Or if we are, it is not for the reasons James thinks! James Corbett has a post today on his blog asking “Are we Irish complete gobshites?“. The post is lamenting the fact that we are not building wind farms to reduce our dependence on oil imports.
I would answer James in the comment section on his blog but
the answer is complex and
he has deployed a CAPTCHA on his blog which means commenting there is a pain 😛
There are >2gW of outstanding applications for windfarms to come onto the electrical grid in Ireland. To put that in context, we typically use around 4.5gW of power in Ireland (fluctuating day/night and summer/winter, obviously). However, these applications are being held at bay by eirgrid, the grid management company.
Why are they holding these applications at bay? Are they rabidly anti-green? Maybe they are pro climate-change? No, the reason Eirgrid don’t want any more wind power on the grid is because it de-stabilises the network.
Consider the following scenario. It is 2am. Electricity demand across the country is at its lowest. There is a 40mph wind blowing across the country. Wind energy at this point can be supplying up to 30% of the country’s demand.
What happens now if the wind picks up to 50mph? The wind farms shut down to protect their mechanisms and suddenly Eirgrid are left scrambling trying to bring gas turbine stations online to meet the sudden fall-off of 30% of their supply. Gas turbine stations can take up to an hour to reach full generation capacity.
The more windfarms Eirgrid take onto the network, the greater a problem this becomes. Unless there was some kind of ready counter-balance to the instability of wind farms…
The breakthrough comes from using capacitors as batteries. Up until now this has not been feasible because there hasn’t been a strong enough insulator to make this approach compelling. However, EEstor, the company who have made the breakthrough have applied for a patent for a highly insulated capacitor.
In their patent application, it suggests that:
the charge storage is much higher than anything achieved in an academic lab: 52 kilowatt-hours in a 2,000 cubic inch capacitor array. A rough conversion calculation suggests that this is over 10 times the power density of standard lead-acid batteries.
The Ars Technica article goes on to note that:
the Associated Press is reporting that the ZENN Motor Company, which makes compact electric cars, plans to start using the capacitors before the year is out. The company has invested in EEStar in return for production goals being met and so is in a position to know how realistic its claims are
If this has any basis in fact, it could have incredible consequences for the reduction of carbon emissions from transport and from the environment in general with the reduction in the use of the particularly nasty chemicals which currently go to make up batteries.
For the majority of the interview (from 06:30 onwards) we talked about CIX, how to make data centres carbon neutral (while at the same time facilitating bringing more wind energy onto the national grid!) and the energy efficiency strategies we have designed into the CIX data centre.
I’m going to be printing out the screen grab from this video and using it to scare away the neighbours kids!
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.
I was speaking to a sales rep yesterday who was driving a company car. He told me about the Irish government’s scheme to tax people for receipt of company cars. It is called Benefit in Kind (BiK).
Basically, if your employer gives you a company car, you are liable to pay 30% of the original market value of the car in tax (the original market value includes the amount the government already collects in VRT!).
However, if you do more than 15,000 per annum, the amount of BiK you have to pay drops. The more mileage you do, the less BiK you have to pay (up to a ceiling at 30,000 miles).
Sounds fair, you might say. These people are using the cars the company gave them.
Possibly, until you realise that what this law does is incentivise company car owners to use their cars more to drive to meetings (for example) where they might otherwise have taken a more carbon friendly alternative (telecon anyone?). The rep I was talking to said he will preferentially drive anywhere to get his mileage up!
If you want to tax company cars, why not do it on the basis of their carbon footprint (or engine size if that rating isn’t easy to come by). Something like â‚¬500 for cars 1.6L and less; â‚¬2,500 for 1.6L to 2L; â‚¬6,000 for 2L to 3L and â‚¬12,000 for 3L and above index linked.
I was waylaid in the corridors several times so I didn’t get to as many talks as I would have liked.
I did get to good friend and TCD law lecturer Eoin O’Dell‘s talk on the law, and how it relates to blogging. It was very sobering (and I hadn’t even had a drink!) and very entertaining at the same time! Eoin told us the only way to ensure we weren’t likely to be sued for something we publish online is not to publish anything online!
I also got to Darren Barefoot‘s presentation on Social Media which was excellent, as you’d expect from Darren, despite the wifi letting him down.
I spent the next couple of hours catching up with people and unfortunately I missed Eoghan‘s talk on usability 🙁
After lunch I listened eagerly to John Ward‘s fascinating story of selling Web 2.0 technologies to financial institutions. Well done John, no mean feat.
After the panel discussion it was time for my presentation on CIX. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people stayed awake during a presentation on data centre energy efficiency strategies and a hair-brained carbon neutrality strategy!
After this, I was interviewed for a podcast by Ina (missing out on Krishna‘s talk – sorry Krishna).
Then we retired to the Lord Edward pub.
Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long as I had to catch the train back to Cork but it was shaping up to be a good night when I left.
I see Yahoo! has announced that it is going to follow our lead in CIX *cough* and aim for carbon neutrality!
In the announcement David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo! said:
weâ€™re going to invest in greenhouse gas reduction projects around the world to neutralize Yahoo!â€™s impact on the environment. While doing our homework on this, we measured our carbon footprint and discovered that Yahoo! going carbon neutral is equivalent to shutting off the electricity in all San Francisco homes for a month. Or, pulling nearly 25,000 cars off the road for a year.
While buying carbon credits isn’t the ideal way to go carbon neutral (I can think of a couple of better ways – David, come along to my talk at Barcamp Dublin on Saturday if you want to know more!), it is certainly a step in the right direction and puts a financial imperative on the company to “clean up its act”, from a carbon point of view, at least!
Kudos to Yahoo! for taking this stance and hopefully we’ll see more companies going down this route sooner than later (though I don’t see Halliburton coming on board any time soon).
Tom Raftery – Global VP, Futurist, and Innovation Evangelist for SAP, inspirational keynote speaker, and global influencer's take on how digitization and innovation are creatively disrupting our world