Post tagged with "weather"

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

The weatherman is more trustworthy than ever, and that’s good for our energy future

  • By Barry Fischer
  • September 12, 2012

Believe it or not, your weather reporter has been getting it right more and more often over the last few decades.

So says New York Times statistician Nate Silver. In an excerpt from his forthcoming book about our ability to make better forecasts in the era of “Big Data”, Silver explains that the field of weather prediction is a major success story.

A generation of meteorologists has been gradually perfecting their blend of supercomputer modeling and qualitative human rigor since long before “data science” had a name. And their work has made a huge difference. Some examples:

  • Daily Highs – The US National Weather Service has halved its margin of error for high-temperature forecasts (made 3 days in advance), from six degrees in 1972 to three degrees today.
  • Hurricanes – In the 1980s, the National Hurricane Center’s three-days-ahead prediction for pinpointing hurricane landfall used to miss by an average of 350 miles; today it’s 100 miles.
  • Lightning Storms – The chance of an American in 1940 being killed by lightning was 1 in 400,000. Nowadays, it’s 1 in 11 million, in large part thanks to better weather forecasts.
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