The time is right to amp-up blended renewable energy and energy storage solutions dedicated to solely power our infrastructure.

Infrastructure to be Powered by Dedicated Renewable Energy Systems

Scott Sklar | The Stella Group, Ltd

In our industrialized country, dependency on shared critical infrastructure is essential.  Over 62.7% of the population (205.5 million) lives in cities and around 90 million in suburbs and towns.  And shared infrastructure – pipelines (water, sewage, fuels), water & sewage treatment plants, cellular towers, datacenters,  hospitals, as well as intersection, railway and port signal lights etc are all absolutely essential to sustain basic operations. –over one-third of all US electricity.

 

Infrastructure

Datacenters use 10% of US electric generation, the 307,000 cell towers and cell phone charging use another 5 percent of US electricity, Water and sewage pipelines and treatment account for 13& and 4% of US electricity.

US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says 11% of US energy is used for lighting in commercial buildings, public street and highway lighting, and so 5% is likely just for lighting, according to my calculations.

The United States has more than 217,000 miles of interstate natural gas pipelines to deliver natural gas from producing regions to end users. And, here are approximately 72,000 miles of crude oil lines in the U.S. that connect regional markets.—and the USA has the largest pipeline network in the world. Electricity used to power these pipeline pumps are over 7.5%.

 

Risk

A supply chain cyberattack (April 3, 2018) has disrupted a customer transaction service for a network of U.S. natural gas companies, according to multiple news reports. It affected a software platform, developed by a company named Energy Services Group LLC, according to Bloomberg News., which owns more than 71,000 miles of pipelines containing natural gas, crude oil and other commodities.

A study in the journal Nature Geoscience states that temperature increases due to global warming could turn out to be twice as much as what climate models are currently projecting. In addition, sea levels could rise by six meters (19.6 feet) or more, even if the two degree threshold for average global temperature increase outlined in the Paris Agreement is achieved, which effects over half of our infrastructure.

A striking report (2018) has revealed that 90 percent of the 137 interstate pipeline fires or explosions  since 2010 have drawn no financial penalties for the companies responsible.

The USA has an aging infrastructure, impacted by intense weather and changes in climate, human error, increasing cyber threats,  forest fires, quakes, animals, and failures in operations and maintenance.

 

Technologies

As battery prices have fallen 62% over the last seen years and appear to be headed for another 21% reduction over the next four years, along with increased capability and lower costs of sensors, controls, and software ….on-site renewable powering.

Additionally, the U.S. has over 2,100 sites producing biogas: 247 anaerobic digesters on farms, 1,241 wastewater treatment plants using an anaerobic digester (~860 currently use the biogas they produce), 38 standalone (non-agriculture and non-wastewater) anaerobic digesters, and 645 landfill gas projects.

Scientific American Aug 28, 2017, reports when you exclude the production tax credit and look at the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from interior wind, it still comes in at an extremely competitive cost of less than 50 dollars per megawatt-hour (5 cents per kilowatt-hour).And the Natipnal renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) states in 2018, the range for the cost of solar panels, will run from as low as $0.85 per watt to $1.25 per watt with output ranging from 150W to 350W for a typical solar panel. (Oct 28, 2018)

Small free-flow hydropower systems, that can be tired to infrastructure, - these water energy system costs can vary widely depending on the energy needed, the head, the flow, and the distances between intake, turbine, and wherever the energy is being used. The cost of the turbine—home- to ranch-scale models range from perhaps $1,500 to $10,000, for 24 hour power.

Heat engines – organic rankine cycle, stirling, brayton and others can tap into waste heat, steam pipes, air-conditioning, biogas, concentrated solar, etc to generate electricity – now offered by global companies Barber Nichols, Mitsubishi, Ormat etc. that are growing in versatility and becoming lower in costs.

 

The Premise

Over the last decade, over 100 companies offer standardized, modular, inter-operable, web-enabled (diagnostics-only). Deployable systems -- most of them are hybrid renewable energy systems with battery banks. These technological solutions are more cost-effective than traditional grid tied or diesel generator approaches., They can access private capital utilizing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), leasing, shared savings, etc.,  and are far more reliable than the existing energy supply model.

There is no fuel supply risk, because the energy source is on-site at the point of infrastructure, and since these are independent generators, they cannot be controlled through the internet, and are cybersecure. And over the last 18 years, I specified these systems for the military – military bases and forward operating bases, corporate campuses and infrastructure, they can be fashioned to withstand anything mother nature, terrorists, and others can dish out.

Aside for a lower-cost and more resilient infrastructure, the reduction of electric power on the existing electric power lines, will reduce system stress and allow for electric growth without adding costs for additional power line additions.

When energy security and resiliency is tied to lower costs, lower water fresh water use, and substantially lower regulated emissions and greenhouse gas emissions – everyone wins.
 

Conclusion

The US Congress is poised to drive a bipartisan infrastructure bill in the new Congress. They actually passed two FY’19 authorization bills in the Fall of 2018 which also drives infrastructure to a new level.

Within the FY19 Department of Defense Authorization Act, Section 101(e)(8) on Military installation resilience states, -“The term  military installation resilience' means the capability of a military installation to avoid, prepare for,  minimize the effect of, adapt to, and recover from extreme weather events, or from anticipated or unanticipated changes in environmental conditions, that  do, or have the potential to, adversely affect the military installation or essential transportation, logistical, or other necessary resources outside of the military installation that are necessary in order to maintain, improve, or rapidly reestablish installation mission assurance and mission-essential functions.'

The FY’19 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization bill passed will advance electric grids, power supplies and building stock that are reliable, more resilient, agile, cost effective, cyber-secure, and environmentally sound. The legislation included two key pieces of legislation – the Disaster Recovery Reform Act, and the PREPARE Act – according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) which will ensure that the United States does two things: better prepares for disasters and extreme weather events and rebuilds more resiliently for when disaster does strike.”

The time is right to amp-up blended renewable energy and energy storage solutions dedicated to solely power our infrastructure. They provide no threat of fuel chain disruptions or cyber attacks on the grid, and are far more resilient to the effects of extreme weather, climate change, and other threats.

So what are we waiting for ?

 

About The Stella Group, Ltd.
The Stella Group, Ltd. is a strategic technology optimization and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies which include advanced batteries and controls, energy efficiency and chp, fuel cells, geo-exchange, heat engines, minigeneration (natural gas/propane), microhydropower and water energy (freeflow, tidal, & wave, etc.),  modular biomass/biofuels, photovoltaics, small wind, and solar thermal (including daylighting, water heating, industrial preheat, building air-conditioning, and electric power generation). The Stella Group, Ltd. blends distributed energy technologies, aggregates financing (including leasing), with a focus on system standardization. Scott Sklar, the Group's founder and president, lives in a solar home and has a zero energy office building in Arlington, Virginia.

Scott Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching three unique interdisciplinary sustainable energy courses, and an Affiliated Professor with CATIE, an international graduate university in Costa Rica offering graduate degrees on sustainability. Sklar is the Energy Director at GWU’s Environment and Energy Management Institute (EEMI). On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia. Sklar was re-appointed to the US  Department of Commerce Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (RE&EEAC), where he served as its Chair, (ending in June 2016)  and  re-appointed onto DOC RE&EEAC and served as Vice Chair through June 2018, and  now re-appointed again through June 2020.

 
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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