Archive | November, 2012

Not Ready for a ‘Solar Sandy’ – NYTimes.com

4 Nov

Yet another case of too big to succeed:

A 2008 National Academy of Sciences study warned that “because of the interconnectedness of critical infrastructures in modern society,” the “collateral effects of a longer-term outage” would likely include “disruption of the transportation, communication, banking and finance systems, and government services; the breakdown of the distribution of potable water owing to pump failure; and the loss of perishable foods and medications because of lack of refrigeration.”

via Not Ready for a ‘Solar Sandy’ – NYTimes.com.

Deciding Where Future Disasters Will Strike – NYTimes.com

4 Nov

By now it is commonplace to point out that climate change is unfair, that it tends to leave the big “emitter countries” in good shape — think Russia or Canada or, until recently, America — while preying on the low-emitting, the poor, the weak, the African, the tropical. But more grossly unfair is the notion that, in lieu of serious carbon cuts, we will all simply adapt to climate change. Manhattan can and increasingly will. Rotterdam can and has. Dhaka or Chittagong or Breezy Point patently cannot. If a system of sea walls is built around New York, its estimated $10 billion price tag would be five times what rich countries have given in aid to help poorer countries prepare for a warmer world.

Whether climate change caused Sandy’s destruction is a question for scientists — and in many ways it’s a stupid question, akin to asking whether gravity is the reason an old house collapsed when it did. The global temperature can rise another 10 degrees, and the answer will always be: sorta. By deciding to adapt to climate change — a decision that has already been partly made, because significant warming is already baked into the system — we have decided to embrace a world of walls.

via Deciding Where Future Disasters Will Strike – NYTimes.com.

In backup generators we trust? – Boing Boing

4 Nov

Right now, your neighborhood gets that voltage and frequency signal from the larger grid as a whole. If you’re suddenly cut off from the signal, your neighborhood will cease to have a working electric system — even if there are sources of generation right there down the block.

In an emergency situation, we do suddenly have lots of hyper-local generation sources — those 12 million backup generators. What we don’t have is the infrastructure in place to take advantage of that. A backup generator can power a building, but, in general, it can’t share resources with the building next door.

A microgrid would change that, enabling areas the size of neighborhoods to operate independently in the event of an emergency. “Your backup generators are tied together and then you can redirect power from where it’s available … say at a bank … to a hospital, or a fire station, or someplace more critical,” Zimmerle said.

Doing that means updating technology, but it also means changing the way we think about legal and regulatory frameworks. In particular, Zimmerle pointed to power purchase agreements — contracts between the people who get electricity to your house and the people who generate it. In some places, those two jobs are done by the same people. But where they aren’t, power purchase agreements usually limit the amount of electricity that can be generated locally.

via In backup generators we trust? – Boing Boing.