The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

Smart Grid Security - First Know Thyself

The Stuxnet virus that struck Iran's nuclear program served as a wakeup call for many utilities, but government and commercial entities of all types need to assess their vulnerabilities.

Smart Data Centres Can Learn from Fast Cars and Laptops


The new Tesla electric car can achieve 0
to 100km/h (60 mph) in 3.7s and has a range of around 400km (250 miles).  When powered by sustainable energy it becomes
an exceedingly efficient machine compared to our present hydro-carbon based
motor vehicles, but it can do more. Indeed it has been estimated that if you
could get 20% of a city’s population to use plug in electric vehicles such as
Tesla, there would be enough available energy to allow the whole city to switch to 100% renewable energy!  It is thought
that in the future with enough of these cars connected to a smart-grid, and by making
use of the their 95% idle time, we could also reduce peak power by
around 30%.  

Smart is the term
being used to aggregate some of the ultimate thinking around the exploitation
of the energy we are generating, storing or able to harness from natural
sources.   It is especially aimed at those
systems that are distributed, are able to store energy and able to respond to varying availability of energy, that is discretionary
use of energy.  With regard to vehicles,
this concept is often known by the term
Vehicle-to-grid.  Obviously something drastic has to change in
the way we generate energy at the moment, in order to overcome the efficiency mismatch
between the vehicle and the method of generating energy for the grid– but the
first steps have been taken. So what’s next?

Apart from cars, the other mobile device we are very
familiar with, which also has a very efficient storage mechanism, is our
laptop.   Most modern laptops are equipped
with Lithium-ion batteries that on average have an energy capacity of around
50W.  To give some perspective - an
average house consumes 2kWh of energy, suggesting that it would take 40 laptops
to sustain such a house for a single hour.  
Conversely, a hybrid car could sustain the same house for nearly 5
hours!   But a laptop could sustain an
Apple 3G iPhone
for 10 hours and taking it one step further, if we could marshal the world’s 177.1 million laptops we would
have a distributed energy potential of 8.9GWatts, enough to sustain a typical
IT Data Centre for a year; assuming no wanted to use their laptop!

Even though ICT Data Centres have been seen as energy hungry, they are slowly coming under control ( report), however there is still a lot of work to be done to reduce the base
power consumption.  Reducing the base load will lead to further significant optimisations, such as conversion to a DC
grid and allow the introduction smart grid technology.  Base load can be tackled and if we were to treat servers as being equivalent to our laptops.  It would mean they could have their individual local UPS – that is, a battery.  
In this article the
author has done just that – he discusses the methods of getting a 670W internet
server to operate at the equivalent of a laptop, 30W.  So who knows where it will lead – we could
very well have an analogous partnership between the laptop and the Data Centre at
the facility level.

I think the message here is, that there is a great deal of energy at the edge
that can be harnessed with smart technologies. 
Achieving this will allow us to manage peak demand better and to draw on
distributed renewable energy resources. 
For example in the in the November 2009 issue of Scientific American
there is a diagram on page 43 titled

Clean Electricity 24/7
which nicely shows how Geo-thermal, Wind, Solar and Hydro can
come together to achieve a more sustainable energy profile  avoiding the waste that comes from managing peak


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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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