future clean tech

green business, policy and technology in australia and abroad

Security boon from distributed power generation

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hackersA postscript to this post from a little while ago about distributed power generation: the press recently reported that foreign spies had compromised the security of the US electric grid.

Two things emerge from this. First, I would argue that any move toward decentralising power generation inevitably increases the security of the system. Wind turbines on city streets and solar cells on residential and business roofs will manifestly reduce the load on our presently centralised power generation infrastructure. There are a plethora of ways in which this power generation infrastructure can be radically decentralised, as I’ve previously touched on, which I think will impact positively on our energy security.

Secondly, the article suggests that smart grids, which are a clean technology, increase the risk in the system by opened up more nodes for malevolent actors to infiltrate. I want to qualify this suggestion. While it is certainly true for the current, centralised system that smart grids increase the security risks, it is probably far less true for a more decentralised system. At the present time, if the grid fails in any particular region, all power is lost. However, should we decouple each local council area, even partially, from the main grid – that is, should we reduce our local reliance on the power generated by distant energy generation stations – we reduce the risks that attach to smart grid technology.

It’s my belief that eventually, clean energy technology will allow us to build multiple redundancies into the system. For instance, if your local urban wind turbines run into trouble, backup energy generated by wind farms or other technologies will be available from a broader grid. And vice versa. If the grid goes down in your area, you may still be able to use locally- or individually-generated and stored power – and a smart system may be able to allocate that power on a priority basis until the main grid comes back online. Ultimately, then,  I see cleantech as a potent tool for increasing our energy security.


Written by Gabriel Sassoon

April 12, 2009 at 12:57 pm

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