Post tagged with "power outage"

Outlier

How electric vehicles could someday eliminate power outages

  • By Barry Fischer
  • October 29, 2012

With Hurricane Sandy fast-approaching and power outages seeming imminent, many families along the Eastern seaboard are hurrying to purchase backup electrical generators. As a result, stores like Home Depot have sold out of generators in New Jersey, and a basic gasoline-powered portable generator sold by Amazon.com recently jumped from 13,478 to 78 on the site’s overall best-selling items list.

As generators fly off the shelves to provide a backup power source for households, an interesting question arises: could electric cars do the same job? Major auto companies like Honda and Toyota think the answer may be yes.

In the aftermath of Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake and the associated power outages, automakers there began to ramp up development of electric vehicle technology that could feed electricity back into a home’s power supply during emergencies.  The idea is that a hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle could draw upon its tankful of gasoline and charged battery to enable a flow of electrons from “vehicle to home,” as the approach is called.

For example, a Toyota Prius acting as a power source would be capable of supplying about 10 kilowatt-hours of backup daily electricity to a home for four days — more than enough to cover basic energy needs like lights, refrigeration, and computer/cell-phone charging.

Stay tuned in the coming months and years about the ongoing research and development into the vehicle-to-home concept – which could someday help mitigate the impact of storms like Hurricane Sandy.

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Outlier

Smart meters and rebounding from power outages

  • By Barry Fischer
  • October 29, 2012

Communities across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic are bracing themselves for Hurricane Sandy — which is expected to knock out power for 8-10 million utility customers this week.

Experts do suggest, however, that there may be one related piece of good news: communities that have installed smart meters — electrical meters that can enable real-time communication of energy usage data to utility companies — may be able to rebound from the outages more quickly.

Although smart meters (there are now 36 million of them installed nationwide) can’t stop tree limbs from falling and damaging power lines, they can transmit precise information to utility companies about where power has gone out and when it has been fully restored. With this detailed real-time information, utility companies can optimize decisions about where to dispatch repair equipment and line crews.

And beyond reducing the severity of power outages in stormy weather, smart meters can also help prevent them in other situations. For example, when the electric grid is over-stressed by air-conditioning demand on hot days, utility companies can leverage smart-meter data to communicate with and reward customers who are willing to dial back their electricity consumption during peak usage hours.

To learn more about the capabilities of smart meters and their proliferation across the country, see the Edison Foundation’s May 2012 report, “Utility-scale Smart Meter Deployments, Plans, and Proposals.”

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Outlier

When the blackout hit, I blacked out my windows and was 33% more comfortable

  • By Barry Fischer
  • July 2, 2012

Like 2 million other electricity customers in the mid-Atlantic region this past weekend, I lost power.

A weekend with 100-degree temperatures is not the best time to be without air-conditioning. But, it got me thinking…is it possible to keep our homes cool in the absence of electricity?

Then it hit me: Don’t let the sun shine into the house. Close the blinds.

Indeed, simply closing window blinds or drapes can reduce solar heat gain into the house by 33-45%. So then, isn’t it a good idea on all hot summer days to close the window blinds when we leave a room for a while?

Yes–I’m going to do it more often. Less electricity needed for A/C use + increased comfort = Nice.

And if you are especially ambitious about blocking out the sun on hot days, you can consider strategically planting a tree to shade your most sun-exposed windows. Field studies conducted in Sacramento have found that “shade trees” can reduce cooling costs by 30% and overall summertime electricity costs by more than 5%.

The only catch: the shade tree needs to remain standing after storms…

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