Wednesday, November 12, 2008

business idea: ways to use free electricity

As more and more of our energy comes from unschedulable sources (like wind), utilities will have no choice but to manage consumption on an hour-to-hour basis. This will mean the price of electricity will fluctuate throughout the day, based on the current system conditions. On a windy night, electricity will be nearly free. On a still, cold day, it may cost significantly more than it does today.

And this is a good thing. It'll give us a chance to make the system smarter and more efficient.

So, the business idea is to come up with ways to take advantage of cheap electricity. Once efficient lighting has been adopted, the next biggest residential/commercial energy use is climate control. The idea is simple enough, move heat energy costs away from the peak energy price times by storing heat for later use.

In the case of a home with central heating, this would mean adding an inline heat supply that uses heated oil. When electricity is cheap, the device heats the oil in the storage tank. When electricity is expensive, the device uses the heat stored the oil instead of using expensive electricity.

In areas that are both cold and sunny at the same time, you could add solar thermal heating to the oil tank. With today's technology, this would result in a far more cost efficient and environmentally friendly way to reduce energy consumption than solar photovoltaic panels. PV panels emit all kinds of nasty chemicals in their production that solar thermal panels don't.

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