Internet Resilience, as an Analogy for Distributed Energy
Quote : "If a technological feat is possible, man will do it. Almost as if it's wired into the core of our being." Ghost in the Shell
Personal Notes : If you read the previous post "Small is Beautiful" you know that small numbers add up pretty fast. Please consider this next post in that context, and the resilience that can be built into an energy network to make it resilient. The US army is exploring renewables as an energy source precisely for that very reason, an energy resilient network as a resilient communication network are very valuable things for an army.
For a state, resiliency is important in energy for almost the same reasons. Massive scale exploitation linked to major cities are a fantastic advantage if they are connected in an energy network, their interconnection makes the energy network resilient even in the event of a possible failing in one of the units (quite improbable, but nevermind).
That the network spans both large scale units and small exploitations, as well as home user feed in only adds exponentially to the resilience and thus the worth of a network. Like for computer networks, the worth of an energy network scales up in consideration of its connected units.
At homeowner level, being able to produce and store energy means a possible independence from the grid, even contributing to its output. This has considerations stretching further towards redefining the model of energy pricing and distribution, I explored that concept as the "free energy ecosystem" but not its economical considerations, low energy prices can lead us towards a future of plenty as it opens the door for cheap desalination in arid areas and the production of food.
Globally we are seeing a movement towards the interconnection of energy networks, thus making them more and more resilient, the end product could be what Buckminster Fuller envisioned in his global grid. Couple that we renewables and you got a solution to the energy question for centuries to come.
At a much lesser scale, If I own the means of production of energy for my house, it means that my income is increasing as my utility costs for energy become almost non existent, I can even profit from that if feed in tariffs allow me to sell energy at a premium.
Yes a renewable energy strategy should be modeled on the internet structure. Yes renewables are a good thing for the economy at global and individual levels.
Visual : Ghost in the shell
Building an Internet-Based Energy Structure
By Dana Blankenhorn
Back in 2005, I remember Atlanta gas prices being even higher than they are now.
The cause was Hurricane Katrina. It knocked out two pipelines running
from Louisiana, which supplied Atlanta and other cities along it with
gasoline. That single point of failure caused untold financial havoc.
Most of our energy infrastructure remains just that vulnerable. We
refine petroleum in a very small number of places. We don't have that
many pipelines, and an interruption of any one can disrupt service to
millions. A massive blackout can result from a single failure.
It's in the nature of fossil fuels that things are this way. As Mark
Twain said, “Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket.”
The Internet doesn't work that way.
If this file is blocked from reaching you through one pathway, it will
automatically route through another. Redundancy is built into the
Internet's architecture. There is no single point of failure. This
makes it robust.
Dictators can take down the Internet in places where connectivity is
limited, for some time, but America's Internet has no single “kill
switch” – an order would have to go out to take out many, many
systems before service would be disrupted. The same is true on a local
Renewable energy can, and in time will, make our energy system more
like the Internet than the present system. It's a point we need to
emphasize again-and-again in the energy debates that will follow
We don't have to build solar systems the way we do fossil fuel
systems, with huge plants hundreds of miles away from cities,
connected by single power lines to their markets. We can have smaller
plants in many places. We can produce solar energy on our homes and
businesses. Even geothermal and biomass plants can be dispersed.
When we talk about having a smart grid, this is also what we mean. By
adding intelligence to our power systems we can draw electricity from
more places, and route it to customers in multiple ways. There should
be, and will be, no single point of failure in a renewable energy
system, no easy way to cause a massive blackout.
We can't create this new distribution system if we base it on burning
stuff. There are fewer-and-fewer big sources of stuff we can burn. We
will inevitably become increasingly dependent on that dwindling number
of sources. Even if we can get by a while by destroying our water
tables for natural gas and squeezing oil from North Dakota shale.
We can only create stability by harvesting the energy all around us.
The Sun doesn't just shine on North Dakota. It shines on everyone. The
wind doesn't just blow in Libya. It blows everywhere. Algae doesn't
just grow in Louisiana. The only renewable power source that's
unevenly distributed is geothermal energy – it's closer to the surface
in the American West than the American East.
But we don't have to tap it all to create a stable energy future. And
there's no threat that we're going to run out.
The technology exists to make all this happen, if we continue
investing in it. If we care about our national security, and our
energy security, that's what we will do.
If we don't care, of course, just listen to the Koch Brothers, listen
to Exxon, and listen to the dictators who control the oil we now so
desperately need to keep our economy going. Listen to them and their
paid minions tell you that a renewable future is impossible, or that
it will cost too much, that the obvious scarcity of fossil fuel energy
isn't what it appears to be, and that global warming is a crock.
This is America's choice in 2011, and it's up to the renewable energy
industry to help us make the right one. In part, by using this highly
redundant technology called the Internet.
1 of 2
March 9, 2011
Excellent post. Those involved in Renewable Energy as well as Policy
makers and others should have a look at it.
Wind Energy Expert
2 of 2
March 9, 2011
Great analogy and good post. The reliability of the Internet was the
direct result of the government requiring redundancy and resiliency.
With so many energy providers in a market based economy that does not
just happen. Someone has to develop the policy, provide the guidance
through standards and market must support the investment. The good
thing about what you suggest is that it is not solely dependent on
national infrastructure. It can happen anywhere. Any small, medium or
large community, energy coop, or independent can decide to participate
and invest in not only building alternative energy systems, but in the
redundancy and resiliency that ensures reliability.
The second interesting point in your analogy is the grid itself. Even
though you only implied it, the intersection and overlapping of
broadband and energy technology and services means much more than just
a grid. This is both a great opportunity and a big sticking point for
a lot of providers. Loss of control and security are often used as the
excuse why not develop the grid and use the Internet. But like the
Internet, the developers stepped up and showed us that it is not
something to be feared, but instead embraced. The industry will
develop the solutions necessary to ensure the systems safety and
I for one believe that it is time and will be working to create the
opportunities that make these changes possible, scalable and
Digital Economic Development -
The Intersection of Technology and Transformative Use
About: Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since
1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his
living online in 1985,
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