Category Archives: Energy

Energy

Energy Update

The Fall 2017 semester was a rather opportune time period to engage in research of energy, due to a series of current events, natural disasters, and global action relevant to this topic. In August/September of this past year, three major hurricanes made landfall on the United States and significantly exploited the outdated infrastructure of our country, specifically in Puerto Rico after hurricane Irma. 2 months later, 60% of people on the island are still without power—at one point, this number was over 95%. It came to the attention of our government that the electrical infrastructure of the island is so poor that it essentially will have to be completely rebuilt—a financially and logistically strenuous task.
It is estimated that, globally, 1.3 billion people do not have access to energy. And yet, for developing countries, we have thermostats we can control from our IOT devices. This imbalance among global socioeconomic classes is nothing new, but energy is no exception to this idea. Infrastructure set aside, specifically for small countries, first world countries are uncovering new ways to efficiently/effectively use energy. For example, the idea of electric cars are a relatively new, ever-more-popular technology being adopted in society—specifically with brands such as Tesla (who obtained solar energy company Solar City).
As far as solar energy, solar paint could be a more effective way to responsibly use energy for homes and vehicles, while also being a cheaper alternative (and more aesthetically pleasing alternative) to solar panels. Additionally, solar panels have been added to the Sahara Desert—these panels are even visible from space, though they populate just a small portion of the desert. It has been found that these panels could power the entire world, should the whole desert house these panels.
Utilizing renewable energy will eventually become necessary, not something we do to “be an eco-friendly, good citizen.” We no longer have the choice of being eco-friendly or not for two reasons—we will either run out of energy, or our future generations will suffer tremendously. As technology grows, demand for energy increases—so our usage volume will only increase. Blockchain, for example, requires a country worth the energy consumption—Ethereum, specifically.
Energy is a broad, ever expanding topic, but a strong, responsible foundation of energy will be absolutely necessary in order for technology to continue to grow. Our dependence on energy is simply supply and demand—but we need to find new alternatives to creating supply as demand is only going to continue to increase. Our progress will be limited tremendously should we not grow more responsible—but, should we become more efficient, there will be no foundational limits for technology to continue to disrupt our world.

The world faces some very complex challenges concerning energy. One of these challenges is finding enough energy to fulfill the worlds’ growing demand for energy. The digital transformation that is currently underway in first world countries will cause an increase in demand of energy. We will soon see a spike in the demand for energy because of the dozens of developing countries in the world that will soon need sources of reliable energy. These developing countries are also have very high rates of population growth, meaning more and more people demanding energy. As we continue to bring energy to these developing countries, we must ensure that big energy companies hired to build the energy infrastructure do not exploit the government and citizens of these countries; every human across the world should have fair access to reliable energy.
Another issue we face with energy is infrastructure. This is a huge problem in the United States because much of many of our largest cities have outdated electrical grids and gas lines. This is a problem because modern infrastructure would allow us to use energy more efficiently, and modernizing infrastructure would better increase energy resilience. The term energy resilience includes physical resilience such as resisting a natural disaster, but it also includes cyber resilience in the event of a cyber-attack. Most of the infrastructure in the United States is not well prepared for either one.
Another challenge we will face is increasing and our use of renewable energy such as solar energy. The world is consuming fossil fuels as if they exist in unlimited quantities. Also many economies are too dependent on fossil fuels. For example, a significant portion of Houston’s economy revolves around oil. If the area runs out then it will have devastating effects on the city. The earth wishes to increase its energy consumption, we must increase our use of renewable and green energy sources. It is important for us to invest in green energy now so we do not reach a panic once fossil fuels become scarce.

 

In class, we have been extensively discussing artificial intelligence. Particularly, how it will impact society, what it is capable of, and the potential implications, At first, I never really thought anything of it. I definitely was not a believer. I saw it as robots that would never come to be in my lifetime. Soon after, though, I realized how far off I was. Artificial intelligence is most definitely the next big thing, I believe that we must carefully integrate into most areas of our lives, in order to optimize our daily functions. My particular area of focus is energy, and I believe there are many ways we can implement Artificial intelligence into our energy systems. Things like reducing emissions, increasing efficiency of our electrical system, with regards to transmission and distribution, and creating a smart grid. These are just a few ways artificial intelligence can improve our energy sector; the question that needs to be answered, though, is how?

