Tag Archives: smart grid

Oct. 13, 2019 Blumbers

Darkness After Midnght

Last week I got a message from Pacific Gas and Electric saying they were cutting off my electricity starting at midnight. They estimated there would be no power for a couple of days. They said they did not want to start a wildfire like the one that destroyed the town of Paradise last year.

It made me wonder about why we still have electric utilities. In the twentieth century, power generation was a very complicated capital and labor intensive business. You had to have access to coal or oil that had to be brought to a generator by railroad or pipeline. Maybe you had to build a hydroelectric dam or expensive nuclear power plant.  It was all eventually sent by wire on a grid to millions of homes. Apparently you needed a large organization to do that.

In the twenty-first century, you could put a solar panel on every roof to a battery in every building. No complex smart grid. No complex network of power lines to spark from one falling tree. Just a glorified extension cord to power your refrigerator. It would localize any damage and not disrupt entire regions. We could then choose if we wanted darkness after midnight.

Here is an idea. When the utility executives cut our power, how about they cut the power in their homes in solidarity? A little feedback as an incentive.

Copyright 2019 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Jun. 7, 2013 Big Data Cloud

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On June 7, 2013 in Mountain View, the Computer History Museum hosted the Big Data Cloud event. Speakers were Tom Siebel of C3energy, Mayank Bawa of Teradata Aster, Sourabh Satish of Symantec, Milind Bhandarkar of Pivotal, Dr. Konstantin (Cos) Boudnik of WANdisco, Gail Ennis CEO, Karmasphere , Nanda Vijaydev of Karmasphere, Bruno Aziza Vice President of Sisense, Jim Blomo of Yelp,  David P. Mariani of  Klout, Ken Rudin of Facebook, Vikram Makhija of Ayasdi, Chirag Mehta, Ed Abbo of C3 Energy, John Steinberg of EcoFactor, Amit Narayan of AutoGrid, – Aparajeeta Das, TM Ravi of Hive Data,  Deepak Kamra of Canaan Partners, Dharmesh Thakker of Intel Capital and Jishnu Bhattacharjee of Nexus Venture Partners. Topics included Hadoop, smart grid, security, Topological Data Analyst (TDA) and, of course, how to make money.

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Copyright 2013 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sep. 8, 2011 WCA Smart Grid Electric Cars

On Thursday September 8, 2011 at the Palo Alto Research Center the WCA Smart Grid SIG presented “Electric Vehicles in the Smart Grid.” Former US Secretary of State George Shultz addressed the national security implications of relying on foreign oil, and the need for technological innovation in electric vehicles. John Addison of Clean Fleet moderated panelists Rob Bearman of Better Place, Richard Lowenthal of Coulomb Technologies, Trae Vassallo of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Saul Zambrano of PG&E.

The growth will significantly impact existing infrastructure. Electric vehicles use twice as much energy as the average home per year. The smart grid’s data network makes managing the increasing power demand for electric vehicles possible. It is possible to use your smartphone to monitor, manage and pay for charging vehicles. Outside in the parking lot were two of the latest electric vehicles, a Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.

Copyright 2011 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Oct. 19, 2010 SDF PWC

On Tuesday, October 19, 2010 in Palo Alto, SDForum with Pillsbury Winthrop and PricewaterhouseCoopers held a Quarterly Venture Breakfast on “Clean Technology.” Allison Leopold-Tilley of Pillsbury Winthrop moderated panelists Steve Bengston of PricewaterhouseCoopers, Sven Strohband of Mohr Davidow Ventures, Don Wood of Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Rick Yang of NEA.

Steve Bengston of PricewaterhouseCoopers delivered Wayne Hedden’s report “Clean Technology Investment Trends October 2010” that included data from the MoneyTree Report and Thomson Reuters. After taking a dive with the economic downturn at the end of 2008, cleantech investments rose again only to decrease in the third quarter of 2010. The largest deal was $106 million for Trilliant who provide wireless network solutions for grid management. The cleantech sector is maturing and starting to behave like the sectors for biotech, medical and software.

