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of this past year, three major hurricanes made landfall on the United States and significantly exploited the outdated infrastructure of our country, specifically in Puerto Rico after hurricane Irma. 2 months later, 60% of people on the island are still without power—at one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

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