Laura Sanchez 2017-06-13 17:18:05
I watched honeybees land on the plum tree in my yard recently. With a hum of wingbeats, each insect touched down on a delicate blossom, withdrew its sweetness, and headed off to the next, the marigold pouches on its hind legs swollen with pollen. What struck me was the invisible network of flora that bees create. By visiting 50 to 100 flowers per foraging flight, they establish a connection between individual plants and diverse species. In doing so, bees not only create a matrix of vegetation, they facilitate plant reproduction by collecting and re-distributing pollen. In fact, it’s estimated that honeybees are responsible for pollinating 90% of the world’s food supply. Furthermore, one glimpse of a hive’s interior reveals a feat of collective productivity and precision engineering. Honeybees are collaborative architects and effective communicators. As they construct honeycomb, young worker bees excrete pinpoints of warm wax, while others carefully place them to form hexagonal cell walls less than 0.1mm thick. Each worker bee’s efforts complement the next thanks to a central language—a series of representative dance moves that researcher Karl von Frisch first interpreted in 1947. This kinetic language provides the invisible framework for the hive’s collective efficiency. It streamlines operational processes, facilitates collaboration, and makes possible informed decision-making. Honeybees are the quintessential connectors, an interspecies link that supports thriving ecosystems. In this issue of Distributed Energy magazine we highlight supportive technologies. We bring into focus the honeybees of the energy world—the equipment and software that cross-pollinate, bridge data streams, build integrated architectures, and enable innovation. As constellations of energy resources are added to the current distribution structure, it is increasingly important for these interconnected systems and centralized power stations to functionally complement one another. Therefore, we feel that it’s imperative to bring to the foreground technologies such as energy storage, inverters, communications platforms, software, and cloud-based data solutions that facilitate interoperability and help integrate distributed energy resources. These tools have the potential to not only enhance energy efficiency, but to transform the energy landscape. In “The Strongest Link in the Chain” (page 10) we explore the integrative abilities of inverters and their usefulness in converting DC to AC power onsite. The technology’s ability to change current generated by photovoltaics, wind turbines, and batteries into usable power, renders them ultra-valuable. We also note their usefulness in islanding circumstances when the grid goes down and battery backup is required, making them an integral component of contemporary energy networks. In “A Growing Trend” (page 17) we look at the increasing number of energy architectures that incorporate engines as generation sources. From fuel flexibility, cogeneration capabilities, and the technology’s ability to support diverse power configurations, today’s range of engine sizes—from small-scale to large—makes them an excellent source of resilient power. We explore ways in which battery energy storage can complement UPS performance in “Building Blocks of Power Security” (page 30). Together these two collaborative technologies can provide optimal energy resources and high resiliency. As an example, batteries can supply energy until generators have an opportunity to kick on and can also reduce power costs by supporting peak shaving. Within this issue we also celebrate software technologies and the supportive networks that they often provide. In “Omniscience and Optimization” (page 42) we look at the insight into energy use, production, and savings offered by cloud-based energy management platforms. And in “A Competitive Advantage,” (page 46) we observe ways in which energy storage software can optimize C&I operations by facilitating value stacking and demand charge reduction, and by offering primary frequency regulation. These technologies help companies maximize the value of their storage assets and perform processes with increased efficiency. Just as honeybees are the winged link that connects plant species, partnered technologies, unified energy systems, and consolidated data streams demonstrate the ever-increasing value of collaboration and connectivity—the invisible network that will make our energy future more stable, resilient, and efficient. What supportive technologies does your organization employ to enhance energy performance? DE
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