One of the unique parts of cleantech are the large capital requirements for developing infrastructure to the last mile, best seen in smart grid or power generation startups. The other is the lack of Moore’s Law in the efficiency of photovoltaics. While the efficiency of solar panels is increasing, it is not increasing exponentially like semiconductors. What can increase dramatically is energy efficiency. If twenty five percent of US electricity is consumed for lighting, the potential for savings with sensors and LEDs could drive down it down to five percent of consumption.

The panel saw the next big growth in the cleantech sector as water. Just as smart grids can increase efficiency in electricity, smart pipes can reduce waste. Better measurement and management will be necessary as more of the world population moves into cities and consumption increases. Look for opportunities in water desalinization that requires less or even no electricity like forward osmosis developed by Oasis.

It is important to remember that like the old energy sector, the cleantech sector is very much a product of government policy and subsidy. China, Germany and other countries are making progress because they have a national consensus despite political changes in government. Recognizing and dealing with the inevitable changes we face will reward investors and the countries that move toward cleantech.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

Sept. 21, 2010 SDF Smart Grid

On September 21, 2010 in Palo Alto at SAP, SDForum presented “Clean Tech Breakfast: Smart Grid.” Kris Brown of PricewaterhouseCoopers moderated panelists Lee Burrows of VantagePoint Venture Partners, Drew Clark of IBM Venture Capital Group, Andy Colman of GRIDiant Corporation, Steve Goldberg of Venrock and Jon Guice of AltaTerra Research. The recent San Bruno gas pipeline explosion has underlined the importance of building, maintaining and monitoring complex energy infrastructure. The panel discussed the investment potential of integrating large industrial and small residential technologies into systems that save energy and make money. Drew Clark thinks that the smart grid will be built off the core network. This will lead to the growth of high margin service businesses to the enterprise. John Guice had a great slide breaking the smart grid into network levels: transmission, subtransmission, distribution, facility and device. Creating any savings or efficiencies at any level is where the opportunities exist on the smart grid.

Copyright 2010 DJ Cline All rights reserved.

July 21, 2009 SDF PWC

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On July 21, 2009 at Pillsbury Winthrop in Palo Alto, SDForum held the Quarterly Venture Breakfast Series in collaboration with PWC. Allison Leopold Tilley of Pillsbury Winthrop moderated panelists Steve Bengston of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Matt Garratt of Battery Ventures, Mamoon Hamid of USVP, Dan Rubin of Alloy Ventures, Robert Walker of Sierra Ventures and Don Wood of Draper Fisher Jurvetson. They discussed trends in venture investments and how the economic landscape will change over the coming years.

The current investment picture is still flat or falling. Green or clean tech dropped from second to fourth place compared to other investment sectors. The problem is that clean tech is very much a physical infrastructure play, requiring more than what many venture capitalists are willing to invest. Startups are applying for government stimulus funds and some like electric vehicle maker Tesla are getting it, but it is a longer and more complicated process than VCs. While stimulus spending is growing, it is too early to see the impact in clean tech.

Private and government goals sometime are at odds for with each other. Public funds mean public interest. Governments like to incubate companies that create jobs. VCs like companies that create the value and not headcount.

Inside clean tech, the technologies to watch are smart grid and direct current inside the home. Almost every aspect of the smart grid needs to be developed. Historically utilities existed to provide power and encourage consumption. Entrepreneurs should not wait for utilities to change their spots but to push forward on opportunities that do not depend on them.Using an electric car as fuel cell for your home is one idea.

If few appliances require alternating current (AC) inside the home then perhaps a direct current (DC) grid to run them. It might use solid state or LED lighting, dramatically lowering costs. Your clothes dryer might need AC but your laptop computer probably does not.

All the VCs encouraged entrepreneurs to work on their pitches and why their ideas are unique and profitable. They want companies that will dominate their particular sector rather than fight for a percentage of a commodity industry. Be the biggest frog in your pond not the smallest shark  in the ocean.

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Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.