The first way mentioned is overall efficiency. This efficiency described has to do with output, supply, and demand. We waste tons of energy each year due to inefficient and non optimal output. This is a trend that cannot continue, but artificial intelligence may hold the solution. Technology can be developed through code and algorithms, along with a database of studies, that can accurately predict the optimal output, and maximum efficiency of our solar farms, and other sources such as wind, gas, and electric. This trend is not hype, though, companies like IBM have already invested in predictive artificial intelligence that will improve the efficiency of our electric transmission and distribution systems.These predictive models that are being developed wont just help with efficiency, though. They will also help with security, grid management, and optimal consumption. Researchers have found, that these intelligent machines can help reduce wasted energy by 46 percent. A truly astounding number. Ai integration wont just help advance new forms of energy either. They will also help with the traditional sources such as oil. An example that can be found is in Texas, Oil companies are trying to implement artificial intelligence to find optimal drilling points, to get the most out of each drill. This is truly fascinating, and clearly shows that AI is not all about futuristic, and the mindset of 100 years from now. It is very real, and has real world applications that could change things for the better. We can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, stop wasting electricity, and efficiently use our resources. This is not a huge proposal, or something that is impossible. It will require extensive research and diligent development, but within a few years this a very realistic proposal.

The single most important advancement I believe we must make, is creating a smart grid. This is a growing trend, particularly because of the rise of artificial intelligence. The first step in going about this project is creating the end goal, of what needs to be accomplished from the smart grid. First, to provide prompt response to changing conditions in the electricity network. Next, to predict the behavior of our electrical systems. Improve power quality and output efficiency. Finally, self healing capabilities, as well as guaranteed privacy and security of the grid. This can be achieved by figuring out how we are going to integrate the advanced artificial intelligence being created, with renewable energy sources, to guarantee sustainability and mitigate environmental risk. As long as the algorithms that control these AI are created under safe, regulated conditions, then there should be no problem integrating such technology. Algorithms and artificial intelligence are two of the best known things for solving optimization problems. In my opinion, energy is primarily an optimization problem. We need to figure out optimal output, supply, demand, and allocate based on these calculations. Machines can do this much more efficiently than humans. In conclusion, the smart grid will be operated by deep learning machines that ensure optimal flow of electricity, particularly distribution and transmission. we will no longer waste energy, or be short on supply, This system, powered by Artificial intelligence will revolutionize the energy sector.

 

Now that the electricity problem has been taken care of, it is time to look at the sources of energy that will be best integrated with this system. I believe the renewables are the answer. We need to shift our focus towards wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear going forward. These renewables will provide us with little to no environmental risk, and reduce the carbon footprint. With the integration of deep learning with the renewables, a system that outputs the most efficient and clean energy is certainly possible. Solar appears to be the most efficient renewable we have as of now, and I agree with the perspective of Elon Musk, who believes we should transition to a solar based system. In the meantime we can rely on other renewables to ensure a smooth transition. We can do this by designing more rooftop units in the suburbs, and creating solar fields in unused space across the country. This will ensure that the climate risk is mitigated, fossil fuels are dead, and we can move forward.

The energy sector must be greatly improved before it is too late. The climate is being destroyed, and our output is declining. The current administration is fixated on going back in the past, and “bringing back” jobs in energy that no longer should exist. Coal is not the answer like our President continually insists on. The Answer is forward thinking; integrating artificial intelligence and deep learning into renewable systems to put out the most optimal product. In doing so, our energy sector will be efficient, and competitive on the global scale. OIt will not be an easy process, but with slow and steady steps, we can accomplish it. The crumbling infrastructure we currently have is  a big problem, but with persistence and innovation the problem can be solved.

