Smart Urban Growth Tackles Mobility and Electricity Distribution Concurrently

Cities can get smart taking control of their electrical grid and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure as a means of addressing urban growth.  Boulder, Colorado is making a run at it but few outside Germany have taken a serious move in this direction for it requires a long-term vision.  Seeking this urban planning route is not always initiated for economical reasons.  Boulder, for instance, is driven to engage as a means of increasing renewable energy sources in their electricity generation fuel mix.  Here’s the catch, this approach may not a scalable or sustainable solution for all cities  Mega cities; no way anytime soon.  Rural environments; not likely ever needed.  So, Boulder just happens to sit in the Goldilocks Zone but even with it being “just right” the increasing digitalization of the electric grid and new sources of distributed energy will make this endeavor a tenuous pursuit.

Years ago I was involved in dozens of negotiations with municipalities throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  Many desired to “take control” of and then offer, as a public service, wireless Internet services for their citizens.  The complexities in equipment management and selection, maintenance, and budgeting were often solely regarded in the context of whether to make the WiFi a free or a for a fee amenity to subscribers.  Thing is, that’s not where the root challenge existed.  Even a little bit of education in these matters achieved a stakeholder stalemate for trying to figure out how to convert a privatized service into a public good without causing bias to an ongoing free market was no simple matter.  The concept of a public-private partnership was alien.

Dealing with increasing urbanization today requires a systemic stakeholder analysis and just the right sitting of pilot efforts in advance of any at-scale execution plans.  To date few cities have taken this approach but Toronto, Canada is on the way.

“...We are designing a district in Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront to tackle the challenges of urban growth…Sidewalk Toronto will combine forward-thinking urban design and new digital technology to create people-centered neighborhoods that achieve precedent-setting levels of sustainability, affordability, mobility, and economic opportunities” – Sidewalk Labs

To do as Sidewalk Labs proposes there must be an integration of technologies, policies, and financial mechanisms that allow for private and public implementation plans to surface, ones in service of many stakeholders.

  • SAMPLE TECHNOLOGIES AT PLAY
  • IMPLEMENTATION APPROACHES
    • Analyze long-tailpipe electricity generation fuel mixes
    • Promote EVs and pilots ONLY in cities that have clean fuel sources
    • Establish population growth and transport demand metrics
    • Conduct customer interviews to fit future needs
    • Create intelligent city policies to cater to DER and EV microgrids
    • Engage private-sector electric mobility companies
    • Educate citizens on mobility and clean energy options
    • Build neighborhood based pilots
    • Engage citizens via engagement workshops for updates
    • Prepared to pivot for at-scale execution
  • STAKEHOLDERS TO ENGAGE
    • City Planners & Urban Designers
    • Public Entities and Administrators
    • Private Technology Providers
    • EV Manufacturers & Infrastructure Providers
    • Load Balancing Software Solution Providers
    • Private and/or Public Electric Utilities
    • Citizens

 

JMB2408 COMMENT TO ANOTHER BLOG POST (Leaf Plates):

This is an excellent solution to consumption and in turn waste. If this was a compostable solution that can be put to use in the local houseplant or compost pile then we’re talking about a dream conversion in consumption to waste. The other thing that would be amazing is to see this scale to shipping boxes or other high consumption transport items. Awesome find, thanks for sharing.

Smart Cities & Off-Grid Energy Storage Systems

“Reliable Power Day and Night,” that’s what a Tesla Energy residential energy battery storage solution promises.  For better and worse, the Tesla Powerwall is no longer just for the few seeking off-grid energy storage systems and want to mitigate against utility outages.  In fact, smart energy offerings such as this are well beyond the top branded Tesla EnergySunrun launched their BrightBox solar-plus-storage product offering, Orison audaciously funded a home storage product through a Kickstarter campaign, and even the old school engineering firms such as Lockheed Martin have taken a foray into the energy management and storage market.

From a citywide sustainability perspective these solutions support the growing public desires to reduce dependency on fossil fuel burning energy sources so we should be pleased these technologies have emerged.  Thing is, their capacities to deliver beyond green washing are vast and actually executing this at scale requires sophisticated regulatory and infrastructure coordination, not to mention a whole other set of technologies for load balancing.  Scaling such offering at a citywide level, well, that’s even more complicated.  Yes, this is what a smart cities should be doing to ride the wave of consumer demand that has gone beyond the need to build a bug out shelter for the next Zombie Apocalypse but integrating solar or renewable energy systems such as wind with battery storage is unfortunately a wicked problem.  In executing these CO2 reducing and intelligent energy management solutions there are significant secondary outcomes.  At the top of the list is the challenge of dealing with the historically denoted “consumer,”  that in the process become a producer.  Hands together now, let’s welcome the prosumer to the stage; the true problem child for energy utilities!

How does an electric utility (one only ever known to sell energy) deal with this new bread called a prosumer?  If all producers install off-grid energy storage systems, what is the new role and responsibility for an electric utility?  In this position, can they garner sufficient income to pay for the maintenance of wires and poles?

To solve these challenges there must be significant regulatory involvement in advance of the transition.  Equipment manufacturers and system integrators also need to find ways to make commercially viable solutions that capitalize on consumer demand, but do so in a way so as to not send out a cry and in turn initiate a utility death spiral; ultimately leaving those without an ability to participate in this new energy marketplace footing the bill for the the entire delivery system.  Lastly, through smaller scale pilot projects all the stakeholders can work out best in class methodologies that will take us from where we are to where we clearly are going.

Thankfully, innovative energy marketplaces and regulators are seeing themselves as critical catalysts and the stakeholders in this new world of distributed energy resources (DERs) are stepping up on a global scale.  Pilot projects have begun and successes through public-private partnerships are happening.  The 2016 Southern California Edison and Tesla unveiling of the world’s largest energy storage facility and the New York City program called NY REV have led the way.  Each is but a portion of larger deployment plans for grid-connected storage batteries and both seek to reduce fossil-fuel reliance.  Comprehensive energy strategies initiated in this way will be a win-win for the utilities that want to defray the costs of replacing peakers plants reaching retirement age and for the prosumer wanting to help reduce CO2 emitting fuel in the energy mix.

 

thoughts on “Internet of Trees – When You Give a Tree an Email Address”

  1. Wow, this is really creative! It makes the trees “come alive” and is pretty amazing for potential in many ways to come. I can only begin to imagine how many other things could be categorized and brought into the electronic fold this way. I’m not sure the value of the email as a form of representation and would like to see that stepped up a bit but it’s a start. Surely the more things in cities get tagged the future will show geocaching is not just for those that are high tech in nature.