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A Fully Distributed Power Grid?

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the no-smoking dept.

Technology 389

rleyton writes "There's an interesting and topical black-out article on an "internet inspired" hydrogen powered energy network. The premise is homes, cars, factories and offices store up hydrogen when energy is available, and supply it into the new energy network when it's not. Certainly an intriguing idea, with some interesting comments on future power management. Feasible in the next "three decades"? Perhaps."

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389 comments

WILDCAT IS ON TEH SPOKE (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736084)

OMFG have you seen the Halo 2 trailer it's like slow and it's telling you all the stuff you did in the first one then the music kicks in and and the chief comes out and gets a gun the earf is on fire and chief is like fuck this im jumping and HE JUMPS PUT OF TEH SPACESHIP with angels singing and he lands on the bad guys and that annoying ai lady is like GO GET EM TIGER! WILDCAT IS ON TEH SPOKE!!!~`1 and theres less polys but rawkin bumb mappings you can view this on a special MICROSOFT xbox disk that comes with EB games store.

HYDROGEN Powered? (5, Funny)

LiftOp (637065) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736087)

Oh, the humanity...!

Geez Louise (4, Insightful)

Atario (673917) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736257)

Ah, yes, the old Hindenburg chestnut. Are we cursed forever to avoid using the single most commmon element in the universe, one that will burn clean, simply because someone burned a balloon with it once decades ago?

As for the distributed side of this argument, I've thought it was a good idea for years. Whether or not we do it with hydrogen, we need to do it. Imagine a Beowulf cluster of...wait, let me start that again. Imagine every house's roof covered not with wood shake, or spanish tile, or what-have-you, but with photovoltaic cells. Now imagine that people's cars run on domestically-produced hydrogen. And when I say "domestic", I mean "in the household". Produced by electrolysis, in your own house, using electricity from your (and your neighbors', and everyone else's on the grid) rooftop photovoltaics plus water from your tap. Storage plants run electrolysis too, storing hydrogen for nighttime, when they burn it again and send the power back out again.

Now compare that to our current state of affairs: the vast majority of our electricity coming from coal or gas, much of it imported; our cars running on gasoline, almost all of it imported.

Now try and tell me it doesn't make sense to switch.

Re:HYDROGEN Powered? (3, Informative)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736300)

Actually, the line is "oh, the humanities!" if you listen carefully. Funny, either way it doesn't make much sense. Whatever. The reason the Hindenburg blew up was it was coated in a magnesium compound similar to rocket fuel.

Buckminster Fuller ..old stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736318)

too lazy to login .. but read your buckminster fuller books. A shared grid is no news .. hydrogen powered or coal powered.

regards, /don

Listen up, whores! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736094)

I want nothing more than to do a nice, big, moist log of shit right into your mouth, sliding down your throat, and you FUCKING LOVING IT!

Re:Listen up, whores! (0, Offtopic)

bseaver20 (576965) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736210)

I'm not sure where this came from or what the point of this message is; but it's resulted in my hardest laugh in several weeks.

Great idea... (-1, Offtopic)

delphin42 (556929) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736095)

until the terrorists attack the plentiful hydrogen stores that are lying around everywhere...

then they will take down the power grid

Re:Great idea... (4, Insightful)

homer_ca (144738) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736198)

We live in wood frame houses. We have natural gas appliances, propane barbecue grills, and cars with 20 gallon gasoline fuel tanks. I don't think a compressed hydrogen tank would be any more dangerous.

Re:Great idea... (1)

Frymaster (171343) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736246)

which is why you need to have a redundant, diversified and world spanning grid. not my idea, of course, it's r buckminster fuller's:

http://www.animatedsoftware.com/geni/rh2000ge.htm [animatedsoftware.com]

on fuller's global energy grid:
Some countries are at war with each other or internally. What happens when a war causes damage to the grid, hurting an uninvolved country, or a whole region? Who is financially responsible? But the world faces such questions regularly anyway -- it is not a good reason not to build for the future. Ideally, the grid will have many transmission paths, and many entry and exit-points, and it will be virtually impossible to "cut the grid", just as, nowadays, it is nearly impossible to completely cut off phone service or the Internet, because there are many paths which can take the place of the ones that have been cut.

and he thought this stuff up in the 50's and 60's...