John Phillips, Frankie Lisa, Michael Cappelluti

How AI can Reshape the Energy Sector

In class, we have been extensively discussing artificial intelligence. Particularly, how it will impact society, what it is capable of, and the potential implications, At first, I never really thought anything of it. I definitely was not a believer. I saw it as robots that would never come to be in my lifetime. Soon after, though, I realized how far off I was. Artificial intelligence is most definitely the next big thing, I believe that we must carefully integrate into most areas of our lives, in order to optimize our daily functions. My particular area of focus is energy, and I believe there are many ways we can implement Artificial intelligence into our energy systems. Things like reducing emissions, increasing efficiency of our electrical system, with regards to transmission and distribution, and creating a smart grid. These are just a few ways artificial intelligence can improve our energy sector; the question that needs to be answered, though, is how?

The first way mentioned is overall efficiency. This efficiency described has to do with output, supply, and demand. We waste tons of energy each year due to inefficient and non optimal output. This is a trend that cannot continue, but artificial intelligence may hold the solution. Technology can be developed through code and algorithms, along with a database of studies, that can accurately predict the optimal output, and maximum efficiency of our solar farms, and other sources such as wind, gas, and electric. This trend is not hype, though, companies like IBM have already invested in predictive artificial intelligence that will improve the efficiency of our electric transmission and distribution systems.These predictive models that are being developed wont just help with efficiency, though. They will also help with security, grid management, and optimal consumption. Researchers have found, that these intelligent machines can help reduce wasted energy by 46 percent. A truly astounding number. Ai integration wont just help advance new forms of energy either. They will also help with the traditional sources such as oil. An example that can be found is in Texas, Oil companies are trying to implement artificial intelligence to find optimal drilling points, to get the most out of each drill. This is truly fascinating, and clearly shows that AI is not all about futuristic, and the mindset of 100 years from now. It is very real, and has real world applications that could change things for the better. We can reduce carbon dioxide emissions, stop wasting electricity, and efficiently use our resources. This is not a huge proposal, or something that is impossible. It will require extensive research and diligent development, but within a few years this a very realistic proposal.

 

In researching how artificial intelligence can potentially be implemented into our energy sector, I am all for it. I believe this would solve the crisis of climate change, by reducing emissions, increasing efficiency, and cut down on wastes. In doing this we would have a secure optimized energy sector, rather than one based off of ineffective models, and human intelligence. Clearly this approach has not worked, but artificial intelligence may be the answer we have been looking for,.

Artificial Intelligence in the Energy Sector

In class, we have been discussing artificial intelligence. It has truly opened my eyes to the potential it can have on society, in every aspect. I believe a direction that we should start taking, or even thinking about in this research, is how we can implement artificial intelligence into the energy sector. I believe with artificial intelligence we can control emissions, regulate our usage, and create a smart grid. This would allow our energy to be efficient, mitigate risks on the climate, and make our grid more secure. Artificial intelligence will also contribute to the speed at which we can research and develop our energy methods. Rather than having to process years and years of information, we can have machines do it for us. This could put us much further ahead than we expected, leading to an revolution.

The first thing we can do is create the smart grid, a system that regulates the two way transmission and distribution in our electrical system, by monitoring it, and making sure it is at the optimal output each time. WE can also use deep learning, technology that will allow us to effectively analyze the supply and demand side of energy, in order to ensure that we don’t under or overproduce. This would save our country a lot of money and time.

This integration is really something we should start thinking about, in order to further advance our energy sector. This would boost efficiency, reduce emissions, and guarantee optimal production of our energy. Integration is really in the early stages, but it is definitely something we must continue researching and developing.

Combining Multiple Energy Sources

With incredibly quick rise of Tesla, battery storage as a source of energy has quickly become a topic of discussion. Last week two energy companies announced their plans to combine battery power with solar and wind power to provide consistent energy to Australia. Australia is heavily dependent on the use of fossil fuels, 63% of energy use comes from coal, and is in need of alternate forms of energy. Combining battery, wind and solar energy is believed to be advantageous because it is more resilient and more adaptable than single source energy. For example, it can produce more energy during prolonged periods of cloudiness or low wind speeds.

