in a random offset in the update cycling - They do the same thing for automatic software updates already. If you schedule for an update every half hour it might actually update anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes (adjust delay as needed for application). The random staggering keeps everyone from grabbing an update (and thus cycling their power hungry appliances on) at the same time.

Re:solutions... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987496)

Of course that's the obvious solution. Just mandate a certain "resolution" to the timing of power-hungry appliances, somewhere around fifteen minutes or so to begin with. If you set it to come on at 3:45, it will actually come on sometime between 3:37 and 3:53. Just make it clear and standard and limited to large loads and there shouldn't be any problem. Over time the resolution can be increased as the grid becomes more flexible.

Re:solutions... (1)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987568)

"Smart" devices, particularly automotive chargers can also ramp and/or limit their power draw to allow time for supplies to increase/decrease. Randomization of start times combined with ramped power draw and communication with the grid make it a non-issue.

Re:solutions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987698)

Power companies already do that. It's an opt-in system. You get a small financial reward depending on how they cut your power to your big energy devices (heating/AC, hot water etc).

WTH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987366)

If I'm understanding this correctly, the system is based off of the speculated commodity pricing of electricity within a region. Does anyone else see a problem with having the grid shift power demand based on a fairly volatile variable that is being introduced here? Investor or Corporate profit should not be a determining factor on whether or not I should run the dishwasher when I get home from work, or on saturday morning.

One way to solve this (1)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987406)

I was at a talk last year about how to solve this issues. The proposed solution was to take the decision to use/not use power out of the hands of the consumer by having smart appliances that could be regulated from an outside source. Basically you would nominate "desires" and the "system" would attempt to optimize power usage to meet those desires over the entire local neighborhood (IE delay running the dryer now to put a quick charge in the car so you can go out to dinner, as dinner is more important to you now than the dried clothes are). This was being proposed in order to smooth out the demand peaks that are being expected when everyone in the street had electric cars and wanted to charge them all up at once, and how this affects the local power infrastructure. The talk presented some interesting data that showed that with minor tweaking you can readily smooth out major peaks.

The question I raised was basically "Yep the technology works, but how are you going to change the mindset of people away from ME ME ME to US US US?".

Congestion Control... (1)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987432)

In order to successfully mitigate congestion in a network requires the sender having detected packet loss to cut transmission rates exponentially and then linearly increase transmission rates until congestion is detected (exponential back off). I suspect that power congestion response in a smart grid would be similar, perhaps by doubling the current price if demand is exceeding production but only linearly decreasing the price as production exceeds demand.

"Smart" is not a substitute for energy storage (1)

alispguru (72689) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987440)

Which is why, absent mega-watt-hour storage for electric power, wind and PV solar are not useful sources of grid electricity. Once they get above a few percent of the capacity of the grid, their instability currently(*) requires another source of energy that can react quickly when they go up or down in contribution to the grid.

(*) Sorry...

Re:"Smart" is not a substitute for energy storage (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987772)

There not good source of base power.

Solar panels can drastically offset the energy drain from electric cars.

Profit From Arbitraging Electricity Pricing (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987460)

I've been looking at a (commercial grade) battery backup for my house, and my thought is, why not let the battery backup pay for itself by charging itself every day at 2 AM (or whenever the power's cheapest) and discharge it at 5:30 PM when the power price is the highest and make 8 - 10 cents/kWh a day. Unfortunately, my utility doesn't have smart meters, so I'm stuck with the flat rate, so I haven't done too much research beyond an initial glance. Has anyone looked into this more in depth? Could arbitraging the electricity price more than pay for itself over time?

Re:Profit From Arbitraging Electricity Pricing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987788)

IANAEE* but wouldn't that really put the skids on the lifetime of your batteries? Batts only have a finite number of charge cycles before they die so I think that might cost you more in the long run!

* I am not an electrical engineer

Randomization (1)

karl.auerbach (157250) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987506)

In mulitcast network code it is common to randomize scheduling by a factor of +/- 50% in order to reduced synchronization effects.

Similarly, power use scheduling could be randomized across some range.

I've been saying this for years (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987508)

"In other words, it's OK if you're the only person charging your Chevy Volt at 2am in the morning, but if a whole town does it exactly the same time... there will be issues."
 
I've been saying this for years - despite what boosters of electric cars would have you believe, there isn't a magical well of electrical power available at night. The utilities have spent the better part of a century either finding customers for the overnight low demand period or optimizing their networks to not generate unneeded power in the first place. Even without this, you cannot place additional loads on the network without there being consequences.

Re:I've been saying this for years (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987794)

of course, but it is afar manageable then most people seem to believe' OTOH, most people who complain about this have no idea what ti takes to charge an electric cars. It's takes lot less electricity then they 'think' it does.

tada super capacitors (2)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987534)

Perfect solution. Charge capacitor whenever you want at the lowest cost hours. Use said stored charge to power any devices you want at home including your car.

