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A Computer Scientist Looks at the Energy Problem
In this talk we describe LoCal, a research project at Berkeley that applies the lessons of the Internet to a radical new architecture for energy generation, distribution, and sharing. We introduce the concept of packetized energy, stored and forwarded to where it is locally needed, exploiting technology for more efficient energy storage. As on the Internet, quality is achieved end-to-end via protocols over a best-effort, resilient, and scalable infrastructure. Distributed management and storage enable dramatic reductions in peak-to-average energy consumption. This approach affects infrastructure provisioning and investment and enables a virtuous cycle of power-limited design.
Our architectural building block, intelligent power switching, permits diverse, non-traditional energy storage. Rather than replacing the grid, we overlay it, achieving independence from existing generation and transmission systems. Our approach is suited to environments where a centralized infrastructure is prohibitively expensive—e.g., in the Third World or in military or humanitarian operations—where natural disasters may disrupt operation (e.g., post-Katrina, post-earthquake disruption of the wide-area energy grid), or where it is desirable to add incremental generation and distribution. Management of local demand is also important to dynamically reduce load in order to remain independent of the grid for as long as possible.
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