Google's new $700 million data centers in Taiwan will make ice at night, when electricity is significantly cheaper, and use it to cool the buildings during the day. It's called thermal storage, and it's basically a battery, but for air conditioning.
On the hottest days of the year, it's not uncommon for regional electricity systems to become so overloaded by demand that they come within a hair’s breadth of failing completely. (It happens in Texas all the time.)
Fortunately, utilities have come up with a cheap and easy way to overcome this problem: they offer their customers a cash incentive to sign up for a special kind of thermostat over which the utility has limited control. Then, when it gets nasty out, the utility can literally save the grid by turning up the temperature in your home just a teeny tiny bit. This is what's known as "demand response."
“American ingenuity” is the key to developing renewable energy resources, said President Obama last week, in his address on energy policy. That is surely true, and here in San Francisco, there are many examples of ingenuity being deployed to good effect. But ingenuity alone is not enough. Our electricity regulatory system is in need of […]