Re:Great idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736301)

And this is more dangerous than massive stores of radioactive material, crude oil, gasoline and natural gas how?

Awesome Idea (1, Insightful)

Scorpion265 (650012) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736097)

First of all, hydrogen burns clean. It'a an abundant source of energy, and once again, BURNS CLEAN. How ever are there any problems we might have, isn't it more explosive then gasoline? I forget. If someone can answer this for me I'll give em a cookie.

Re:Awesome Idea (2, Insightful)

RobKow (1787) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736113)

Where's all this hydrogen in a form we can easily get?

If you can find some, I'm game.

Re:Awesome Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736128)

water.
h20.
take water, crack it into h2 and pipe it just like gas to homes.

Re:Awesome Idea (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736139)

Stored up, from cracking water apart into hydrogen and oxygen.

With tiny little chisels.

Re:Awesome Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736380)

One more thing the other two anon's forgot to mention is that most of all the fuels we use for energy are made mostly of hydrogen. Gasoline and natural gas, for example, can be broken down into hydrogen and a few other elements.

Except that (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736159)

It would be a scary thing in the case of fires. Each house with its own little hydrogen-based explosive cannister. A little dangerous, perhaps?

Re:Except that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736231)

different than the xxxxgallon propane tank sitting wide open in your backyard?

Re:Except that (2, Insightful)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736273)

No.

Right now, houses have natural gas lines, propane tanks and tons of spray cans and other explosive items. A hydrogen tank is no more dangerous.

Re:Awesome Idea (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736160)

Abundant? Really? Where? I don't see any. And as for CLEAN BURN, only with pure oxygen. Burning with air will yield nitrous oxides.
Face it, hydrogen is a pie-in-the-sky idea that wins over the uninformed public due to massive marketing.
Oh, and hydrogen is not as explosive as gasoline, because hydrogen has far far less energy density than gasoline.
I like peanut butter cookies.

Re:Awesome Idea (2, Interesting)

GMontag (42283) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736164)

First of all, hydrogen burns clean. It'a an abundant source of energy, and once again, BURNS CLEAN.

Yea, but so does natural gas and the energy value of what is burned off in the Gulf of Mexico, anually, is greater than the entire energy consumption of the US in 1,000 years.

But, I am way ahead of all of you [franceisoc...ermany.org].

Re:Awesome Idea (1)

bo0ork (698470) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736165)

It's a lot more explosive than gasoline. If you want to store sizeable quantities you also need to store it in liquid form, which means it's under high pressure, as well.

Re:Awesome Idea (4, Informative)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736275)

I'm sorry, but the above poster is a moron. Hydrogen is not plentiful as an energy source. Hydrogen is an energy storage system.

Now - some basic physics: you get hydrogen from water. Then you burn hydrogen with air, and get water back. The amount of energy it took to get the hydrogen from the water is equal to the amount you got, minus the loss from inefficiency (which is substantial).

Therefore, using hydrogen as an energy source is like changing money to two different fixed currencies as a revenue source - you don't make anything, and you end up losing things to the middlemen conversion industries.

Unless you can find pure, elemental hydrogen naturally, the hydrogen/water power system is a storage vessel only - a well-compressed but inefficient energy storage system.

Anyone who believes otherwise either has not taken basic science (grade 10 should cover it) or hasn't thought it through and is just a loudmouthed idiot. Either way, shouldn't be discussing issues they have no knowledge of.

Re:Awesome Idea (1)

IceDiver (321368) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736276)

isn't it more explosive then gasoline?

