• John Sutter

The Bigggg Machine. And How It is Changing.

Most of you reading this blog know that a major mission of ABS is to do our small part to turn humanity away from burning of fossil fuels in the operation of our buildings. We do this primarily by tightening up and enhancing a building's thermal enclosure, and then replacing gas burning mechanical systems with high efficiency electrically operated systems. Simply stated: Snug up, then electrify everything.


I have become increasingly aware there is a component of this mission that I, and most other Americans, have given little thought to, namely the system of towers, poles, transformers, sub stations, switches, monitoring sensors, meters, and of course metal wires that comprise (drum roll please) "The Grid". (In America there are actually three major grids: east of the Rockies, west of the Rockies, and Texas; and around a thousand minor grids serving mostly smallish cities.)

Our preferred scenario in pursuing the elimination the need to burn stuff to operate our houses is to include a rooftop solar generating system. Sized properly a solar system will over a year generate roughly the energy needed to operate the home for a year ("zero net energy" or "ZNE"). This is just and worthy goal, good for our clients and good for society. But . . . unless our clients can afford about $80,000 worth of storage batteries (at today's prices), for a number of reasons their home will need to remain connected to the grid.

The grid is arguably the biggest and most complex machine ever constructed by humanity, and the 20th century's greatest engineering achievement. The problem is since the '60s the grid has become beat up, worn out, patched up, and unappreciated, and poorly prepared for it's role between the rapidly evolving electrical generation and consumption. This complex, expansive, and expensive delivery system sits squarely in the center of most of our lives, yet most Americans are remarkably oblivious to it (unless you live in one of the areas like Sonoma and Napa Counties where poor maintenance of PG&E owned portions of the grid caused catastrophic fires.)

In my next several blogs I will discuss the ramifications of this disrepair the changes that are coming or already in place mean for our clients and for society as a whole.

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