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Utilities’ Economies of Scale for Broadband Fiber + Smart Grid Applications = Ultra-Fast Broadband Everywhere?

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June 17, 2013 – The smart grid and broadband go together like mashed potatoes and gravy. And yet why is it so hard to get electric utilities and broadband experts to dialogue on the role that electric companies can play in expanding super-fast broadband?

Tomorrow’s June 2013 Broadband Breakfast Club, on Advanced Energy, Smart Grid & Fiber to the Home: Using Advanced Energy to Jumpstart Fiber Builds,” is at least a step in the right direction.

Tomorrow’s event brings the debate about broadband and the smart grid together in an exciting and new way. While advanced energy is predicted to be an opportunity greater than the internet economy to date — and fast, reliable broadband will be a key feature of advanced energy implementation and distribution through smart grid systems. Yet, while smart grid networks of various complexity exist, new networks are limited by the short supply of fiber build outs. The event will be moderated by Sylvia Syracuse, Director of Marketing and Events at the Broadband Breakfast Club.

Think of these questions, which tomorrow’s discussion aims to tackle head-on:

1. Where are we in the development of the national-level smart grid?
2. What are the barriers to implementing this broadband-enabled smart grid?
3. What is or what will be the utilities role in building this smart grid?

Central to these questions will be David Wollman, Deputy Director on Smart Grid and Cyberphysical Systems Program Office in the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Wollman, our keynote speaker at Tuesday’s event, leads efforts to coordinate and accelerate the development of smart grid interoperatbility — and research to enable new smart grid advances.

Equally important in getting these answers will be the role of the electric utilities — both the investor-owned utilities, and the electronic co-ops. Tomorrow’s panel event will feature John Hewa of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and C. David Hudgins, of the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative. Also addressing the subject will be Malcolm Woolf at the Advanced Energy Economy.

One key insight that Broadband Breakfast Club hopes to emerge from tomorrow’s event comes from a presentation made several months ago, at David Isenberg’s Freedom to Connect conference in Washington, by James Salter, CEO of Atlantic Engineering Group.

Salter’s core idea is that the United States is 15 percent built with fiber to the home. Salter thinks that the U.S. should be 100 percent fiber — and that electric utilities should build, or at least partner, in the remaining 85 percent.

Salter — whose Freedom to Connect Power Point is available here — believes that smart grid-related applications are the killer app for big broadband deployment. But there are three obstacles that he identifies:

1. They don’t have any regulatory incentive to do real SmartGrid – they get a return for a new coal plant, they don’t get a return for technologies that avoid a new coal plant – We must change politics of regulation.

2. They don’t believe you need big data requirements to do SmartGrid – We must show them they are shortsighted
– Ask Chattanooga

3. They don’t want to be in the retail telecom business and they don’t want to partner with anybody – We must convince them that cyber security and common infrastructure aren’t mutually exclusive.

Salter lays down a powerful challenge to the electric utilities. Register to attend Tuesday’s Broadband Breakfast Club to see how and whether advanced energy and the smart grid can help jumpstart more fiber builds.

Drew Clark is the Editor and Publisher of BroadbandBreakfast.com and a nationally-respected telecommunications attorney at The CommLaw Group. He has closely tracked the trends in and mechanics of digital infrastructure for 20 years, and has helped fiber-based and fixed wireless providers navigate coverage, identify markets, broker infrastructure, and operate in the public right of way. The articles and posts on Broadband Breakfast and affiliated social media, including the BroadbandCensus Twitter feed, are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

Advanced Energy

Last-Mile Delivery and Electric Vehicles: Why Congress Should Support Logistics in the Next Infrastructure Bill

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February 3, 2021 – The problem with electric vehicles has always been that they don’t have enough battery to achieve a decent driving range at a reasonable cost, a group of experts said on a panel discussion on January 26 led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

That’s why electric cars have been eyed as a solution for improving deliveries by drivers, yet guaranteeing battery efficiency is still in the future.

Additional alternative energy vehicle options such as fuel cell-powered may serve as a complement to electric vehicles, said Amy Adams, vice president over fuel cell and hydrogen technologies at Cummins Inc. Fuel cell-powered cars may be better equipped for larger vehicles that need to travel longer distances, especially in rural areas, she said.

Despite the potential electric or fuel cell-powered cars bring, they do have drawbacks. For example, a delivery driver who drives an average of 65 miles per day makes up to 200 stops or more per day. That’s equal to 1,000 foot motions on the brakes, and that can deteriorate knee health and decrease efficiency.

