Laura Sanchez 2016-04-15 18:02:01
I learned recently that prior to 1948, if you plugged a clock from New York into an electrical outlet in Los Angeles, it would lose 10 minutes every hour. A record player would play so slowly that the music was almost unrecognizable. Many devices would not work at all because southern California’s power grid operated on a different frequency than the rest of the US, with an alternating cycle of 50 cycles per second instead of 60 Hz. A national standard had not yet been established in 1893 when the nation’s first three-phase, alternating current, hydroelectric plant began supplying Los Angeles with power, writes Nathan Masters for Gizmodo (http://bit.ly/1VgvIG6). General Electric supervising engineer Louis Bell determined the frequency. And with this decision, he made southern California an energy island. For more than 50 years, manufacturers made special devices for the southern California market. But in 1945, pressed by frustrated clients, Southern California Edison began synchronizing its power frequency with the rest of the nation’s. The change entailed a $34.4 million retrofit of all transmission equipment. But three years later, when the transition was completed, southern California’s energy grid pulsed with the rest of the US. Today, the energy industry is on the verge of a similar transformation. It is poised to reevaluate and reconfigure the way that it generates, stores, and distributes energy. The energy landscape as we know it is changing. And once again innovation is the catalyst. New technologies are a driving force behind this industry-wide shift. Advances in distributed energy resources and energy storage products, coupled with lower costs, support the incorporation of renewable energy sources and enable an array of new grid architectures. A changing regulatory climate and mounting public concern over sustainability have further accelerated the transition. Innovations in energy data management have increased the quality and accuracy of data available to energy users and have successfully converted it into actionable information. Device interoperability and the Internet of Things have enhanced our efficiency programs and put the controls at our fingertips. Technological developments such as these are helping businesses optimize their usage and make smarter choices with impactful results. We honor this industry evolution with an array of stories that exemplify intelligent efficiency and offer technical insight to support the dynamic shift taking place. “The Future Is Now” (pg. 10) reveals cutting-edge developments in fuel cell technology, as well as the myriad of configurations and advantages they will provide as our energy distribution system is transformed. “Energy Management Systems” (pg. 16) uncovers various ways in which new data streams can lead to enhanced awareness and informed conservation. Today, with focused efficiency efforts and knowledge-based decision-making, we have the opportunity to grow smarter about energy consumption and take measures to offset our usage. We offer examples of this in three articles about net zero energy buildings, structures that produce enough energy with integrated renewables to offset their usage. “Net Zero Energy” (pg. 22) outlines a clear technical blueprint for engineering the sustainable building, while “Nothing but Net (Zero) for Walgreens” (pg. 36) relates the innovative design and construction process of Walgreens’ flagship store in Chicago, and “Water Loop Heat Pumps” (pg. 46) offers optimization strategies for buildings trying to achieve net zero energy. These buildings are leading the way in renewable integration and are helping redefine the energy paradigm. This is an exhilarating moment in distributed energy’s history—one that marks the convergence of old and new technologies, as well as the industry’s movement toward a dynamic structure and intelligent energy solutions. What will the energy landscape of the future look like? BE
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