May 29, 2017
Certified smart meters give wildly inaccurate readings
May 29, 2017
Smart meters can provide electricity readings up to six times higher than actual levels, according to a new study by scientists at the Dutch University of Twente, reports energy author David Thorpe in an article on The Energy Collective (When Certified Smart Meters Still Give Wildly Inaccurate Readings).
The meters have passed standards tests, according to the researchers, but these tests failed to identify faults “because the meters contain components not designed to measure some of the latest devices in use, and the standards have not yet caught up with this”.
The unreliability is especially prevalent when meters monitor the outputs of LED lighting when they are combined with dimmers, writes Thorpe.
Tests found that 60 per cent of the meters tested frequently gave results as much as 582 per cent (almost six times) the actual energy use, while some of the meters under-recorded consumption by up to 30 per cent.
“Many types of LEDs have not been designed to be used with dimmers, but even those that did generated false readings in some meters. The electricity being consumed has an erratic waveform and many of the meters tested were unable to process this, which caused the inaccurate results.”
The researchers “dismantled the energy meters tested and discovered the ones giving excessively high readings contained a Rogowski coil current sensor. The meters giving a lower than actual deviation were fitted with a Hall effect-based current sensor.”
Frank Leferink, professor of electromagnetic compatibility at the University of Twente, said: “The energy meters we tested meet all the legal requirements and are certified. These requirements, however, have not made sufficient allowance for modern switching devices”.
The standardised test for meters does not make allowance for waveform-contaminating power-consuming appliances. As a result, according to the researchers, it is an unsuitable method for testing meters. Professor Leferink advises any consumers who doubt their meter readings to contact their supplier.
In the Netherlands, 750,000 of these meters have been fitted. Millions of similar meters may be installed around the world, notes Thorpe. “The only way for their owners to know if they contain the misleading current sensors would be to consult the manufacturer. They would then have to replace the meters at their own cost under present circumstances – an unacceptable case of testing standards failing the marketplace.”
The study, Static Energy Meter Errors Caused by Conducted Electromagnetic Interference, was published in the scientific journal IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Magazine.
Standards for all energy meters can be found on this European Union website.
Note: David Thorpe is the author of a number of books on energy efficiency, sustainable building and renewable energy, including The Expert Guide To Energy Management In Buildings and The Expert Guide To Energy Management In Industry. Find out more and buy the books here.
“Efficient” electric grid = tremendous security risk
May 29, 2017
Electric grids worldwide are increasingly vulnerable to attack as new technologies like smart meters and analytical software are added to them.
According to a recent report from MIT’s Center for International Studies, “pressure to make older equipment in utilities, transformers, and transmission lines compatible with newer, more efficient Internet-connected equipment at the lowest possible cost has too often made security an afterthought.” That creates “juicy targets for hackers”.
“For the sake of efficiencies … we have created tremendous risk for ourselves,” warns Joel Brenner, the principal author of the MIT report.
An article in MIT Technology Review (Patching the electric grid) has the alarming story. It says that most utilities deal with two or three incidents a year that require investigation, but the probability of some kind of attack happening in a given year is 100 percent, according to Leo Simonovich, director of global cyber strategy at Siemens.
About 30 percent of attacks are on the systems that operate the physical plants, whether it be switches or older on-site controls that may not be connected to central operations. That’s up from about 5 percent two years ago, Simonovich says.
Now, says MIT’s Brenner, people are waking up to the danger. President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order to speed coordination and enforcement for cybersecurity across agencies, including those that oversee the electric grid. The order builds on moves by the Obama and Bush administrations to better coordinate authority across state lines. One requirement: an assessment of the U.S. ability to withstand a major grid attack.
Vulnerability can come in a variety of forms, notes MIT, “from an unsuspecting field operator clicking on malicious software in an e-mail attachment to malware that can detect vulnerabilities in generating and transmission equipment. Or it might come from skilled hackers targeting systems with outdated software. Worries about grid hacks have spiked since a 2015 strike on Ukraine’s electric grid. Attackers spent months undetected learning Ukraine’s system, probing the networks, stealing credentials, and planning a coordinated assault that eventually cut power to 225,000 people.”
“My primary concern underlying this whole thing is the pace at which adversaries move,” says Manimaran Govindarasu, an engineering professor at Iowa State University who has studied the vulnerability of the electric grid. “How do we bridge that gap?” Historically, “technology such as the actual switches and physical controls inside a power plant has been upgraded every 15 to 20 years. That’s much slower than the pace in the IT sector, where new generations of technology are installed every three to five years.”
The electricity sector is taking increasing action to deal with the threat. The Edison Electric Institute estimates that its member companies spent $52.8 billion to modernize transmission and distribution infrastructure in 2016, twice the amount spent a decade ago.