Electric vehicles for delivery drivers should incorporate regenerative braking systems to capture all that lost energy for each stop made, said John Lindsey, head of electric vehicle sales for Schneider Electric North America.

But electric and fuel cell-powered cars haven’t been readily integrated into the U.S. economy compared to other countries like in Europe. That’s why delivery companies need to balance neighborhood safety with delivery driver safety, said Duane Hughes, CEO of Workhouse Group. Hughes called for the integration of lane departure and lane collision warning systems for delivery drivers to protect both themselves and others around them.

To combat additional costs from incorporating these ideas, the experts supported a standardized, universal-like nozzle fill-up system for electric and fuel cell-powered cars to reduce customization costs. Reducing the overall core weight of vehicles would also improve battery efficiency.

And incentives and grant programs are needed from the federal government to jumpstart more research and development to achieve this, said Thomas Jensen, a senior government relations executive at UPS.

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Advanced Energy

White House Launches ‘Smart City’ Initiative That Links Broadband Connectivity to Urban Solutions

WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 – A movement to make cities “smart” by using the power of broadband and information technology processing power is reaching critical mass, with the White House on Monday announcing a comprehensive initiative to support municipal efforts.

Coinciding with the Smart Cities Week conference here this week, the White House released a 4,000-word summary of more than $160 million in federal research investments, leveraging more than 25 technology collaborations with local communities.

The goal of these efforts? Tackling such key challenges, in the words of the White House, as “reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.”

“Advances in science and technology have the potential to accelerate these efforts,” read the White House statement. “An emerging community of civic leaders, data scientists, technologists, and companies are joining forces to build ‘Smart Cities’ – communities that are building an infrastructure to continuously improve the collection, aggregation, and use of data to improve the life of their residents – by harnessing the growing data revolution, low-cost sensors, and research collaborations, and doing so securely to protect safety and privacy.”

The launch of White House Smart Cities Initiative

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WASHINGTON, September 16, 2015 – A movement to make cities “smart” by using the power of broadband and information technology processing power is reaching critical mass, with the White House on Monday announcing a comprehensive initiative to support municipal efforts.

Coinciding with the Smart Cities Week conference here this week, the White House released a 4,000-word summary of more than $160 million in federal research investments, leveraging more than 25 technology collaborations with local communities.

The goal of these efforts? Tackling such key challenges, in the words of the White House, as “reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.”

“Advances in science and technology have the potential to accelerate these efforts,” read the White House statement. “An emerging community of civic leaders, data scientists, technologists, and companies are joining forces to build ‘Smart Cities’ – communities that are building an infrastructure to continuously improve the collection, aggregation, and use of data to improve the life of their residents – by harnessing the growing data revolution, low-cost sensors, and research collaborations, and doing so securely to protect safety and privacy.”

The launch of White House Smart Cities Initiative

The launch of White House Smart Cities Initiative

None of these Smart City innovations would be possible without the connectivity enabled by fiber-optic networks. These new opportunities for city services may prove to be the most effective driver of Gigabit Networks. As I wrote in an article last December on “The Year of Community and Municipal Gigabit Broadband,” this is “a world in which cities and municipalities are playing the leadership role.”

The White House Weighs In

Among the most significant facets of the administration’s announcement include:

  • More than $45 million in grants and investment for Smart City research and infrastructure by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • Nearly $70 million in new spending for technologies to promote solutions in public safety, energy, climate preparedness, transportation and health by federal agencies.
  • More than 20 cities participating in multi-party efforts “that will help city leaders effectively collaboration with universities and industry.”

In a separate statement on the White House web site, Dan Correa, administration senior adviser for innovation policy, wrote:

By coordinating adjacent traffic signals to optimize local traffic throughput, a pilot project in Pittsburgh has reduced commuting travel times by more than 25 percent, on average. In Louisville, the city is using data gathered from sensor-equipped asthma inhalers to understand the connection between asthma “hotspots” and air quality levels and other environmental factors in order to inform policymaking and community-level interventions.

One new aspect of the Obama Administration’s Smart Cities Initiative will be a focus on creating new technological test beds for “Internet of Things” applications.

Another will  be collaboration with the civic tech movement, the “growing community of individuals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits interested in harnessing [information technology] to tackle local problems and work directly with city governments.”

In a manner similar to the way open source technology allows new innovators to build upon others’ software, this “open data” movement allows entities outside of government to make use of government data streams in real time.