While technically this is true, hydrogen is actually less dangerous than gasoline because it disperses so quickly if it leaks that dangerous concentrations never accumulate.

If someone can answer this for me I'll give em a cookie.

So, where's my cookie?


Sort of (1)

zoloto (586738) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736279)

From what I've been told CMIIAW (Correct Me If I Am Wrong), but it's only explosive in it's gasseous state when mixed with O2. If it's pure hydrogen it burns very slowly and non-violently in comparison.

So when you store this in liquid form and you get into an accident puncturing the tank, you won't get a huge explosion unlike gasoline. Rather, just get away from it. I'm not a chemist, but if it has the potential to combust in it's natural state, I'm outta there.

Let me get this straight (3, Funny)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736098)

I will be encouraged to pass gas?

Re:Let me get this straight (1)

Gherald (682277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736118)

> I will be encouraged to pass gas?

Sure, they could hook your a-hole up to the grid... But I think its H2 they want, not CH4.

like distributed computing? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736099)

Computers moved from mainframes to LANs long ago... I guess the power grid is finally catching up with the times?

Are you really an idiot? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736129)

...or are you just pretending to be one?

Re:like distributed computing? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736201)

And now they're moving back towards mainframes with terminal services and whatnot. Noone wants to administrate 1000 machines when they can administrate one or two.

Similarly theres no army of power workers to run around and inspect everyones little personal hydrogen generators.

A bit more difficult (2, Insightful)

Nazmun (590998) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736106)

Why does it seem like a Nationally distributed pipeline system would be harder/more costly to create and maintain then large electrical wires to transfer energy.

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

fireduck (197000) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736141)

As the article points out, and most anyone who pays the bills knows, we already have a nationally distributed pipeline system. it ain't hydrogen, but natural gas can be converted to hydrogen where it can be stored. how exactly we're going to be safely storing hydrogen in our homes is another issue.

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

leonardluen (211265) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736178)

why do we need to crack the hydrogen out of the natural gas? why not just burn the natural gas? last time i checked, natural gas burns quite well.

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

Gherald (682277) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736245)

> last time i checked, natural gas burns quite well.

Thats true. And it has "natural" in its name, so the environmentalists ought to love it...

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

GMontag (42283) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736188)

Why crack it when it is already burnable and clean when it comes out of the pipe as natural gas?

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736234)

The energy you would consume to process it would negate the benefits.

Plus, it takes a LOT of enegery to compress it for storage..

Smaller Molecules (1)

Nazmun (590998) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736251)

Hydrogen molecules are pretty small... h2 (two hydrogen atoms) i think... Hydrogen can go through metals and is probably far more susceptible to leaks then natural gas.

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

TamMan2000 (578899) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736200)

Why does it seem like a Nationally distributed pipeline system would be harder/more costly to create and maintain then large electrical wires to transfer energy.

I don't know why you think it would be harder... We already have one for natural gas. I think that the up front costs are probably higher, but the maintnance costs are probably lower, you rarely hear about people loosing their cooking/heating gas in a storm, but it is a common occurance for electricity... And the transmission losses are definatly lower.

Hydrogen is more difficult to maintain (1)

Nazmun (590998) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736299)

You need high pressure and thick pipes to keep hydrogen in a container. Hydrogen molecules are also so small they can even go through some metals. This makes them far more susceptible to leaks.

Re:A bit more difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736233)

What is being discussed is not necessarily a hydrogen "pipeline" but hydrogen (or other gas such as methane) powered fuel cells running in your backyard, car, laptop, etc. that operate off the grid. This makes you more independent, so that when the grid goes down you're still able to operate, plus any extra powere generated gets sold back to the grid or used to supplement somebody in your neighborhood who's out of service. I've seen it described as "networked" power, much like a LAN, where neighborhoods are linked to communities which are linked to cities, etc. Look for the book "The Hydrogen Economy" for more info on this concept. I've listened to the author but have not read the book yet. It sounds like a very interesting read and the concept is feasible.

