Disruptive Tech Property Industry Impact – Energy Storage

20130603-180105.jpg The seventh in my series on how the McKinsey and Company 12 Disruptive Technologies might impact the property industry – this time, Energy Storage. This one has some fairly obvious impacts on the property industry, some of which we are seeing already with fuel cells, batteries etc but what might some of the other impacts be?

One of the big drivers to this might be the ability of our aging infrastructure to deal with the increased power demands. In NSW we have seen recent increases in electricity costs due to increased investment in Poles and Wires, as we continue to grow as a state and as a country greater investment will be needed.

Or rather than investing in growing the infrastructure, we are forces into greater investment in reducing the demand on our existing infrastructure through things like onsite energy storage.

As the technology of energy storage improves I think the latter is likely to be the case.

So what will onsite energy storage give us?

The obvious ones.

Control the onsite fluctuation in demand

If we become more mobile as a workforce through the advent of faster mobile internet and the cloud, it could greatly change the energy demand within our buildings? We could potentially see the energy demand through occupancy vary rapidly throughout the day as people come and go to suit their schedule rather than being fixed to one desk. Our buildings are currently designed to suit close to full occupancy from 0800 to 1800, so how do they need to adapt to suit these new demands?

One of the solutions might be that our buildings are designed for less than 50% occupancy, with energy storage being used to provide the fluctuation in demands to avoid the rapid fluctuations that the grid needs to respond to. Our existing buildings when refurbished might also be designed to suit a less than 50% demand.

So in the not too distant future we could see the management of the fluctuations in demand on the grid through energy storage as well as smart meters through the internet of things.

Peak Demand Reduction

The largest impact on our electrical infrastructure is peak demand rather than the annual energy use. Peak demand is what causes the majority of summertime blackouts across our system and onsite energy storage could go a long way to reducing the peak demand of our buildings.

The onsite energy storage systems could be recharged at night in office buildings to be used during the day, greatly flattening out the peaks and troughs of energy demand within our network.

Maybe we should think one step further and create district energy storage systems. All the buildings within a district could recharge a central energy store in the non-peak times and draw on that stored energy in their peak times. This would involve a whole new model of energy delivery, a bit like city of sydney’s approach to their green transformer network. Could the city of sydney system be complimented with an energy storage system?

The not so obvious ones.

Personal Energy Store

What about if energy storage solutions became so lightweight and efficient that we had to carry the energy we were going to use in a day in our back pack? Obviously fitted with some flexi PV cells for recharge. Think about the first mobile phones, they came with a battery the size of a car battery but only lasted a day. Smart phones now do way more than the first mobile phones and have a battery 10% of the physical size.

Jump forward 20 years and if a car battery size energy store could hold enough energy for our whole day it would change the way our buildings are designed. When we walk into an office building we would be bringing our own power, we would be responsible for how quickly or inefficiently we use that stored energy. We would be seeking out daylight spaces to avoid needing to run artificial lights from our own energy.

Maybe our trains and buses could be used to recharge our energy stores while we travel on them, encouraging us to stay away from our cars. Maybe we would get free top ups if we cycled or walked? Perhaps we could get good behavior energy downloads.

A stretch too far, how about just personal responsibility then.

Personal Responsibility!

Take a step back from onsite energy storage and imagine we have created good efficient energy storage in our grid, such as the flywheel installation in the US pictured above. Now think about how we could each become responsible for our total energy use and not just in our homes.

In the same way as cloud services are charged on a subscription based service we might see the same happen with energy use. In this scenario we are talking about the grid as being a big energy store so its not quite in line with the intent of McKinsey but we could see energy generation within our homes, or energy storage within our cars being linked to our personal energy use within our buildings.

This could place a greater emphasis on personal responsibility in all our uses of energy throughout the day. Imagine if you get real time data from the future energy provider that says “you are close to maximum energy download for the day” bit like we do with our mobile data downloads at the moment.

Now that would change things!

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