Companies including General Electric, Siemens, and Honeywell, whose systems and equipment serve utilities and grid operators, are selling new software, training packages, and data-capturing technologies that they say will help identify threats and prevent damage. Siemens is working with Darktrace, an artificial-intelligence firm with which it recently partnered, to design a system that learns what it calls “a pattern of life” in electricity networks, devices, and the people operating the equipment.
Negative emissions: bioethanol facility in U.S. makes it real
May 29, 2017
Nearly all projections for meeting temperature goals established in the 2015 Paris Climate agreement rely on “negative emissions,” or removing CO2 that is already in the atmosphere. So what are the best methods to achieve negative emissions, and how do we accelerate deployment of those methods, asks Ron Munson of the Global CCS Institute in an article on The Energy Collective (Negative CO2 emissions: making it real)?
He notes that “there are several negative emissions technologies that have been talked about in the press and other venues, but the most mature is bioethanol production with carbon capture and storage (or BECCS). “
This is showcased by the recent start-up of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) system at the Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) bioethanol production facility in Decatur, Illinois, which will inject over one million tonnes per year (Mtpy) of CO2 7000 feet underground for permanent storage. The ADM effort was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the largest of its kind in the world. Smaller ethanol-BECCS facilities already operate in Kansas, Texas and Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Bioethanol is ethanol that is typically produced from plants with high sugar and starch content – such as corn and sugar cane. In 2015, global bioethanol production was over 25 billion gallons. Most of the bio-ethanol produced globally is used as transportation fuel.
As Munson explains, “Bioethanol can be made from a wide range of biomass types. When sugar-based plants are used, the process starts with crushing and then soaking the crop in water to dissolve sugars. The liquid part is separated from the solid and fermented using enzymes, converting the sugars into alcohol and CO2. The liquid is then distilled to produce ethanol.
When starch-based plants are used, the crop is cleaned, milled, and then converted into fermentable sugars using a targeted form of enzyme (amylase). From that point on, the process is similar to that for high-sugar crops.
Cellulosic biomass types like grass and woody crops can also be used, although this requires a different technology – biomass pre-treatment to convert cellulose into sugars – which are then fermented similarly to the conventional process. Fuel produced using this process is classified as 2nd generation bioethanol (also called advanced or cellulosic biofuel).”
The fermentation step produces gases with high CO2 concentration. For each tonne of bioethanol produced, about 0.7 tonne of nearly pure CO2 is emitted from the fermentation process. After water removal, the gas can be sent for compression and transport. The costs to capture, compress, transport and store CO2 associated with this process have been estimated at approximately $30 per ton or less – depending on the size of the facility – compared to $60 to $80 per ton for CO2 produced from power generation.
According to Munson, continued investment into this type of BECCS will require adoption of tax credit bills currently debated in the House and Senate, which provide incentives ranging from $35 to $50 per ton of CO2 stored.
Wireless charging roads versus batteries
May 29, 2017
Israel is investing in roads that power electric buses as they ride down the street, reports Scientific American in a recent article.
The Israeli government is collaborating with start-up ElectRoad to install a public bus route in Tel Aviv, using an under-the-pavement wireless technology that eliminates the need for plug-in recharging stations.
“Although still in its infancy, the technology could clear the three biggest hurdles—cost, weight and range—that have held back the widespread adoption of battery-powered vehicles for more than a century”, writes Scientific American.
The route will be around half a mile long and is slated to open in 2018. If all goes well, the government plans to deploy the technology more widely, starting with an 11-mile shuttle between the city of Eilat and the Ramon International Airport.
Israel joins a growing number of nations exploring the technology, notes Scientific American. South Korea, for example, already has several wireless bus routes around the country. The European Union is studying the feasibility of widespread wireless charging, too.
ElectRoad’s technology is different, Ezer says, because the transformers are less expensive and the installation process is faster and more efficient.
Whether the technology will be able to compete with battery-powered EVs, though, is not clear.
The cost of the infrastructure and materials, especially copper, will likely be high, says Burak Ozpineci, who works on wireless technologies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
This is all the more important as electric vehicle batteries get cheaper, lighter and more efficient. Breakthroughs in engineering and chemistry have made batteries much more cost-efficient over the past 15 years, says Dustin Grace, director of battery engineering at Proterra, an electric bus company.
A few years ago a typical electric vehicle battery cost about $1,000 per kilowatt hour. But now many companies are down to $200 to $300 per kilowatt hour, and a few, including Tesla, General Motors and Nissan, are even lower, according to Grace. “I’m in the camp where I see the cost of lithium ions and energy storage just plummeting,” Grace says. “What these auto manufacturers are finding when they’re getting into the $100-to-$200-per-kilowatt-hour range is these vehicles are really on parity with other vehicles. They’re no longer looking at batteries as this challenge that has to be solved.”