Another company in the United States is attempting to something similar by combining battery storage with hydro-dams. Hydro plants store great amounts of energy, however they have slow response times; battery storage units have much faster response times. The main disadvantage with batteries is they have smaller storage capacities but the hydro plants will compensate.”By combining generation with storage, we can take advantage of the beneficial performance characteristics — fast response, fast ramp rate, low O&M costs, zero emissions — while using the generation asset to address the constraint posed by storage’s limited energy duration,” Combining battery storage with other forms of clean energy can potentially be an excellent way to maximize our energy efficiency while minimizing the trade-offs that result from using clean energy. We are continuing to learn more and more about batteries and it will be interesting to see their capabilities once they’ve reached their full potential.

Energy Project Update

I’ve spent a number of my posts discussing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Energy issues, but there is a lot more to this project than just that (my team-mates have eluded to this as well).

“Production of fossil fuels is expected to rise, approximately doubling the amount of use of each fossil fuel.  As world population continues to grow and the limited amount of fossil fuels begin to diminish, it may not be possible to provide the amount of energy demanded by the world by only using fossil fuels to convert energy” says this article.  It goes on to say: “Countries must take action to promote a greater use of renewable energy resources, such as geothermal energy or nuclear power,  so that we can be well prepared when the supplies of fossil fuels are not as plentiful as they seem today.”

Perhaps one country that might’ve read this article, is Morocco. See what they did below:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/02/04/465568055/morocco-unveils-a-massive-solar-power-plant-in-the-sahara

For the U.S. perhaps exploring our own deserts, such as in Nevada, might be a good idea. Furthermore, we can benefit as a world considering other locations/ways to naturally generate energy.

Before we get so desperate that we have to explore some outlandish options, our world leaders should seriously stop dismissing our climate problem and seek responsible, sustainable ways of producing and harvesting energy.

 

 

Using Solar Energy as a Primary Source of Power

 

With our energy supply diminishing, our infrastructure crumbling, and our climate being destroyed, its time to make a change. Our current administration, along with big oil companies are trying to keep us in the past century, by continuing to use fossil fuels and other sources of energy that have negative effects on the planet. Rather than using forward thinking we have adopted this mindset of the past was great, and we need to get back to it. This is a major problem. Solar energy is a much talked about solution to our problems, and it is certainly necessary to look into it. In order to do this we need data, evidence, and forecasts that allow us to gain a general understanding of how this would work.  In conducting research, I came across a study done at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which examines the technology, offers implementation methods, and mentions potential policy changes that could help foster the growth of solar technology. Using the data in the study, i would like to lay out, and analyze solar technology, implementation strategies, climate effects, and policy changes that we can make.

The first step that must be taken, is building a solid foundation of solar energy, in order to prepare for a major scale up of the technology over the next thirty years. The two things that must be occurring, in order for us to achieve this are, finding methods to integrate solar technology into our current electrical systems, and electing representatives that will create policy to foster this growth. The current form of solar energy that is now being used is known as photovoltaic technology. This technology takes energy from the sun and converts it into electricity. It is the most efficient form of distribution, due to its very low costs and high output. The researchers at MIT propose that we shift our focus towards developing this technology, as it is gaining the most support from the industry, they mitigate effects on the climate, and they allow for policy to be made that further support its development. A solution that has been proposed for expanding this technology is using subsidies for generation, rather than investment. This would provide incentive for companies to generate energy by installing such systems.

 

The most important goal we should have as a society when it comes to energy, is efficiency and climate protection. These two things allow for our maximal productivity, and long term sustainability. With these two goals in mind, we can create a framework, that allows us to begin enhancing our energy supply. Solar is clearly one of the top solutions, due to cost efficiency and mitigation of climate effects. This shows that we as a society need to adopt more of a long term mindset, thinking about sustainable energy, that is secure and will create jobs. The framework laid out by researchers at MIT is one I agree with wholeheartedly. Solar energy is something we must continue to develop, and eventually implement into our daily energy systems.

Rebuilding the Caribbean’s Energy

A natural disaster such as a hurricane can be very disruptive to a nation’s economy and destroy it’s infrastructure. Hurricanes Irma and Maria have had devastating effects on energy systems in Puerto Rico and other islands. Many residents of the islands are not expected to regain power for about four to six months. With many of the energy grids having been destroyed, these islands now have an opportunity to rebuild and overhaul their infrastructure.