Re:A bit more difficult (1)

hey (83763) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736359)

Er, maybe I don't get it but... isn't the point of hydrogen that it exists in water and air so it should not be necessary to pipe or ship it around.

RTFA (1)

sbma44 (694130) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736376)

They're not talking about running hydrogen to the home. Homes with natural gas lines could use reformers to strip CO2 off, storing the resulting hydrogen. The hydrogen could be used to run a fuel cell to power the house/charge the car/run the grid, or, if we're using fuelcell automobiles, could just be loaded straight into the car.

If you don't have natural gas, then electricity would be taken from the grid and used to drive electrolysis. Hydrogen produced by this process could be stored for loading into your fuelcell-powered car or used to run fuelcells to contribute power back to the grid.

The important idea is that the consumer has an energy buffer in their garage that presumably would be smart enough to sell energy back to the system at times of peak demand. Obviously energy will be lost with all these phase changes, but electrolysis is pretty efficient, and the benefits of having energy available on demand would be significant. I would imagine dynamic demand-based pricing would be introduced, so the system could buy energy to store when there's a surplus and power is cheap. Who knows -- maybe the overclocking crowd could buy personal power plants with hackable BIOSes and set their power purchasing thresholds lower, then throw a couple solar panels on the roof to compensate. It'd be nice to direct their boundless energies toward something that benefits society instead of just stimulating the CPU cooler and blue LED industries.

Others have brought up the safety issue -- it's my understanding that in applications like this (where weight doesn't matter), H2 safety is not as much of a concern -- saturated metal storage units are heavy but pretty safe for H2 storage; besides, the tech is being developed for automobiles right now, and most people don't get loaded and pilot their garages into phone poles with any regularity.

Even better, odds are that as cars transition to electric/hybrid/fuel cell technology, with some forward thinking a lot of this tech could be under your hood or in your garage for automotive uses already, obviating the need for heavy subsidies. Without that fact, I doubt this would be a real possibility.

rant (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736111)

Ok, with these power stories, knock it off with the "how timely" references. We know there was a blackout last week. Most of these stories popping up are BECAUSE of what happened last week. Pointing that out through EVERY SINGLE POWER RELATED SUBMISSION is getting old.

It was amusing last week when on the day of the power outage there were stories from several days before talking about the power grid and problems with it. It's a week later, everyone knows it happened, everyone has a theory on how to fix it. The timeliness is gone, just tell us the theory of the day.

One word: Hindenberg (1)

MImeKillEr (445828) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736120)

Wasn't the Hindenberg a hydrogen blimp?

Yeah, that sounds safe to me.

Re:One word: Hindenberg (4, Informative)

MrResistor (120588) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736186)

The hydrogen wasn't the problem, it was the fact that the skin was made of solid rocket fuel. It was actually the skin that was burning, since hydrogen burns so hot you can't see the flames.

Re:One word: Hindenberg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736321)

The skin that held the hydrogen in? How and/or why was thes skin made of solid rocket fuel?

Re:One word: Hindenberg (1)

dreadnougat (682974) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736189)

If it was the hydrogen at fault, it would've exploded, not merely burned. From what I've heard, the paint was chemically quite similar to solid rocket fuel. Hydrogen requires lots of oxygen to burn, and disperses quickly.

Re:One word: Hindenberg (1)

flyonthewall (584734) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736315)

Wasn't the Hindenberg a hydrogen blimp?


It was not the hydrogen but the coating of the blimp shell that did it in.

The Reds of Power (-1, Offtopic)

Malicious (567158) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736123)

Is it just me, or does this sound really Communist?

Re:The Reds of Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736196)

Of course its communist. Its Red, isn't it? Marx invented that color.

the question (1, Insightful)

IFF123 (679162) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736130)

I am wondering if people will want to store hydrogen at their house.
I have always thought that this stuff is highly explosive.

