During the next power outage, you may just whistle to the wind, continue working on your computer and even turn up the furnace.
More than ten years ago, Canada and the Eastern seaboard of the USA went through a huge power outage that affected more than 50 million people and businesses. The lessons learned were many, but for energy experts, the needs were clear: a definite need to find sustainable energy alternatives.
What Are We Doing Now?
Energy experts now say that before long we may have public utilities that can use alternatives to give us power. For instance, we may be able to use the electric car battery to power our home in the event of an outage. “It’s all possible through the use of Smart grids,” says the managing director of SmartGrid Canada, a company that promotes efficient and innovative power generation.
How Can the New Smart Grid Help?
The smart grid is an electricity system that also collects real-time data and information on supply and demand, offering more energy when needed and pairing down the energy needs when not in use. The hope is that this will make the entire electrical grid more efficient, and if there is failure that alternative options will be immediately available.
What are the Municipalities Doing to Prevent Future Blackouts?
Many of the different jurisdictions are now using smart meters that provide up-to-the-minute information on energy use in homes and businesses. This allows energy companies to make immediate changes.
Then there is also the smart thermostat which is offered in Ontario. When consumers sign up for the program they give the utility company permission to automatically adjust temperatures in the home to offset demand needs.
Other integrated products include the internet-enabled thermostats made by Honeywell and Nest Labs. These allow consumers to lower or raise home temperatures to save energy, using a simple app on their smartphone.
The Key is in Shifting the Load
Today, we hear the word load-shifting in the utilities offices. This means moving specific energy use needs to off-peak hours. Hopefully, with the help of new energy efficiency appliances, utility companies will have the ability to trigger certain household energy products like air conditioners, swimming pool pumps and washing machines to work when demand is lower.
Energy Storage is also of the Essence
Because utility companies (and consumers in general) are now more energy conscious, there is an interest in getting the most out of power and finding different ways of storing excess energy – such as that which is produced by wind turbines or solar panels.
One storage concept currently being analyzed is that of compressed air, a process in which excess wind energy is used to run compressors and then store the compressed air underground to be used during periods of low demand.
The Micro-grid is Another Alternative
The micro-grid is another option. The idea is that this small grid keeps local power sources separate but use these to contribute to the large grid. By using the micro-grid option, this can be self-sufficient in case of a system failure.