The Caribbean Islands have some of the highest energy costs in the world because of their reliance on importing fossil fuels. This is a great opportunity for these islands to make the switch to renewable forms of energy. Doing so would decrease emissions from the islands and significantly decrease their energy costs. I mentioned in one of my previous posts that modernizing energy would increase energy resilience, which measures how resilient an energy system is to an event such as a natural disaster.

One proposed solution for the Caribbean is installing microgrids. Microgrids use technologies such as large-scale batteries, solar panels, energy monitoring and control software. When microgrids were introduced, they were unproven and very expensive, however microgrids are now an affordable and feasible option for the rebuilding Caribbean islands. Caribbean governments could rebuild their energy infrastructure using clean energy with the added benefit of improved resiliency without raising rates.

Geoengineering Will Not Fix Our Energy Problem

Researchers in the field of climate change and energy have been spending a lot of time looking into a practice known as geoengineering; deliberately changing the environmental processes of the earth. This practice is one that could be very beneficial to our climate, and may be an option we must resort to in the future, but it is not the answer. This has become a hot topic in the field of science, and I fear that the current administration, who refuses to acknowledge climate change, will resort to this practice and neglect the efficiency of our energy. Rather than worrying about emissions now, and looking to modernize our systems, they will take the “we will fix it later” approach they use with everything. This should not be our last resort, we must continue looking for solutions to fixing our energy systems, by taking a modern approach in which we look to maximize efficiency. This efficiency can be described as providing the most output, with the least emissions and other negative side effects. Prefacing with that, I would like to examine geoengineering, as I believe it will be highly beneficial, I just wanted to point out that its not the only answer.

The goal I have been working towards in this research process, is finding a solution for efficient energy that mitigates effects on the climate as much as possible. So far, I have identified methods to reduce emissions, boost supply, and not harm the climate. As I said earlier, in this post I would like to examine a hot topic that is being talked about as an answer to our energy problem. Geoengineering  is essentially hacking the climate, whether it is glaciers, rocks, waterways, and other natural parts of the environment. This “hacking’ involves fixing problems created by emissions, and other side effects of our energy sources, such as coal. This hacking could actually be a good thing, I believe this should be used as supplemental assistance in the effort of making our energy more efficient. For example, carbon emissions are one of the major reasons our earth is warming, polar climates are melting, and the ozone layer is depleting. The current administration has neglected carbon emissions, for example pulling out of the Paris Agreement. I fear that this trend is going to continue, and we are in for a terrifying future. I don’t want to see them neglect the climate science, and leave our outdated energy sector the way it is. They need to work towards addressing these issues now, rather than later. Final point on this issue, I would love to see this climate hacking implemented as supplemental assistance for reducing emissions and other negative effects, now not later!

Now, the main question is what is the solution? The solution is the complete opposite of what we are seeing now. WE need to ensure that our energy policies are innovative, and continue to push an agenda of modernization into more clean and renewable sources. Right now, we are going back to coal and other fossil fuels, this is simply ineffective and harmful to the environment. We need to make a push towards more solar, nuclear, and electric sources of energy. Studies show that fossil fuels are damaging the climate, and even the inhabitants of the earth. This is not a sustainable model, and we must continue looking for effective solutions. Continuing to invest in these technologies, building our workforce, and limiting the amount of carbon emissions allowed, is a great start for mitigating negative environmental effects. This is a very basic, but effective framework for cleaning up our energy and ensuring the safety of our climate. The switch to clean energy such as solar and nuclear will save us a lot of time, before we need to manually edit the environment. To me, this is unethical, and risky. This is why we need to start right now; actively pursuing efficient sources of energy.

 

Is There Enough Energy for the World?