Re:the question (1)

cflorio (604840) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736221)

Yeah, and they are also thinking of using this as fuel for cars. What's worse? Storing it at your house, or driving around with it?

Grid Repair? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736131)

Expect repair cost to go up if electricians have to repair a 'hot' grid. Repairing that main transmission line with everyone and thier solar powered doghouse feeding back to the grid should be fun.

interesting idea, but... (2, Insightful)

jgabby (158126) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736135)

Are people sharing the hydrogen, or just the electrical energy? If it's hydrogen, who's going to install the infrastructure? If it's electrical, how will the phases of the 20 gazillion AC sources be matched so they don't all cancel each other out?

Re:interesting idea, but... (0)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736220)

Aren't transmission lines DC, with the AC conversion being done at the (local) transformer?

If so (and I'm really not 100% sure), then you just have to make sure the local storage returns surplus or reserve power in DC, "in front of" the transformer.

The thing that DOES bother me about this article -- it talks about everyone being a vendor and a consumer. That's a little confusing, IMHO -- it means everyone can be a supplier (of their surplus), but it DOES NOT mean everyone's suddenly a *producer* of electricity.

Basically, they're proposing to add a big battery backup for every house/office/whatever, and hopefully have it setup such that these batteries are all topped off, and can feed back into, the general grid, not just the locale that's housing them. The hydrogen fuel cell side of it is just an implementation detail (and a buzzword-friendly one, at that).

Xentax

Hydrogen infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736138)

What we need is a infrastructure for hydrogen i.e. all the equipment that is needed. Then we will have hydrogen all over the place.

idea! (3, Funny)

tssiap_wmuc (699273) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736144)

we should use methane to store. god knows after a good mexican meal i could power half my neighborhood

frstipots (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736170)

first of all, P-O-S-T

Suspicious... (3, Funny)

euxneks (516538) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736174)

This sounds suspiciously like people "sharing" their power!
Better watch your ass for the RIAA and MPAA.

Smoke-breaks (-1, Offtopic)

airrage (514164) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736181)

I really would like some feedback on this, does this piss-off the /. crowd? Someone check my results as well --

I have come to the realization that smoking has it's advantages. In my office building, I think, on average, it takes a person 15 minutes to take a smoke break. That is five minutes to walk downstairs, a ten minute smoke, and another five to return to your cubicle. Some might argue that 15 is too much time, some argue it's probably too little. But I think it's a good round number indicating, at the least, the total amount of time not working.

So, 15 minutes = 1 smoke break.

Now every once in a while I go outside to warm up from the air-conditioning or to catch a few rays and I always see the same smokers puffing away. The question is, how many smoke breaks does the average smoker take per day? I think it's four. That's one morning, one mid-morning, one mid-afternoon, one late-afternoon. Is this too frequent? I have a gut feel it's fairly accurate.

So, average smoker 4 smoke breaks per day. Given that 15 minutes is equal to one smoke break, that means in a given day, a smoker reduces his or her work day by one hour!

So, the non-smoker has to work 1 hour longer, on average, per day, than the smoker.

To make things equitable, the following should be allowed by the non-smoker (assume 8-5 workday, 20 business-day month):

Daily basis: Leave at 4 PM everyday.
Weekly basis: Leave at 12:00 PM on Friday.
Monthly basis: 2.5 days of vacation accumulated.
Quarterly basis: 7.5 days of vacation accumulated.
Six-month: 15 days of vacation accumulated.
Yearly: 30 days of vacation accumulated (get December off!)

Saving it all up until retirement:

Retire 5 years early -- the rest is paid vacation!!!

Excuse me while I go take a smoke-break.

Re:Smoke-breaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736274)

what the fuck does this have to do with the article?

Re:Smoke-breaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736277)

You take too long to smoke. On average, I could down 3 Marlboro Lights in 15 minutes.

