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Hurricane Sandy, Smart Grids And Advanced Storage Technology

Cory Renauer's picture
, Self Employed

Cory is a self employed writer specializing in the energy sector. He is fascinated with the disruptions caused by advanced extraction techniques.

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  • Nov 2, 2012

There’s a lot of good reasons to have some advanced energy distribution systems at the ready in your home, community and throughout the grid. If a tree falls on a wire and no one is there to hear it, it will be like it never happened at your house. At least you’ll have enough power to recharge your iPad until the utility company gets around to fixing that felled wire.

Here’s a post I published earlier today for The Motley Fool about how increasing frequency of freaky storms are an opportunity for utilities and advanced storage companies to promote smart grid technology. See the post here.

Increasingly frequent storms should make advanced energy storage much more attractive for both consumers and utilities.

The DOE has estimated that over 8.2 million homes and businesses lost power after Hurricane Sandy. For a lucky few, diesel generators can keep refrigerators running and lights on until utilities can make repairs. City dwellers aren’t as fortunate. Consolidated Edison (NYSE: ED) warned New Yorkers that the majority of Manhattan neighborhoods that lost power due to Hurricane Sandy could be left in the dark for as long as a week.

Fix it or you’re fired.

East Coast utilities should be paying close attention to the increasingly intense storms spawned by warming oceans. The freakish October 2011 snowstorm that left millions without power is still fresh in the minds of consumers, many of which have been left in the dark again. Jeffrey Butler, former president and chief executive of Connecticut Light & Power, understands consumer rage all too well. Parent company Northeast Utilities System (NYSE: NU) accepted his resignation shortly after 77% of CL&P’s customers suffered outages last fall.

Advanced storage needs marketing more than it needs lab coats.

The advanced electricity storage and distribution industry has done a lousy job of promoting its best interests to the public. According to a recent survey from the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, a majority of adults throughout the US have never heard of a “smart” meter. Only a precious few have the foggiest notion of what A123’s (NASDAQ: AONE) grid storage systems do.

A123 Systems’ $249 million DOE grant, followed by a chapter 11 bankruptcy filing a year later is about the most publicity the advanced storage industry has received. Unfortunately, most of the attention is being hurled at the present administration’s reckless spending on seemingly useless technology. Many of the consumers that should be demanding distributed storage systems to limit the impact of blackouts consider it a waste of money.

Cooperation makes it happen.

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is an opportunity for utilities to promote the benefits of advanced storage technology and smart grid automation to legislators, judges, and consumers. In Western Massachusetts, over 140,000 WMECo customers lost power after last fall’s nor’easter. In response, the Northeast Utilities subsidiary has added advanced automation and installed web-based tools to improve communication with customers. As of 6AM on Halloween morning less than 4,000 WMECo customers were without power.

Residential, community and grid storage systems can go a long way to reduce the impact of increasingly frequent storms. Grid storage solutions should be a feature of nearly every power plant in the country. Most urban communities would also benefit from distributed storage systems that allow consumers to take advantage of lower off peak rates. It might be too late to save A123 from bankruptancy, but their battery technology will most likely live on through Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI). With the right spin, Hurricane Sandy could become a “rainmaker” for advanced storage companies across the US.

See all of my posts at The Motley Fool here.

Kimi Arima's picture
Kimi Arima on Nov 5, 2012

If I'm not mistaken, the battery systems you're referring to can offer power for a household for 24 hours, max. And what if the power goes out for a week?

Kimi Arima
Wärtsilä Power Plants

ralpph allen's picture
ralpph allen on Nov 9, 2012


 The new liquid metal battery being developed by Donald  Sadoway at MIT will make cheap storage of green energy possible and will herald in the green revolution.

Cory Renauer's picture
Thank Cory for the Post!
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