Power over DataRoads: Energy competition through microgrids.

Recent developments in small renewable power sources (like solar and small wind), as well as infrastructure destruction during recent tragedies (like Hurricane Katrina), have led some brilliant minds to rethinking the way we distribute and manufacture electrical power. Many of these studies all lead to the same conclusion: data networks allow us to carry enough information about diverse power sources and uses, so that they can be efficiently coordinated at small scale, over a simple grid of neighbor-to-neighbor transmission lines. These small power grids are generally called microgrids. These “smart power” grid networks function at fairly low data bandwidth, so smart grids can be built on top of (or to extend) normal network data lines.

Existing power-over-data line technologies already exist. One common standard is Power over Ethernet (PoE). This powerful technology standard is already used to power network devices, like wireless access points and cameras, to minimize the wiring required to connect these high-bandwidth devices. These safe power/data lines have been shown to carry as much as 95 Watts — far more than the power needed for any one small network device. This excess power can be used for common household appliances and computers instead, to offset the power needed from an aging utility infrastructure. Unused power can also be stored in batteries nearby, ready when needed. PoE lines use Direct Current power, which is much more compatible with most modern renewable power sources, batteries, and computer technologies than North American utility Alternating Current.

DataRoads are to data transmission what microgrids are to power transmission. By using existing and future wire standards like PoE, the same equipment can be used for both DataRoads communications and microgrids power, all over the same lines and equipment. Peripherals like batteries and solar panels can then be used for much more than DataRoads backup power — they could be used to power wall outlets and attached network devices, to keep everything running during utility brown- and black-outs. Install the lines you need along your fence once, share those lines with your neighbors, and suddenly you can share electricity as well as voice, video, and files. Power over DataRoads replaces two outdatedĀ utility subscription models, with only one set of hardware.

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