So, I'd break out my cig breaks and take one 5 minute break ever hour with as many as I could get in my lungs at lunch.

At my peak, I was doing 2 packs a day.

Re:Smoke-breaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736298)

Mod this dumbass down

Re:Smoke-breaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736313)

This is a common flaw in perception. If I waste an hour a day smoking, I may still be a more valuable employee in terms of cost to the company if I handle 20% more work than someone who "works" the full 8 hours. It's about the productivity as much as it is the time. For most cases, anyway.

This, of course, ignores the facts that

I don't smoke and

Smokers cost a fortune in extra health-benefit payouts.

Re:Smoke-breaks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736371)

Smokers cost a fortune in extra health-benefit payouts.

Non-smokers cost a fortune in extra pension payouts.

Hydrogenster (4, Funny)

snoopyjd (665929) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736192)

"The consequences of connecting every owner of a fuel-cell micro-power plant with every other owner in an energy-sharing network will be as profound and far-reaching as was the development of the world wide web in the 1990s"

Does the RIAA know about this yet?

sounds familiar (3, Funny)

zptdooda (28851) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736209)

so power flows all over the place, often causing congestion, energy loss and blackouts

Hmm, the same reasons the city department gave us not to eat the wild mushrooms growing down by the creek...

security? (4, Insightful)

geekmetal (682313) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736222)

An American company, Sage Systems, for example, has created a software program that allows utilities to "shed load instantly" if the system is at its peak and stressed to the limit, by "setting back a few thousand customers' thermostats by 2 degrees ... [with] a single command over the internet"

We are all living through the nightmares of security problems brought in by the internet, do we take that along too?

Okay. Mod me down for troll. (3, Funny)

YanceyAI (192279) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736228)

Over the course of the next three decades, millions of people will purchase their own power plants. Fuel cells inside cars, homes, factories and offices will be capable of producing electricity for their own use during emergencies, while sending the surplus back to the power grid to share with others.

Which works great until the RIAA, um I mean Power Companies, start suing us for sharing on our P2P energy network.

Centralised vs Distributed (2, Insightful)

The_Blerg (698966) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736268)

A Global power grid makes a lot of sense, power requirements vary greatly during the day and distributing a grid across a large number of time zones would even things out. If you studied the power usage you would see changes in the flow as what would ordinarily be peak time moves across Asia then Europe and onto the American continents (You would get some drop of during peak time over the pacific, not a lot of people their at the moment).

Of course a fully distributed power network makes a whole lot of sense as well, anyone looking at the recent power blackout could tell you that. If a connected system is poorly designed a breakdown in one place affects everywhere. A distributed power generation and/or storage system solves this but at increased cost.

The critical facts are:
Storing power always costs and always will, it's way better to use it when you generate it.
Overly redundant generation capacity to handle peaks costs

In the aftermath of the big blackout it was inevitable we would see loads of "solutions" appear to the problem but nothing I've seen really address these underlying issues. We want power cheaper and widespread linkup of our grids is the way to do it.

There is no perfect solution, if a power station goes down someone is probably going to loose power, limiting the affect is a matter of good design, lets not rebuild the world because of a 24hr blackout.

Re:Centralised vs Distributed (1)

Clark Rawlins (22060) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736374)

While it is true that there is a cost to storing energy after it is generated it is also true that there is a non-zero cost to transmiting electricity as well. This cost increases as the distance increases. So at some point the two cancel each other out and it makes more sence to store the energy produced localy.

Good idea, but why only H2? (2, Interesting)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736280)

I think the concept of many interconnected smaller power producing facilities could be more robust than fewer isolated larger units but why focus only on H2? I mean, I like hydrogen fuel cells. In fact, I have a stock portfolio that invest in sampling of all aspects of the fuel cell industry so I'd *love* to see this happen.

