Naperlou, I agree with you that the smart grid will not solve the outage problems we repeatedly have here in the Chicago area. When we had problems last June (many people lost power for days, if you recall), a spate of articles appeared about the smart grid, in an attempt to drum up support for it. I'm not sure where that gets started, but if the smart grid gets implemented without burying the power lines, I think a lot of people will be disappointed.
TJ, that was nine years ago. That is not a bad rate for any system we rely on.
The issues you experience locally are in the distribution network, not the grid. In the Chicago area we have ComEd as the distribution company for most people. They still have above ground lines. They experience outages from that. SmartGrid will not solve that problem. I live in a town that has its own distribution company (actually an arm of local government). Our lines are almost all burried. We have vey few outages. It is as simple as that. Other communities locally have considered setting up their own distribution systems and burrying the lines becuase of the service interruptions from above ground lines.
Direct methanol fuel cells (DMFCs) were in the news eight or nine years ago as possible substitutes for batteries in laptops. People could carry a few methanol cartridges with them and power a computer for hours. I wrote about the technology in an article, http://www.fpga-faq.org/sb-metal_hold/CD_11/Fuel_Cells_ECN_Jon_Titus_Editor.pdf, still available online. The DMFCs seemed to have promise, but interest dropped off and as far as I know, they fit into only specialized applications. I haven't heard much about them in years.
There is a growing market for grid storage and there are multiple reasons for it.
First, the cost of batteries (especially high-cycle life like Lithium Ion) is coming down together with other (minor) costs such as high power semiconductors for compact grid inverters,
Secondly there is a growing problem of old infrastructure that is too weak to guarantee the afternoon/early evening peak consumption, which may overload the infrastructure so there is a need for peak shaving devices and utilities are investing in these already where it makes sense compared to investment in line upgrades.
Third, the business case can be positive to invest in and install home backup storage which will provide all of the above and can be paying for itself due to the cost saving of shifting expensive day time consumption into the low tier night tariff (for TOU consumers) and contract with the utility for grid offloading AND the payment from the home owner to get a guaranteed clean and several-day backup power for his whole house. Unless you are doing something out of the ordinary, a house will on average draw a few kW. You may have a 200Amp service but that does not mean that you are drawing 200A 240V = 48kW. To allow power peaks, the inverter for the house may be required to indeed be able to deliver 50kW but a battery bank of say 100kWh should be sufficient to give in the order of 2 days of whole house backup - provided that you don't turn on the Airco full blast like you would do on other days... Keeping the fridge cold, the (gas!) furnace hot and so on will be your main concern - you can delay doing laundry a few days for example.
Hope this gives some ideas for the whole house backup...
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