Suppot Navajo Adults with Developmental Disabilities


 

October 20, 2009 @ 11:55 am
Is the Smart Grid Possible?

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If you’re like me, you have seen the GE and IBM “Smart Grid” commercials and perhaps other promotions espousing the benefits of the smart grid. You probably agree that having a smart grid sounds like a fantastic idea, but you wonder how are we ever going to reach the smart grid utopia that is being promoted?

The existing power grid in the U.S. transmits and distributes electricity that traditionally has been produced by about 10,000 centralized generating plants that are inherently inefficient. They’re long-lived assets that cannot and are not replaced often due to costs and regulations. Thus, targeting the grid would seem to be a bountiful shortcut to energy efficiency gains and reduced consumption, but this is no small task either.

tranmission

According to the Department of Energy, there are over 157,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines but construction of and investment in new facilities has continually decreased while electricity demand has continually increased. Newly developed renewable resources often don’t match population and industrial density so there is a desperate need for new transmission capacity. However, local opposition and litigation regularly stalls new projects, costs outpace investment returns and permitting can take years. Distribution infrastructure is even more highly regulated and controlled by thousands of different state and local government and utility operators making coordinated investments and improvements difficult.

If the infrastructure is too costly and time-consuming to replace in short order then the bridge would seem to be enabling, add-on technologies that make what we’re stuck with more efficient. Currently, the grid is a jumble of one-way streets with crossing guards that forgot there walkie-talkies. It needs to be a network of two-way highways with automated systems connected by real-time dynamic communications. Right now, a utility often doesn’t know you lost power until you call them. Meanwhile, consumers lack information about peak and off-peak usage and details about their energy usage. The smart grid would derive much of its benefits from automation and the collaboration of market participants, but we have little proof of concept to go on. This video provides a good overview of the issues:

The primary theory of smart grid technology is that consumers will actively reduce electricity demand/drive energy efficiency. A new project/large-scale test by Xcel Energy will provide worthy insights as to whether a nationwide smart grid is an achievable goal.

In the process of turning Boulder, CO into “SmartGridCity,” the company has spent millions installing 200 miles of fiber optics communications cables, 16,000 “smart” meters. You can read more about it in the NY Times here.  

There are currently few, if any incentives for utilities and customers to better manage and reduce electricity consumption. Compounding the problem is that each state’s public utility commission (PUC) has their own ideas and authority so the evolution will happen in a piecemeal fashion. Aside from that, if you’re a capital intensive utility can you afford to sell less electricity? Many are saying “likely not,” by continuing to oppose the distributed generation model (consumers have their own generation sources; solar, wind, etc. and sell excess power back to the grid). The utilities need new revenue models and the consumers need transparent, dynamic pricing information along with their smart meters so that are engaged and motivated to make energy consumption decisions.

August 21, 2009 @ 12:50 pm
Cleantech Networking in NYC

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I went to my first NYC Israel Cleantech Alliance (Alliance) meet up last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I met a number of great people who are involved in all manner of interesting green endeavors. Thanks go out to Itai Karelic (founder of the group), Yinnon Dolev (keynote speaker from GE) and the sponsors; Golenbock Eiseman Assor Bell & Peskoe LLP and the Israeli Economic Mission. The Alliance officially launched in June, had its second event last night and is planning its next event for the fall. Please visit the group’s webpage or contact Itai for more information. If you want to network with an engaging group of cleantech professionals and investors in the New York area, I highly recommended the Alliance. For those in Israel and Boston, the group is affiliated with CleanIsrael (funded by Israeli Cleantech Ventures) and the Boston Israel Cleantech Alliance.

So, what did we talk about last night? Ironically, I was well prepared for the topic; the water market. Regular readers of my blog may remember my recent featured post on the world’s water dilemma. For those who haven’t read it, check it out here. Yinnon gave a great summary of the global water market, talked about trends in the marketplace, gave some technical insights on desalination, discussed the Israeli water technology sector and described GE’s participation in the water market and other “Ecomagination” businesses.