Even so, each local climate has one or more aspects about it that can be the basis of power generation. From what I understand, monster wind farms aren't working out as well as we had hoped, but smaller local farms could contribute and be easier to manage. Then there is solar, water, geo-thermal, combustable waste, bio-diesel, etc.

I see a possiblity to tailor power generation to the local environment while improving robustness and even national security. ...my 2 cents anyways...

solar and bio-diesel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736284)

why do we need a grid anymore?

technology exists to power individual locations.

oh, *gosh* -- that's right. if people bought solar panels, and used bio-diesel generators, that might make them.. NOT PAY FOR ELECTRICITY!!@#$ MAD!@#$

can't have that, can we?

power company controlling your thermostat?... (3, Interesting)

zubernerd (518077) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736287)

To quote the article:

An American company, Sage Systems, for example, has created a software program that allows utilities to "shed load instantly" if the system is at its peak and stressed to the limit, by "setting back a few thousand customers' thermostats by 2 degrees ... [with] a single command over the internet". Another new product, Aladyn, allows users to monitor and make changes in the energy used by home appliances, lights and air conditioning, all from a browser.

Would I really want to give the electric company the power to control my appliances? I understand the benefit of lowering the demand; but it is possible this system could be abused... by anyone with a browser.

(No I'm not paranoid... but my thermostat is my thermostat :) )

alternative power is already here (1)

sonofasailor (646369) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736292)

There are hotels and NOC running natural gas powered turbines, http://www.microturbine.com/ hell there are electrical co-ops running fuel cells DOE has tons of research dedicated to this. http://www.eere.energy.gov/ I suppose their not pervasive yet, but I am trying to install a microturbine with co generation (exhaust heats water/boiler/absorbtion chiller) here at work

No need for hydrogen (1)

jovlinger (55075) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736302)

You can do this now, with a big battery (or store the energy by pumping water up a slope, heating up a rock, or however you like to store your energy)

You then pump electricity back into the electrical grid, making your meter spin backwards. People out in windy / sunny country have been doing this for a while, I thought, using the network as a battery: this allows you to buy a wind generator just big enough to power your AVERAGE consumption, because you suck your peak from the net, but sell your overflow back offpeak.

I really don't see where the hydrogen comes into the picture. *actually reads article* Oh, I get it now. Nobody's suggesting to DISTRIBUTE hydrogen, merely use it as a convenient storage device.

whatever. why not just give HUGE taxbreaks on home generators, to allow people to overbackup their houses, so that the overflow can be pumped into the net?

Why bother? (1)

oakad (686232) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736309)

It is not too difficult to build a normal electric distribution system. Take a Germany as an example. The unlimited greed of the capitalists is what really need to be changed. World Revolution Now!

Feasibility? (1)

kirbyman001 (448856) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736322)

Feasibility is not the question. It was feasible 5 years ago. The problem is that all the big companies, oil, car, etc., are unwilling to make the shift from a gasoline industry to a hydrogen industry. If I recall correctly, Iceland was planning to start converting their entire economy to hydrogen power somewhere around last year, but I'm not sure if it ever went through...

In any case, it will probably take another 20 or so years for the US of A to see the light and move away from oil/gasoline powered vehicles (and vehicles are the starting point for hydrogen power). If only we would sign the damned Kyoto...

Why not go the extra mile? (1)

iCat (690740) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736331)

Convertors are attached to either the gas line or the electricity line coming into the home, office or factory

If a decentralised model for storing energy is desirable, why not go the extra mile and advocate the generation of power locally using sustainable methods? Solar, wind, hydro etc aren't available 24 hours a day, but when they are, (sunny/windy day, whatever) the energy could be used to split water. Hydrogen could then be stored for use by your fuel cell when needed.

This would reduce dependence on the grid, and help reduce CO2 emissions.

And on hydrogen (2, Insightful)

oakad (686232) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736332)

It is not too effective to store energy in the burning medium, beacuse of the 2nd law of the thermodynamics. The total efficiency of "store and burn" method will be awfully low. It's much better to invent a "cold" or even "hot" fusion reactor and to use hydrogen for what it was meant to: syntesizing matter and energy.

