Using I.T. to add green power to the network

The problem with wind power is that its production is variable and difficult to predict. From the perspective of a power supply company, such a supplier is unreliable and likely to de-stabilise the power network.

For instance, at 2am in Ireland, when the demand for electricity is near its lowest, if a 40mph wind is blowing across the country, wind can be supplying up to 30% of the demand. However, if the wind picks up to 50mph, the wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly you lose 30% of your supply! The electricity supply companies have to scramble to bring power stations online to meet the sudden fall off.

In CIX, we have come up with a strategy for Data Centre’s to act as a flywheel for electricity supply companies. This will allow the supply companies to greatly increase the amount of green energy they buy. And if the Data Centre’s are burning biodiesel then you are in a win-win situation .

It seems we are not alone in our thinking – Google, no-less, has come up with a similar strategy using cars! Yes cars. You’d think that with all their data centres they’d use them in the way we propose but they have decided to go the ‘vehicle to grid’ route for now.

Google’s strategy is modify hybrid cars so that they can consume power from the grid. These new ‘plug-in hybrids’ achieve 70-100mpg.

These plug-in hybrids take power from the grid overnight at times of low demand, say. Then the batteries in these cars, which store electricity, can ‘sell’ electricity back to the grid at times of high demand.

Check out the Google video on this to see what I mean:

A cute idea but one which would have to achieve massive scale before making a difference, I suspect.

7 thoughts on “Using I.T. to add green power to the network”

  1. OK, to a point, but

    a) ESB meters don’t run backwards when you’re sending power back to the grid

    b) Biodiesel is a perpetual motion machine: you’re getting less energy out than you put in, it just doesn’t look like it. It’s the opposite of sustainable. If we used every field in Ireland to grow it we’d still be 60% short on domestic petrol demand, and the demand would increase because of all the additional food we’d have to import. Just say no.

  2. Imagine a backup generator that is virtually silent and requires zero fossil fuels, creating no CO2 emissions. That’s what Gaia Power Technologies has successfully created in the PowerTower.

    You’ve probably seen this, Tom, but just in case not, it may be of interest.

  3. John – sorry. Obviously I failed to show the bigger picture in my post.

    John, Ireland has an electrical demand of between 5GW to 6GW. At present there are over 2GW in outstanding applications for wind power which are not being allowed onto the grid for reasons of primarily network instability.

    If a grid of data centres were to act as a flywheel to counter-balance the instability of wind power, that 2GW of green energy could be brought onstream straightaway.

    If that grid of data centres was burning bio-diesel instead of regular diesel, the carbon impact of such a strategy would be massively reduced.

    There would still be an impact, sure. But when you weigh that against the 2GW of wind power which it enables to come onto the grid, I think it is a no-brainer.

  4. Oops,

    forgot to address your meter going backwards point.

    In fact, if you are a micro-generator, you can effectively make the meter go backwards by selling to the grid when you are generating and buying from the grid when not.

  5. Philip,

    I have come across the Gaia solution previously – basically they are a UPS which can take in power from utility, wind and/or solar.

    They have a low rating which means they are suitable more for residential than commercial uses.

    But, if enough of them were deployed, they could, like the vehicle-to-grid idea, act as a store of electricity and release at times of maximum demand.

  6. With all the hoopla about green power these days, few people stop and think that you just can’t magically tie it all together. It’s encouraging to see people thinking about the big picture as well as their individual requirements.


  7. To the above comments, I would point out that they are currently working on creating bio-diesel out of non-edible plant parts so you don’t have to compromise the food supply. Even then, of course, it’s not going to be anywhere near sufficient to replace natural gas, but it is one source of alternative fuel.

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