One of the many problems third world countries face is they do not have access to energy. That does not mean there is a shortage of energy in existence for these countries; in fact, there is more than enough energy for the whole world. In the next thirty years we will see a surge in demand for energy with countries possessing rapidly developing economies. According to ExxonMobil, “global energy use growing from roughly 400 quadrillion Btus in 2000 to over 700 quadrillion Btus by 2040 with virtually all of the increase coming from outside today’s high-income countries.” One of the biggest challenges society will face over the next few decades is making sure that energy is available to all who need it. In developing countries that do have access to energy, it is often expensive and unreliable. This lack of access to energy is also restricting the growth of business and industries in developing countries.   The World Bank sees access to energy services as “a huge global equity issue.” This could not be more true, every human should have access to energy regardless of financial status. These developing countries also have very high rates of population growth; if these developing countries do not gain access to energy within the next few decades, that will only lead to millions more without energy. It is also important that the people of these developing countries are not exploited by the energy companies, or else that will create exclusive energy access.

An interesting fact that should be noted is that the demand for high income countries is not projected to change much. One factor to explain this is smaller population growth. Another reason being the increase in efficiency these countries have made requires them to consume less energy.

The Modern Energy Workforce

Like any major sector of the United States, energy employs millions of people per year. Studies show that approximately 6.4 million people are employed in the energy sector, and it appears to be trending higher. Energy jobs are some of the most important; they are necessary for keeping our grid safe, ensuring effective transmission and distribution, and mitigating emissions. These elements provide a simple, but effective framework for determining our goals with regards to energy. Like anything, strategy combined with end goals, is an effective formula for completing tasks in a specific field. In this piece, I would like to outline how to effectively build the modern energy workforce, using specific examples to define which fields employees will be needed. In the nuclear, electrical, decarbonization, and other fields, tasks, such as innovation and technological advancement are necessary for the foundation of the workforce.

The energy workforce needs to promote the growth of our communities, locally, and nationally. The second major goal of our workforce should be to enhance the overall position of the United States in the global markets. These employees need the proper training, in order to gain the proper skills for ensuring we have the best supply, and most efficient transmission and distribution systems. A framework created by the energy futures initiatives, recommends a regional approach to creating energy related jobs, and providing the training. This approach seems the most logical to me, simply because it divides the country into portions that aren’t too small or too large. This allows for easy identification of issues, efficient allocation of resources, and more user friendly on the job training. This is the first step in expanding our energy workforce; without a solid foundation, expansion will not be possible.

 

The next question that must be visited, is what kinds of jobs are we looking at in the future? The current administration insists on pushing this idea that we are somehow going to bring jobs of the past back to the United States. Frankly, this is a logical fallacy; rather than forward thinking this is backward thinking and will only set us back for years to come. Manufacturing and production jobs, that once dominated this country no longer exist. Rather than looking into the past, we should search for new means of labor for our citizens that will have a greater impact on society. From research conducted by Ernest Moniz, former secretary of energy, it has been forecasted that 2.2 million jobs will be available in energy efficiency. This means mitigating emissions, improving our electrical transmission systems, ensuring the security of our grid, and decarbonizing our systems. All of these factors combine to create an efficient energy sector. One with high output, quick speed, and little to no emissions. If this type of system can be achieved then we are guaranteed to expand the employment in the energy sector.

A simple but effective strategy I believe we can use to expand the workforce is through college recruiting, through internships, summer programs, and other co op type opportunities. Gaining the interest of the brightest young minds in America, to innovate and create within this sector would profoundly impact the effectiveness and competitiveness of our sector. The second component to this plan would be reaching out to the unrepresented population, and providing them with education programs and on the job training to people such as veterans, and those from less fortunate communities. This whole strategy allows for outreach, and can potentially bring together the brightest minds in our country; all while providing everyone with equal opportunity no matter the background. The end goal of this is job creation, and putting the necessary workers in place to improve our overall efficiency.

In this piece, I outlined a framework that will allow for expansion in our workforce, particularly in the energy sector. If we work towards growing the 6.4 million current jobs, through forward thinking, with the a goal of improving efficiency, we will see a workforce that is well trained, involving people of all backgrounds, producing results. We need to work towards mitigating emissions and improving our overall transmission and distribution of energy. In the end, this will increase our global competitiveness and bring clean energy to our communities.