Fine idea, the economics of it need more work (1)

Kurt Gray (935) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736339)

For this to work in a free market, the system has to prevent unscrupulous corporate entities from swooping in and sucking up all the (supposedly free of cost) excess power made available to the community then selling it back at ridiculously high prices in times of need. I'm guessing an auction system would be attached to it so each cell could sell their excess power to the highest bidder in times of excess, then in times of need buy power from the lowest sellers... I hope I not describing Enron's business plan (their public business plan that is, not their off-the-balance-sheet business plan).

Pretty lame article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736356)

This ignores all the tricky bits about multiple power sources.

First of all, current power distribution depends on AC current to make long distance transmission possible. This means that all power generators must always be syncronized. The power surges that caused the blackout may have been caused by a loss of syncronization.

The internet is not syncronized. That's why it can scale well. There are some moves toward high voltage DC power transmission (no syncronization problem), but that has a lot more failure points.

Second, there is a huge safety issue when multiple power sources are involved. You don't want to zap the guy trying to fix a downed line. This is why many perfectly good power sources go offline. They intentionally disconnect because provide voltage could be un-safe (not to mention the loss of syncronization).

Finally, skip hydrogen. Solar power rocks!

-Dan

Flywheels? (5, Interesting)

Daemonik (171801) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736363)

Why not provide every homeowner/business with a flywheel [aeiveos.com] UPS. The flywheel could charge itself during off peak hours and provide the homeowner's peak energy needs without drawing excessively from the grid.

In the event of a grid failure, the house would draw power from the flywheel until the grid could come back up. The flywheel could also be used to regulate the power entering the house eliminating surges and brownouts.

Flywheels are more environmentaly friendly than a bank of batteries and less hazardous than storing volatile gasses.

H2 is a storage medium, not a fuel source. (4, Interesting)

djh101010 (656795) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736364)

OK, so hydrogen burns clean. Yay. Now tell me where you plan to get it? The only way to get it in any quantities, is to make it...by using energy. Electrolysis of water is most common, but no matter how you're going to do it, you have to spend energy to break the hydrogen away from whatever it's attached to.You aren't going to get more energy by burning it (turning it back into H2O) than you spent in getting it (by taking it out of H2O). All you're doing is making that energy portable.

The article mentions "a powerplant in every home" or noises to that effect. This is effectively the same thing we have today; anyone can buy a gas-powered generator and stick it in the back yard. Yes, fuel cells might be a way to go for some things, but distributed backup power isn't one of them. How many people are going to want a tank of hydrogen hanging around? Yes, it can be stored safely. Yes, it's no more dangerous than, say, gasoline or propane. But, it also doesn't give any benefit that those fuels do not.

The energies being spent on hydrogen power could be better applied to something that's actually an improvement - biofuels, wind, solar...that's where independance is, not in going from one type of fuel to another that has the same or worse problems.

Hydrogen may be a really interesting technology for some things, but this isn't one of them.

why not metanol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6736369)

Why use hydrogen? With the agriculture in this country just toss the left overs in a still and we have fuel out of what used to be waste products.

Seems more analogous to distributed computing (1)

OfficerNoGun (686128) | more than 10 years ago | (#6736382)

In that sense it seems a decent idea. Think everyone who has a power source for there house could use it to power their own needs (like your processor powers your applications), and if you had any extra power you could push it back onto the grid, just like using the idle time of the processor. Only this seems like it would make more sense for somethign like solar, wind or other fueless sources of energy, because with hyrdogen you would need to constantly buy fuel (unless its sucking it out of the air or some crazy scheme). Im not EE, and really have no idea of the logistics behind this, but I would think that the closer the power source is to where the power is being consumed, the smaller the amount of energy lost (through heating the wires).
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