Power Cache

By Carl Ford August 15, 2011

Many of our readers come from the world of IP, so making an analogy about the Internet is not only familiar, but appropriate. Here are some similarities and why they are a good reference.

Lessons from Internet Video
We could make the comparison that demand was very predictable for people using televisions. They would watch a show at the time the networks broadcasted it and that would allow them to manage a single stream. People were predictable because of the mandate of time. Now, however, people are creating and modifying content. The streams are not only broadcasts but cached on the network for wherever, whenever video on demand. We all don’t click YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu at the same time. 

The result has been the rise of Content Delivery Networks [CDNs] and personal video recorders [PVRs] deployed in homes; furthermore causing storage to end up in homes, in the access provider and in the cloud. The cloud connecting to the consumer came after the caching networks for wholesale.

Predicting via Social Networks
If there was a way for energy to be cached at home, in the utility and in the cloud it would benefit from the ability to tie into the social network. Aspects of our social communications could be used to deliver timely energy when we need it or better yet at the optimum price. At the present time, the best that can happen is predictive systems for utility and not a consumer service.

We would want the battery equivalent of an on demand generator in the house; however, unless it’s associated with the automotive industry, I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

Looking for the Clearinghouse
On the infrastructure side, the use of battery systems to cache in the smart grid is being done by companies such as A123. A123 is currently deploying battery systems that are used as Ancillary Services that include Frequency Regulation and Spinning Reserves to the wholesale markets.

Think of this as the cloud part of the business. They systems augment in peak and are also used to hold reserves when capacity is not being used, like the way the backbone is now managed by content delivery networks. 

Systems that Support Energy Storage Could Drive New Markets
These are larger systems; A123 Smart Grid Stability System [SGSS] has the following characteristics:

  • 2 MW power and 500 kWh energy capacity
  • 20ms response time for power output changes in response to control signals
  • System round-trip efficiency near 90 percent
  • Cycle-life ranging from near 10,000 to multiple 100,000s

These systems lend themselves to sporadic peaks. The SGSS is deployed in the large utility operators associated with wind turbines. The early deployments are in California where the standards for renewable power are higher. There have been efforts to make a clearinghouse protocol for energy as well.

If the lessons of the Internet carry over, these systems can take on a life of their own as part of what we should call the Energy Storage Networks [ESN].

The likely scenarios are that companies expand their services with a managed network solution to start. While many communications companies would like to be in this mix to support the utilities, I am reminded that GE used to run an online service and it may be the large integrators that expand their services.

Currently, there are a number of solutions like this for the enterprise to work with the utilities. It may be overtime these solutions turn into the ESNs since they are on the buy side.

And buying power means a lot of cache. ;<)

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Carl Ford is a partner at Crossfire Media.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca

Partner, Crossfire Media

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