Archive for the ‘1.3 Background’ Category

1.3.2 Renewable Energy

Monday, May 11th, 2009

What is it?

Any source of energy that can be replenished faster or as fast as it is being used is per definition a renewable energy source. The burning of fossil fuels & thermo nuclear energy is not regarded as renewable energy forms.

Independent of exising infrastructure

Independent of exising infrastructure

Where is it?

To have renewable energy you needs to capture it from a natural source that contain energy. Wind, Light and Flowing Water are the most common energy sources. As flowing water has a much higher density than wind, it is much more efficient as an energy source. A large wind turbine is required to capture the wind, but a small water turbine might capture the same amount in water. Solar Panels can convert up to 40% of the light that hits them in the best case scenario, but due to their small format and long life cycle they are ideal for powering remote equipment of different types.

Politics

Renewable Energy is a commonly referred to by many in the public discourse, and it seems to have become more so in the current strained financial times[1]. As one can see from the google trends graph below, the interest and media coverage is high and rising:

Trends for Renewable Energy on the web

The ongoing climate debate does also push for action and the decision makers are moved towards this field as government funds globally feels more just if spent on this cause rather the banks and financial systems. Change is needed and it should and will come from this field, but tradition, cost, legislation and expensive infrastructure are dampers on development.

President Obama is trying to start a shift towards an industry that will produce renewable energy technology and equipment and is using government funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate this development. This stimulus is part of the plan to get back up again after the crisis that has hit American finance and automotive industries quite hard[2].

References in this post
  1. Google. (2009, April 04). Renewable Energy. Retrieved April
    02, 2009, from Google Trends: http://www.google.com/
    trends?q=renewable+energy [*]
  2. Whitehouse.gov, “Energy & Environment”, 19. March 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/energy_and_environment/, (Accessed: April 2009 [*]

1.3.4 Electricity from a business perspective

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

I have discovered that there is an discrepancy between the actual map of where a consumer is positioned in the grid from a business perspective and how consumers perceive electricity.This is quite obvious looking at charts provided by industry organisations.

Smart Grid Complexity

Smart Grid Complexity

This is part of why I have not cooperated with actors in the industry in this project, as they are obligated to consider the existing and future infrastructure and market mechanisms which are complex.

I did however try do find out what opportunities I had as a private home owner in Oslo. Most of Oslo is operated electrically by Hafslund AS. I requested if there was a device that automatically read my consumption data and their answer was:

We offer a remote reading of your meter, that reads once every hour.The data will be automatically sent to us.

Once every hour is not very impressive, and they send it back to them? Well I want something I could review in real time. Further:

If you want such a meter its cost is 2500.- NOK. But with-in 2013 all meters will be replaced with smart meters[1].

This was interesting, but the price and low use value discouraged me for buying such a meter. I’ll wait to 2013 then.

References in this post
  1. Kordal, Renate. Hafslund Nett Support. March 6, 2009. [*]

1.3.5 Electricity from a home perspective

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Electricity provides comfort and is the platform our modern society is built upon. Still electricity is not very present in our conciousness or daily life. We depend upon it, but we do seldom touch it. I believe this is the primary touch points in our daily life with electricity:

Comfort

Providing comfort

Providing comfort

Electricity provides us with an instant and unlimited source of energy that power all the items that makes our lives more comfortable. Light and heat affects us the most as energy source for easy reading, preparing meals, stable indoor temperature and entertainment. I believe our habit of easy comfort would be greatly compromised without access to unlimited and readily available energy.

Anachronism

Anachronisms in a digital life

Anachronisms in a digital life

Some times, as parts of the infrastructure might be old and strained, we have to change the active components in the system, like a fuse. In our modern world there is a surprisingly high number of old electrical infrastructure around us. There is ofcourse variance to this, but that such analogue items even exists today is for me a bit bewildering.

Money

Online payment

Online payment

In Norway the electricity is quite cheap and only varies a little through the seasons. Other countries have different pricing through the day to encourage saving when the total consumption is high.

Summary

These touchpoints makes it quite visible how little we can affect our daily handling of electricity. We cannot easily change the source of the currents, we depend upon an hierarchy for distribution we cannot control.

1.3.3 Distributed Generation

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

Distributed Generation
Using the peer to peer concept in energy distribution will enable home consumers to become producers of energy and supply their electricity to others on the smart grid[1]. The grid is used here as short for the general electrical infrastructure (or “grid”) that is required to distribute electricity to the end consumer. Today the grid usually only deliver electricity, but technology is available to enable feedback of electricity from the end consumer, this is a feature of “The Smart Grid”. I think that this development could create a greater sense of solidarity in small as well as large communities. When you get ownership and control over your energy in a much more direct way than is possible today, I think you would like to see how and where it is used also. How would this impact our relation to our energy?