Yinnon noted some familiar statistics: $1 trillion of spending is needed for water infrastructure over the next 20 years and 2 billion people will have absolute water shortages by 2025. The map below illustrates the most over utilized resources (the darker the color, the more desperate the situation).  

water-scarcity-map Read More…

August 17, 2009 @ 2:56 pm
So Much for Green “Stimulus”

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I’m sure you’ve noticed the burgeoning government spending of late. I know I have, and I’m not looking forward to the future tax implications. What’s most interesting to me about the alphabet soup of acronym spending and lending programs; TARP, TALF, CARS, the list goes on and on – is that the U.S. government has committed to spending so much of our money that it is actually having trouble spending it fast enough to have an impact on the economy. Case in point, the “Stimulus” Act. As job losses have continued piling up, I have continued to read about the lack of funds being spent and the dubious projects that funds are being spent on.

In over 6 months, less than 10% has been spent by the various bureaucracies entrusted with funding. Does this mean they will ultimately curtail the programs? Doubtful. As I remember, the stimulus was supposed to be implemented swiftly to fund “shovel-ready” projects and invest in our crumbling infrastructure. Apparently a $3.4 million tunnel in Florida designed to provide a safe crossing for turtles was a priority. No word yet on which turtle language will be chosen for the signage. Maybe even more absurd, $18 million was spent to redesign the website that tracks stimulus spending. Obama should have called me, I would have done the work for not a penny over $5 million. Even less if he let me outsource the coding (Source for project figures: CNN Op-Ed).

How about that infrastructure? According to an AP analysis, “Of the 2,476 bridges scheduled to receive stimulus money so far, nearly half have passed inspections with high marks, according to federal data. Those 1,123 sound bridges received such high inspection ratings that they normally would not qualify for federal bridge money, yet they will share in more than $1.2 billion in stimulus money. In all, 1,286 deficient or obsolete bridges are expected to share $2.2 billion in stimulus money for repairs…But that’s less than 1 percent of the more than 150,000 bridges nationwide that engineers have labeled deficient or obsolete.”

stimulus-cartoon

Clearly, the results thus far have been less than stellar, which leads me to the equally poor showing of the green components to the stimulus. Millions of green jobs have not arrived and they are not immediately on the way either because less than half of 1% of the green “stimulus” has been spent. Prospective programs were included in the allocations of $111 billion for infrastructure (including mass transit) and $8 billion for energy. According to Green Building Law, “…a total of $33.2 million has been paid out for green stimulus programs, and an additional $307 million in public transit dollars, of the allocated $119 BILLION.  That is .28% of the total allocation…” In maybe the most dramatic example, the General Services Administration (GSA) was awarded a budget of $4,500,000,000, yes $4.5 BILLION for “High Performance Green Buildings” and so far they have spent a shade over $230,000. Hey guys and gals at the GSA, take a look at my products page and give me a call would you?

The big lesson in all of this: incentives for private investment are more efficient than than public spending. Take note, health care debaters…

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August 13, 2009 @ 9:07 am
Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund (S3IDF)

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With visitors from 41 countries/territories I realized I better add another internationally-focused post to my ongoing series. I have covered 8 countries (in addition to the USA) so far and for number 9 I’ll discuss this innovative development organization doing work in India. S3IDF was registereddelucia1 in Massachusetts in 2001 and staffed in India in 2002. Having traveled throughout India in 2005 (Delhi, Bombay and Agra), I can tell you that it is simultaneously one of the craziest, most chaotic, yet amazing places in the world. The people are very friendly and very smart and while the country has its challenges related to poverty, infrastructure and resource management, strong economic growth has created many opportunities for the ambitious, industrious population. Yet, large segments of the population have been left behind.

To provide the poorer, rural and urban dwellers with a lift, S3IDF has stepped in to provide an environmentally-friendly economic push. According to the website, the organization, considers itself “a ‘social merchant bank’ that helps small enterprises to provide modern energy and other infrastructural services to poor people in developing countries in ways that are financially sustainable and environmentally responsible. It covers the provision of services in electricity, water, sanitation, transport and telecommunications that are necessary for poverty alleviation.” In 2007, Russell de Lucia (CEO & Chairman) and the organization won the Clean Energy Award in the “NGOs and Initiatives” category for their provision of efficient lighting services to poor households, communities and small/medium enterprises (SMEs) in southern India. Over 30 projects were implemented and powered with clean energy. About 6,000 beneficiaries now have improved health and safety as well as increased income earning opportunities through extended work hours. The electricity is provided by photovoltaics that charge batteries, biogas or other renewable generation methods. Keep reading for information about there other projects.

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