I am not suggesting they were gay.
As you all know that the D.C. region experienced a lengthy power outage last week. This really got me and I am sure, other local energy geeks to think about backup power. The traditional backup power is a generator that burns either gas or diesel. Generators pollute and frequently lead to combustion gas poisoning (Some people are really that dumb). People who have off-grid photovotaics (PVs) do not need to worry about outages but in the D.C. area most of us grid-tied folks will still experience loss of power even if we had PVs; the power company won’t let you charge up the lines when they are down for safety reasons.
Well, one elegant solution that is already available combines PVs, electric vehicles (EV) and ideally, a Passivhaus. Imagine, Arlington Passivhaus with a PV array that wipes out its electric loads, so, a net zero energy home. The garage also comes equipped with an electric car charger and the owners drive EVs or Plug-in Hybrids.
Under normal circumstances, the PVs will generate enough juice to power the house and charge the cars. Whatever electrons left over go into the grid and the neighbors get to use and owners get to net-meter. In a power outage situation, even though the PVs stop generating, the car batteries are already fully charged to power at least the most essential part of the house. In a prolong outage like what we had recently, the batteries will eventually be depleted, at that point, if you have a Plug-in Hybrid, you can take it out for a long spin to charge the battery, then you have some juice again to power the house.
Here is a system that Toyota is testing that optimizes this scenario: http://www.hybridcars.com/news/toyota-jumps-vehicle-home-bandwagon-46749.html
Now, let’s take this one step further. Imagine if entire neighborhoods, towns, cities have this, we would’ve achieve a level of energy security that no oil, gas, coal or nuclear company can promise. Utility companies will continue to play a very important role, they can focus their efforts on supplying power to the biggest consumers of energy, i.e. manufacturing, data centers, etc. Utility companies really should be the ones building this network of home-generated power and the ones that maintain it. Economic development is inevitable, energy consumption can only continue to grow, so, the utility companies need not worry about having enough customers.
I think of the War of Currents in the late 1880s between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla needs to be revisited. Perhaps instead of battling over whose current was superior, the two geniuses should have married their technologies.