Superhero Needed: DG, an energy option in search of P.R.

Some argue that Distributed Generation (DG) of electricity is flawed and not worth pursuing because it can never replace the production capacity of "the grid." Others argue that the flaw with DG is that it lacks a visible Superhero as its representative. I'm of the latter type. DG needs a popular Superhero to boost its visibility.

I favor the latter argument not only because the former is itself based on a flawed premise - DG advocates don't actually claim it could replace the capacity of the grid, as if the case at hand was either/or, either full-on centralized grid production and distribution (generally coal) or full-on DG, with locally generated electricity sources - but because I think some decentralized, renewably inclined Superhero is in the making, somewhere out there. Maybe she or he is Dutch or Swedish or something Scandinavian. Or maybe Canadian. Who knows. I'm wide open with this.

DG, as it happens, and as defined by the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) part of the U.S. Dept. Of Energy, is a system of "small, modular electricity generators sited close to the customer load [which] can enable utilities to defer or eliminate costly investments in transmission and distribution (T&D) system upgrades, and provide customers with better quality, more reliable energy supplies and a cleaner environment." These consist of, for example (from the EERE site again): wind, solar, biomass, fuel cells, gas microturbines, hydrogen, combined heat and power, and hybrid power systems. (Here's Colorado -and click here to open a map of Wind Power in Colorado; here's California; here's one from the UK government)



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(And look, a pretty picture. What's not to like?)

One goal is "net metering," where you connect to the grid, and switch to and fro: when you have more energy than you need, you can add it back to the grid; when you don't have enough, you can draw from the grid. It's an enormous technical challenge. And it's also an enormous political and cultural challenge. But people are working on it, just as we should be and are working on a host of possible solutions. But if there was a suitable Superhero as its frontispiece or spokesperson/spokes-hero, then I think these problems might be abated.

To me, "the grid" is like a network or a web, and so I could see Spiderman aiding that cause. But for the grid, which is what we have, all those interconnections - which, in cultural terms, are just my cup of tea, like the convergences theme - don't quite hit the spot for energy production. Centralized power production goes against political opportunities for democratic technologies, it goes against safety issues for the ease with which an entire system can be knocked out (accidentally, intentionally, or by a combo of the two, something like long-term infrastructure neglect), and it goes against local cultural rights for imposing reliance on systems from beyond.

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(Another pretty picture. So very deep blue.)

But for DG, a better way to go energy-wise, another way to work on our energy problems without going nuclear, the Superhero assignment is a lot tougher. It'd have to be a Superhero that was dispersed, locally based, and flexible.

Obviously, I'm flashing in my mind to a Wonder Twins scenario. As I remember it, one of those two freaks could take the form of any kind of water, and the other was always some animal, right? So we have to do some tweaking. And that should be okay. The Wonder Twins are lame as is anyway. Maybe in a new incarnation for the sake of DG, they could take the form of ecologically sustainable energy units. Wow. That makes it even lamer. Let's back up. Or no, let's ditch the Wonder Twins idea. That was a stupid idea.

Someone proud and fierce. Someone that can be everywhere at once, that can't be knocked out with a single blow. That's what we're going for.

Hell, I was never actually a comic book fan or superhero fan, and it probably shows. But think of the children, people. For crissakes, think of the children for once.

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DG has a lot of potential, particularly for household use. Perhaps less so for industry. However, the goal of the system (which would include base load and DG) would be a more efficient energy source. No point in taking up DG if it just means your base load generation runs less efficiently and drags the total system efficiency backwards.

By Mikewins@westn… (not verified) on 05 Oct 2006 #permalink

Well, I feel I am virtually required to comment..

First, I would *love* to know how this democratic/DG connection comes about. Pretty much all production of everything (apart from perhaps wood, fish and agriculture) is done in a centralised way, worldwide; and the reason for this is basic economics and efficiency. Wind turbines and solar cells are, of course, made in big, centralised factories.

Prior to the invention of electric grids, people burnt fuel in their houses for heat and light; the air pollution was disasterous! Of course, replacing distributed pollution with centralised pollution dosen't solve the problem by itself, but tackling a small number of pollution sources is vastly easier.

But to the point of the post; one has to be wary of superheros, especially in the real world. Those who think that the power of the will can overcome the constraints of mere physical reality are apt to be embarrased.

Oh, and of the DG sources you mention, only Solar, Wind and micro-hydro can be counted as eco-friendly. Natural gas (used in microturbines and CHP systems) is a scarce fossil fuel the burning of which releases CO2 (which is going straight to the atmosphere). There is an efficiency gain - a good CHP system might get 75% efficiency vs. 60% for a dual cycle power plant - but this gets wiped out by the increasing energy costs of importing natural gas as local sources dry up. Fuel cells and hydrogen are not actually sources of energy.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but it often seems that the wind/solar/DG 'solution' is more a case of people who, faced with a decidedly ugly reality, turn to fantasy.

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 05 Oct 2006 #permalink

New kind of clean energy has been invented!!!
Please open GOOgle and klick metozor and after : index of metozor At is site that explains technical details in easy to understand language. example : http://www.nets.pl/~metozor/for_greenpeace.html or
http://www.nets.pl/~metozor/energy_for_everybody.html
http://www.nets.pl/~metozor/prolog_for_metoz.html
Everyone is able to build just the model of METOZ machine and test it. Please, have a look at http://www.nets.pl/~metozor/supplement.html Perhaps METOZ is some duplicating machine of a clean energy.
Thank you for your time and interest.
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