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Friday, April 2, 2010

Green Notes: Sioux Falls Smart Speakers, Florida Super-Smart Grid

Good Friday goes grey, but this morning's Web reading has me feeling green!

In local green news, the Plain Green Conference is bringing all sorts of smart people to Sioux Falls April 28 and 29 to talk about green building, green science, and green thinking:

The Plain Green Conference and Marketplace is two days of advancing sustainability on the Northern Plains. Connect, learn and take action with hundreds of other attendees and star-power keynotes, plus green exhibitors and two days of workshops and breakouts (conservation design planning, green healthcare, eco-affordable home building, green office makeovers, LEED, straw bale construction, EPA compliance, permaculture and much more).

Cool! Here's co-organizer Joe Bartmann's pitch:

Two big speakers on the agenda: Cameron Sinclair, founder of Architecture for Humanity; and Mitchell Joachim, co-founder of Terrefuge.

If you attend Plain Green, you might find yourself conversing with fellow South Dakotans about the smart grid. That innovation, such as the smart grid planned by our Sioux Valley Energy, is supposed to make better use of electricity. But Tallahasse, Florida, is building a super-smart grid to save electricity, gas, and water! The city will implement smart meters and software to help customers monitor and optimize their use of all three utilities. The system will also help utility crews locate and fix problems faster.

This three-in-one smart grid, the first such system in the U.S., could save the city $100K a year in current dollars. According to Mayor John Marks, "We started the investment in smart grid technology before it took off as a smart concept nationally. That's important for our customers as the bottom line is that they will be able to save energy, save water and save money." That's green everyone can love!


  1. Michael Black4/02/2010 12:28 PM

    All of this sounds great in theory. In the real world, electric companies will be able to charge more and invest less in new infrastructure. Consumers will have to plan activities so that they can minimize their power bills. The utilities (and gov't) will tell you what to do and when to do it. Laundry will be done on certain days at certain times in the not too distant future. No one's bill will go down because someone will have to pay for all of the bureaucracy controlling and monitoring the system.

  2. John Kelley said . . .
    Horsefeathers, Michael. It's no longer theory; it's fact. In Germany they are building houses that do not need supplemental heat. (And that's on the 50th parallel, as far north as Winnipeg.) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/27/world/europe/27house.html?_r=1

    Large power plants are uneconomic passe business models. The electric utility monopolistic business model is dead. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/09/does-a-big-economy-need-big-power-plants-a-guest-post/

    Imagineers invented low-geothermal heat units that provide heat and electric power - enough to run in parallel to run a development or a small town, or a plant, etc. http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/10/13/geothermal.resort/ And SD sits on a mountain of low-geothermal heat. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/geothermal/geomap.html

    DOD FINALLY realized it cannot hold the nation's defense hostage unreliable service from Bubba & Jethro's electric co-op and its nearly 3rd world grid. DOD is quietly investing in "shipping container" nuke power plants to run bases. http://news.discovery.com/tech/mini-nuclear-reactors.html
    & http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/19/business/energy-environment/19minireactor.html

  3. Sounds like theory and practice working together nicely to me. (Nice sources, John!) But Michael, I'll keep you posted on what happens with my Sioux Valley bill.

  4. I hope we get a huge turn out at the Plain Green Conference, last month in Dulth, MN the Energy Design Conference was standing room only. They might have a 20 year jump start but its never too late. Hopefully the conference cover the Home Preformance, by Energy Star programs.

    This week we worked on two homes, one of them being less than 10 years- we cut 42% of the gas bill and 11% electric with only 2 days work on the home. The next step is renewable energy and heat for the home.

    By the way Kelly we have built homes and shops right here in SD that only use solar for heating.

  5. Michael Black4/03/2010 7:50 AM

    Eye-Popping Electric Bills Spark Smart Meter Investigations in Texas, California

    Somewhat simplified, the lawsuit tells the story of a couple who say that their electric bills increased dramatically after Oncor installed a smart meter (reportedly from $400-$700 a month before, to as much as $1800 month after), the couple engaged in several attempts to get Oncor to disclose what was wrong with the meter and came away unhappy.

    "My bills average between 1,500 and 2,000 kilowatt-hours, and it goes up a little more in the summer," she said. "That's pretty much where I stayed. The first month with the smart meter was 4,383 kilowatt-hours."

    A whole bunch of complaints here http://www.ucan.org/forum/forums/energy/sdg_e_disputes/billing_dispute

    GO and read people.

  6. Did the suggested reading Micheal. Thanks for the heads-up. Looks like it would be smart for Sioux valley customers to pay close attention to usage before the new meters arrive, and also contact Sioux Valley and find out what their policy will be when discrepancies arise. Probably be best to get it in writing.

  7. Michael Black4/03/2010 11:59 AM

    Sioux Valley may do everything correctly and we will have a good deal in SD, BUT there are places where people have HUGE increases in their electric bill and they have no recourse. They either have to pay the bill or lose services even if there are deviations from historical use

    How is the utility customer supposed to prove his case in those situations?

    Good to hear from you Barry!

  8. Wait, Michael: is your beef with the technology itself or with the people who run it? The whole idea of the smart grid is to empower people to monitor their energy usage (and in Tallahassee's case, their gas and water usage), connect usage habits with fluctuating costs, and make decisions that help them use less energy and spend less money. Technology that makes that happen is hard to indict.

    If your problem is with a lack of rules and regulations to protect users rights, well, then off we go to Pierre or Washington. It's not hard to come up with some reasonable regulations that will protect our rights even as the technology itself improves our quality of life.

    Or would you rather keep using at outdated, unstable electrical grid?

  9. Michael Black4/03/2010 2:44 PM

    It seems that instead of using a carrot to encourage lower consumption, utilities are using the stick of higher prices. http://www.notanotherconspiracy.com/2008/01/smart-meters-going-green-and-screwing.html

    If we are to believe at least some of the complaints, the newer meters are grossly inflating the amount of power consumed.

    Energy conservation is a good thing. That means that the energy company can put off constructing new plants or upgrading infrastructure and not necessarily investing in cleaner technologies for their power plants.

    Remember ENRON? They manipulated the California electrical grid to make more money during days of peak demand and possible rolling blackouts.

    The smart meter technology also is very vulnerable to hackers. http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/09/01/four-ways-hack-smart-grid


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