I absolutely love hearing about young engineers achieving amazing technological advances. Without a doubt, energy is the HOTTEST topic in the engineering world right now and will be for a while to come. With peak oil looming and the remainder of the world’s fossil fuels reserves becoming increasingly difficult to extract (and of course the effect of fossil fuels on global warming), developed and developing nations alike have been scrambling for alternate fuel sources to ensure their prosperity into the future.
We’ve all heard of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy, but simply switching over to these is highly impractical (costly and risky as these depend on weather conditions etc.). Engineers have realised that we will need a combination of these alternate energy sources to supplement our existing energy grid as we gradually (as technology advances), switch over to full renewable energy sources. Also, new technology is able to monitor the energy usage of your home and turn off certain appliances that you never use, channeling it elsewhere in the grid for more efficient usage! The problem comes in controlling all of this.
Enter the smart-grid!
So, remember a few posts back I mentioned the Ecohawks and that AWESOME and super-sexy smart-grid they were building? This group of students from the university of Kansas’s smart-grid (above) has a solar panel, wind turbine and battery pack attached to a popcorn maker. The grid is designed to prioritise the renewable energy-source that is most effective at the time, (wind when its windy, solar when the suns out) and charge the battery when the device is resting. Itsincredibly complex system of control is the true heart of this project. The great things is that this device may well be the future of energy for most of us worldwide! (Canada is already using it).
The Ecohawks they presented their project at the P3 (People, Prosperity and Planet) finals in Washington DC last week and got an honourable mention!
Note to possible investors: this project needs funding to continue the amazingly advanced research these young engineers are doing. Smart grid is the future of energy usage in developed countries and perhaps the world. Contact me to get in touch with them.