Additionally, the White House said, the government plans to use other federal agency research — from sensor networks to broadband infrastructure — in its Smart City efforts, and to pursue international collaboration, particularly research aimed at climate and resource demand.

The agency also announced the release of a new framework for coordinating actions by a range of federal agencies, and a science and technologies priorities memo that will impact the administration’s pending 2017 budget proposal.

Actions by Cities and the Private Sector

In addition to White House and federal agency developments, more than 20 city-university collaborations are taking part in what is being called the MetroLab Network.

These collaborations include:

•        Atlanta, with Georgia State University and Georgia Tech

•        Boston, with Boston Area Research Initiative

•        Chicago, with the University of Chicago

•        Cuyahoga County, with Case Western University

•        Dallas, with Texas Research Alliance

•        Detroit, with Wayne State University

•        Houston, with Rice University

•        Madison, with University of Wisconsin-Madison

•        Memphis, with University of Memphis

•        Minneapolis & St. Paul, with University of Minnesota

•        Montgomery County, with University of Maryland and Universities at Shady Grove

•        New York City, with New York University

•        Philadelphia, with Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania

•        Pittsburgh, with Carnegie Mellon University

•        Portland, with Portland State University

•        Providence, with Brown University, College Unbound, and Rhode Island School of Design

•        San Diego, with University of California San Diego

•        San Jose, with San Jose State University

•        Seattle, with University of Washington

•        South Bend, with University of Notre Dame

•        Washington, DC, with Howard University, Georgetown University, and George Washington University

And among the more than 60 Smart City pilots taking place over the next year include:

  • City Digital, a Chicago-based consortium, focusing on urban infrastructure challenges
  • Dallas Innovation Alliance effort to enhance infrastructure, mobility and connected living
  • An IBM deployment of a Smarter Cities Challenge team in Detroit for cost-efficient removal and recycling of debris from abandoned and neglected properties
  • The National League of Cities and 25 local government and the 2015 winners of its Multi-City Innovation Campaign: The Bluelight mobile 911 application, and Ride, a collaborative tool for analyzing bicycling data.
  • New York City’s new neighborhood innovation labs that will leverage Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s efforts to expand a free public WiFi network throughout the city.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club. He tracks the development of Gigabit Networks, broadband usage, the universal service fund and wireless policy @BroadbandCensus. He is also Of Counsel with the firm of Best Best & Krieger LLP, with offices in California and Washington, DC. He works with cities, special districts and private companies on planning, financing and coordinating efforts of the many partners necessary to construct broadband infrastructure and deploy “Smart City” applications. You can find him on LinkedIN and Twitter. The articles and posts on BroadbandBreakfast.com and affiliated social media are not legal advice or legal services, do not constitute the creation of an attorney-client privilege, and represent the views of their respective authors.

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Advanced Energy

At National Town Meeting on Smart Grid, Leaders Tout Role of ‘Microgrids’ in Energy Efficiency Projects

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WASHINGTON, July 12, 2013 – Several leaders of microgrid initiatives from around the country spoke on the successes of their projects at the National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid on Thursday.

First, Tom Vosburg, Policy and Project Manager for Fort Collins Utilities Light and Power Operation, discussed the Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration project in Fort Collins, Colorado. The program, which received over $10 million in funding from the Department of Energy and local entities, employed a number of strategies to increase energy efficiency.

Microgrids, or modern, small-scale versions of the centralized electricity system are one such strategy.

Vosburg and his organization worked specifically to reduce peak loads by 20 to 30 percent. Peak loads at one of the feeders were reduced by 25 percent, meeting this goal.

John Bradley, Associate Vice President of Energy and Technical Services at New York University also presented his work on the university’s microgrid. NYU utilizes cogeneration to power about 40 buildings on the campus, although they do rely on other connections as a backup.

Many buildings on the campus also employ wireless occupancy-based sensors and controls that adjust power usage based on occupants as well as the state of the building itself. These controls have resulted in a 30 percent reduction in power usage, Bradley said.

Finally, Will Agate, Senior Vice President of the Navy Yard Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation, described the progress toward establishing a microgrid in the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. His organization has worked with a number of corporations and other groups to develop a plan that focuses on smart grid infrastructure development, a sustainable business plan, customer efficiency, demand reduction, innovative technology and a small carbon footprint.

Agate also spoke on why microgrids are important to advancing smart grid technology. An important part of such programs is their grass roots nature, which he believes has been a model for success in a variety of areas.

“This is a way that customers in the field can decide what they want and what they are going to ask service providers to provide for them,” Agate said.

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