When the emphasis moves from the provision of real time power to the storage of energy, the grid will be used to shuffle quanta of energy around and between energy storage systems. A device that used energy to do something would be like a sink in the system: it would have some storage to hold energy that would be used over time by the appliance. You might even have some form of storage for lighting so that a light could burn or glow for a substantial time without being constantly connected to the grid. An energy system with storage would decouple the supply of energy from the time over which that the energy is used. In a power system the energy is used straight away in real time, hence the emphasis on power.
If the energy storage is chemically in batteries of various types, the charging and discharging of batteries would put a real physical limit on the quantity and speed that energy can be moved from place to place. I have mentioned this before on my blogs, but an important component of a renewable energy system with storage is the ability to quickly move energy between capacitor banks and then use the capacitor banks to charge batteries. Capacitor banks could be considered analogous to memory in a computer and chemical storage in batteries could be seen to be analogous to storing information on a hard disk in a computer. Eventually capacitor banks will have a long term storage capacity as well, so there might be some convergence between the two, as there has been with flash memory for computers.
Anyway, a system for the transmission of energy that shuttled energy between capacitor banks and that used the grid as part of the lowest physical layer – all coordinated by a smart grid – could be likened to a kind of broadband for energy. The coordination of transfers of energy between capacitor banks is critically important, and there might need to be a balancing of energy transactions overall and in real time. The smart grid is going to be very complex so it had best be well planned to deal with energy storage and the possibilities this would create. The smart grid is likely to be defined in a way analogous to the transmission of information and communications with international standards.
Introducing a local balancing of energy transfers between energy stores through the grid may create emergent properties of the grid that might introduce a symmetry that you might be able to exploit as if you were dealing with a quantum field. You might be able to transfer much more energy over the grid if you pair off equal transfers of energy at the same time than if you had two disconnected random transfers of energy over the grid. A smart grid that managed the symmetry of balanced energy transfers might be able to move a lot more energy around with barely a ripple over the grid, but if you did this there will probably be times when huge random spikes of energy will cascade through the grid system. Most things connected to the grid will then need to have switched interfaces with the grid that only connect to the grid as a transfer of energy takes place. The grid itself will need some subsystems to pacify wild fluctuations and faulty out-of-sync transfers. If symmetric transfers are feasible and do use the grid more like a field, then in time there will be a huge amount of seething activity taking place through a grid while that grid appears more or less placid and steady with only a few ripples to show for all the activity. But this is science fiction.
With the smart grid as it develops, there would be top level optimisation of energy transfers in much the same way that personal finance is now mediated through information systems. Cash can now be easily transferred through eftpos facilities and ATMs dispense physical cash. Money doesn’t flow through the wires to an ATM machine, currency is transferred symbolically and having an ATM dispense cash is only one of many options. That top level optimisation is not what I was referring to with the previous paragraphs. The smart grid would need to be handle everything from the physical level to the top symbolic level transfers of energy between energy stores, sources and sinks.
18 Jun 09
Another question is whether you can stamp an energy packet that would be sent through the grid to a particular location with a unique wavelet signature stamp so that only that one particular destination on the grid with a corresponding wavelet pattern could catch the energy packet. If the transfer were out-of-sync the energy from the packet would be dispersed through the grid – it would be torn to pieces by any connections to the grid that were hungry for energy and dispersed to those hungry connections that could scavenge as much of the energy in a wayward energy packet as they could.
[The gravity field as result of out-of-sync energy transfers throughout the universe? The speed of light is the limit for the transfer of energy over time and space. Could anticipated energy transfers leave a mark in the space ahead of its arrival due to the limit of c, and what happens if that energy never arrives (or is absorbed or deflected along the way)? Would it look like energy that wasn't really energy just a shadow [dark] of energy/matter in all its potential? I’m just a mug with little more than second year physics so I don’t know!]