Yeah i know doesn't exist now/yet. But i don't see why it couldn't, you're moving capacity from the grid to the end point.

This is just a bug (1)

DontLickJesus (1141027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987538)

Systems can be built to deal with this problem, calling it the end of the idea is simply short sighted.

SELL !! SELL !! SELL !! SELL !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987556)

God damn you sell to save your ass !!

Reservations (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987566)

While not a technically simple answer, this could be solved with "reservations". Your car wants to charge at 2am for 4 hours, it uses the (given) network to ask for that much power at that time. If it is granted the reservation, that many kWh are counted at the smart meter and sold at a discounted rate. If a large amount of power is drawn without a reservation, it's charged at the base rate. If your car *must* charge for 4hrs at 2am and is refused a reservation, you might get a partial discount "for trying". To make the system actual able to load-balance, your car asks for 4hrs of charging anywhere between e.g. 11pm and 7am, and the utility tells it when it get that block. If the meter was actually designed to separately keep track of a few key load circuits *separately* ("the house", car, HVAC), this would work "better" in that the kWh's being charged for can actually be *accounted* to a given device.

The utilities have been doing this in reverse for a long time, with a "utility curtailment" signal sent to HVAC systems to turn them off. However, to my understanding those are typically done in the form of rolling blackouts, neighborhood at a time....

hmmmm...I was wondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987584)

"...Chevy Volt at 2am in the morning..." Is there some time other than the morning that 2am occurs?

Stop. Reverse it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987604)

Rather than scheduling my car to charge when demand on the power grid tends to be low, stagger everyone's charging so that the grid's efficiency is maximized. So instead of waiting for low-cost power, we lower the cost of power.

Shocking (1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987626)

....what?

Easy fix (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987628)

My local power company pays me (or rather, discounts my bill slightly) to let them mount a remote switch on my house A/C unit. This lets them shut it off for short periods during peak demand.

Installing a similar circuit on e-vehicle charging systems would take care of oddly-timed peaks if everyone in the neighborhood is charging their car at the same time.

tl;dr - just make the grid smarter.

Minute by minute my ass (1)

spectro (80839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987708)

I got my smartmeter here in Texas more than a year ago. So far the best data I can get is delayed by 2 days and at 15 minute intervals.

There are some mythical devices called HAN that you are supposed to buy somewhere to use for instant monitoring inside your house but I have yet to find anybody selling them.

Re:Minute by minute my ass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987836)

http://www.bluelineinnovations.com/Products/

Not just power... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987812)

Back when I was supporting a particular software package with definitions updates I had to tell people to set their update times to ones that do NOT end in 5 or 0, and if they have a lot of boxes, have different segments on different times as well. When they didn't, they tended to get bogged down with all the other machines on their network wanting the updates at the same exact time, and all the people trying to hit our servers at the same time as well.

You've got 10,000 computers trying to get updates from your host at 12:00am, what do you think is going to happen?

Now also look at the internet where you've got around 4 million computers all trying to get the updates from the software producers update server at 12:00am. Yeah, it's the internet, and that particular server is geared for some heavy spikes, but it's still going to get lagged to all hell under those circumstances. Save yourself and everyone else a headache and schedule it at a different time.

Now as to why I say no times ending in 5 or 0, it's because of the tendency of people to choose times ending in those two. I'd guess that over 90% of the people will usually choose a time that ends in 5 or 0, so to reduce your traffic congestion as much as possible, use the other 8 minutes instead.
(It's kind of like going to a store with 10 checkout lines, and for some reason there are around a dozen people in lines 5 and 10, but no more than 1 each in the other lines.)

It's going to be the same with anything else that can be scheduled. People will tend to stick with the default, then they go for on the hour, then on the half hour, then on the quarter hour, and if they have to choose again, it will still probably be a time ending in 5 or 0. Break from the herd and avoid getting trampled.

Losing control (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36987814)

Does it bother anyone else that many are proposing that we allow utilities the right to tell us when we can and can not use certain appliances within our own house?

Sorry citizen - you can not do the laundry today - there is not enough power for you

Citizen - you may not watch your big screen TV for it draws too much power at our current load. You may resume your program at 4 AM

No one else is bothered by this?

Get out of the Dark Ages and into the 21st century (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#36987824)

What we need to do is stop being superstitious about nuclear power and build safe nuclear power plants, and actually operate them with the emphasis on safety, rather than the emphasis on cost-cutting (read as: profitability). "Alternative" energy solutions are fine and dandy, but they'll either never catch up with demand, or will catch up too slowly. We may yet have fusion power, but it's still far enough away that we can't make that part of the equation. Nuclear fission may not be the best long-term solution, but it's the best solution we have right now.
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