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Last March, the U.S. Congress heard testimony about a scientific study in the journal Safety Science. A military analyst worried that the paper presented a model of how an attack on a small, unimportant part of the U.S. power grid might, like dominoes, bring the whole grid down.
Members of Congress were, of course, concerned. Then, a similar paper came out in the journal Nature the next month that presented a model of how a cascade of failing interconnected networks led to a blackout that covered Italy in 2003.
These two papers are part of a growing reliance on a particular kind of mathematical model — a so-called topological model — for understanding complex systems, including the power grid.
And this has University of Vermont power-system expert Paul Hines concerned.
“Some modelers have gotten so fascinated with these abstract networks that they’ve ignored the physics of how things actually work — like electricity infrastructure,” Hines says, “and this can lead you grossly astray.”
For example, the Safety Science paper came to the “highly counter-intuitive conclusion,” Hines says, that the smallest, lowest-flow parts of the electrical system — say a minor substation in a neighborhood — were likely to be the most effective spots for a targeted attack to bring down the U.S. grid.
“That’s a bunch of hooey,” says Seth Blumsack, Hines’s colleague at Penn State.
Google has more on it’s mind than search results and YouTube videos. The have written a post on their official blog outlining their intentions to bring Smart Meters to the masses.
We all receive an electricity bill once a month that is hard to decipher besides the total amount due. What if we instead had access to more useful and actionable information about our energy consumption? What if consumers could use this information to automatically adjust appliances, lights, and other equipment to save money and cut energy use?
Everything’s bigger in Texas, right? Well, in keeping with their motto, one Texas town, has built the largest battery the United States has ever seen. Dubbed BOB (Big Old Battery), the NaS (sodium sulfer) battery, which is currently charging, can store up to four megawatts of power for eight hours. That’s roughly the energy needed to fully power 4,000 homes per megawatt-hour (MWh).
The town of Presidio in West Texas only has one link the the U.S. Power Grid and that transmission line is over 60 years old. That’s why they sunk $25 million into building this thing and promised another $44 million to build a second, 60-mile transmission line by 2012. BOB will be used as emergency backup for the numerous power outages in the area which are caused by the line going down quite frequently.
Here comes one of the best ideas I’ve seen in a long time. The Crowne Plaza hotel in Copenhagen has rigged a couple bikes to a generator and they’re luring guests into generating electricity by giving away a $36 food voucher in exchange for a 15-minute stationary bike ride.
The hotel, which initiated the project to help reduce its carbon footprint has hooked up iPhones to the bicycles so that guests can see just how much energy they are generating during their session. Each 15-minute ride generates 10 watt-hours of electricity, not a bad start.
The Solar Impulse aircraft has been in development, design, manufacturing and testing for nearly 6 years now. The project is an airplane that can take off, fly and land autonomously, day and night and all while using only solar energy. This is possible of course by using the energy gathered throughout the day to power it through the night, all while using no fuel and creating no pollution.
Just this past week they were able to launch it on its inaugural test flight and successfully flew it for 2 hours. The group behind the project hope to one day be able to circle the globe and see this as a huge first step. There will be a couple more tests flights in the near future.
With the success of the inaugural flight, we can now envision 2 more test flights in order to determine with precision the performance of the airplane. This will assist us in the preparations of a second airplane in which we plan to do an around the world flight.