Cornucopica Norwegia
The current paradigm of electricity in Norway imitates a cornucopia. The only variable to energy supply (in form of electricity) is the price. As a consequence the only concern I might have regarding the electricity, is the bill. What if we flipped the coin? What if the price was fixed, but supply was limited? Arguably global energy supply is not unlimited, although growing, so is demand.

Early Exploration
At a local scale I will explore how a limited resource can be shared in a P2P fashion by augmenting it with local production of energy. The goal is to uncover useful concepts that will challenge existing paradigms in energy supply. 1. The green apartment are producing more energy than needed, while the red appartment has a deficit.2. The green appartment shares its surplus with the red appartment.3. At any given moment there are apartments producing, receiving and some that are neutral in this system. How does this impact the daily life of the families living in this apartment block? How can this be done in such a manner that it feels just?

References in this post
  1. European Commission. (2006). European Technology Platform Smart Grids. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities. [*]

1.3.6 Ambitions

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I will try to change the existing preconceptions and challenge current paradigms of the energy discourse, but that is a daunting task. But I will argue that the result suggests a scenario where the end consumer is a producer and as equal to the next user or producer as in a file sharing network online. That would be the starting point for further design work in a new discourse in the field of energy in our homes.

The best efforts today are done to make consumers aware of their consumption and the assumption that this alone reduces consumption with 5-15%[1]. The motivation for doing so are usually from user perspective; to save money, or from the producer perspective; to save money. Some initiatives focus on the motivation of reducing the environmental impact. I want to empower the consumer with full control over his or hers consumption and encourage to home production of energy under the motivation of contribution, status and community spirit.

References in this post
  1. Darby, S. (2006). The effectiveness of feedback on Energy consumption. Oxford: University Of Oxford [*]

1.3.1 Prologue

Monday, April 27th, 2009

The relevance of the diploma

There is a continuous stream of articles and news bites from various channels. The science magazines are currently having special issues on the theme and newspapers more frequently report on renewable energy projects. The global political agenda seems to be covering two causes; the financial crisis and the route out of it that includes a build up of industry that produces renewable energy equipment.

The Challenges of the diploma

Renewable energy can be seen as a “Magic Bullet” that gives us carte blanch in consuming energy. If technical challenges are surpassed and we have a surplus of renewable energy then we are in the free zone and can use power without any concern. So thinking of renewable energy as an unlimited supply (which per definition it is) can render all conscious thoughts of energy use mute. But from today with 86% fossil fuel use globally we have a long way to go[1]. The transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy seems might need to go faster than technology and adaptation at the moment is evolving.

Situation in Norway

Norway has since the middle of the seventies been a big producer of oil[2]. The oil has given us great experiences in offshore technology and also given us huge revenues. The downside is also our states dependence on oil for revenue and the need for producing oil for quite a long time until other industry can give us similar income.

For domestic energy consumption the citizens of Norway has been supplied with electricity from pure mountain water which is quite the opposite of fossil fuels that is burned once and then gone. I wonder if this polarization in energy production has lulled Norwegians into a belief that we, Norway, are clean. The perceivably clean, land based hydro power is delivered to our homes and the possibly dirty, offshore oil drilling is produced beyond our horizon.

Today, in Norway at least, domestic energy production is highly centralized in big power plants that produce electricity and sell it through an energy exchange open to the Scandinavian market. The buyers of this energy are the companies that in the end sell it to the consumer. This monetary flow is managed separately to the electricity flow. The actual electricity has to be used as it is produced and the routing of the electricity cannot be specified to the consumer in other ways than ensuring that the volume produced and sold is equal to the volume consumed.

In Norway is 98,5% of all electrical energy produced from water, with another 0,5% from wind. There is also a ongoing drive to enable owners of smaller streams to utilize its energy in miniature turbines and sell its energy. Electrical energy delivered to end consumers amounts to 51% of total energy consumption in Norway. The rest are fuels for industry and transportation (NVE 2008)[3]

References in this post
  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_resources_and_consumption#cite_note-BPReview-1 [*]
  2. http://www.museumsnett.no/ntm/no/utstillingene/Jakten_oljen/historie.htm [*]
  3. Norges Vassdrags- og energidirektorat, “Produksjon”, 1. April 2008, http://www.nve.no/no/Kraftmarked/Sluttbrukermarkedet/Varedeklarasjon/Produksjon-/, (Accessed: April 2009) [*]