Intelligent Utility has a worthwhile interview with smart grid author John Cooper, who wrote with Andrew Carvallo, “The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability” back in June 2011. What’s interesting is how Cooper conceives of the evolution of the grid and the analogy he draws with the evolution of transportation from railroads (centralized transport) toward passenger cars (distributed transport).
Cooper is quoted:
“You use the term “centralized grid.” I use the term “grid paradigm” to recognize the implicit assumptions we all use about the way things work, which favor incremental change and a supply-side orientation, keeping the grid in the center of our thinking. Consider the relationship that developed between railroads and automobiles. Railroads led transportation for a time. They barely recognized the Model T as competition. With steady improvements to cars and roads, perspectives on the railroad shifted. The grid is today’s railroad. It will always have a role, but in the context of many alternatives. We need to start thinking about an emerging hybrid period, with new sources of energy, new participants and new sources of capital funding.”
For Cooper, distributed generation in the form of microgrids and rooftop solar embody an evolution toward a more robust and resilient distributed power system. Yes, there are clear economies of scale from having a centralized utility generating power, but with tradeoffs in reliability and a system that has a hard time adjusting to change.