Thursday, October 6, 2011

Should we convert our electrical energy to methane?

At night between 11 PM and 4 AM there is an overcapacity of electrical energy. With the installation of wind energy, this overcapacity will even increase, since the is no merit in not using the wind to produce energy. In a smart grid, we will have time-of-use pricing for electrical energy and smart appliances being able to pick an economically good time to use energy. However, most appliances will still need to run during daytime or evening. Since electrical energy cannot be easily stored, we are in need for profound ideas to solve this issue.
Synthetic methane production
One possibilty could be the use of electrical energy to create methane, which can then be stored and used later for heating, cooking, or driving. In this process, first an electrolysis is performed to split water (HO2) into its components hydrogen(H) and oxygene(O). The hydrogen is then used to create methane or other gaseous fuels. Therefore, CO2 is added to produce methane (CH4). The produced methane is greenhouse-neutral since the amount of CO2 creation when being burned is exactly balanced by the amount of CO2 used in the production.
The biggest disadvantage of the approach is the limited efficiency of the method (about 50% of the energy is lost in the creation process, in total the efficiency is around 20-30%) and the comparably low price of natural methane sources. However, as soon as Russia is going to rise the gas prices, I'm gonna start my electrolyzer.

CfP: IEEE International Conference on Smart Grid Engineering (SGE’12)

27-29 August, 2012

University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT)
2000 Simcoe St. N.
Oshawa, ON, L1H 7K4

The Smart Grids are electricity networks that promise to enhance the operational efficiency of nationwide power supply via distributed generation with bi-directional electricity flow. This objective is achieved by allowing intelligent monitoring and control of different components within the distribution and transmission lines as well as other systems from utilities on one side to the end user on the other side, while maintain the power quality, security, reliability and safety with minimum environmental impacts. Governments around the world are investing heavily in this technology to ensure optimum energy use and supply, enable better planning for outage responses and recovery, and facilitate the integration of heterogeneous technologies around the grid, such as renewable energy systems, electrical vehicle networks, and smart homes. Smart Grids present enormous engineering challenges in the design and integration of electrical grid with communication and network technologies, along with substantial questions around required security and privacy of different components within the grid. The SGE’12 conference aims to provide an opportunity to discuss various engineering challenges of smart grid design and operation, by focusing on advanced methods and practices for designing different components and their integration within the grid, and to provide a forum for researchers from academia and professionals from industry, as well as government regulators, to tackle these challenges and to discuss and exchange knowledge and best practices about design and implementation of Smart Grid.

Topics of interest include (but not limited to) the following:
  • Grid infrastructures design, planning, operation and management
  • Power systems design and applications
  • Sensors, communications and network
  • Grid modeling, simulation, and data management
  • Engineering design of grid applications
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) systems
  • Grid protection, reliability, power quality and maintenance
  • Smart metering, measurement, instrumentation, and control
  • Customer information security and privacy
  • Transmission & distribution lines
  • Renewable energy and distributed generation within microgrids
  • Computation and optimization
  • Smart homes
  • Standardization and interoperability
  • Pricing, policies, and energy planning

Important Dates

Abstract Submission: 1-Nov-2011
First Notification: 15-Dec-2011
Full Paper Submission: 1-Feb-2012
Acceptance Notice: 1-Apr-2012
Camera-Ready Due: 1-May-2012
Conference dates: 27-29 August, 2012

Home appliance energy usage

The Smart Grid will help to balance energy production and consumption.
While we are waiting for the Smart Grid to come, there is something we can do meanwhile - optimizing the energy usage of our local network of electrical appliances. Because one thing is for sure: energy does not come for free now and won't come for free in the future either.
When doing optimization, the important thing is to identify the parts of a system, where an optimization significantly affects the overall outcome. In the blog of the General Electric Company, you can find a nice interactive visualization of the power consumption for a selectable set of typical appliances.
A zero-Watt cloth dryer
(source:Wikimedia commons)
The website application tries to guess power consumption and cost of your set of appliances. While the values are just rough estimates, the numbers still give you a feeling for appliances which are expensive in terms of energy consuming and appliances which are more frugal.

I personally was quite surprised by the high power consumption of an electrical cloth dryer. Luckily, I have the zero-Watt edition at home :-)