I’m a lawyer in Arup’s in-house legal...
If you’ve seen the video of Elon Musk's launch of Power Wall then you’ll be inspired by his vision. The battery itself looks beautiful, reminiscent of the slick style we’re used to seeing with Apple products. It’s the perfect complement to his ground-breaking Tesla car.
A domestic battery is also an important first step in something called demand reconstruction. This automatically changes the profile of demand a home places on the electricity grid, without consumers having to do anything or change their behaviour, such as using appliances at different times of day.
Arup is a shareholder in Hidden Layer Systems, a joint venture with Nick McMahon, which is working to explore demand reconstruction. The system we’re developing will intelligently integrate battery storage, local renewable generation and controllable loads at the meter.
The technology is designed to optimise time-of-use-tariffs and renewable generation for consumers. This means you can use electricity from the grid when it’s cheapest and get the most value from any power you generate yourself from sources such as rooftop solar panels.
The demand reconstruction technology also aggregates and manages consumer demand and home generation at scale to smooth the demand profile and reduce demand at peak times.
If rolled out at scale, our technology could mean we need less capacity to meet daily demand so we would need fewer new power stations. This has significant implications for power-hungry developing economies.
Energy storage seems to be the Holy Grail of the power industry. As a child I visited the pumped storage scheme at Ffestiniog in North Wales, where cheaper overnight electricity is used to pump water up to a top reservoir. The power station could deliver 360MW just 60 seconds after it was switched on.
It seemed such an amazing feat of technology - the dawn of a new, hi-tech era. So why has it taken 50 years for the next game-changing development? Whatever the reasons, it seems there is at last something to get excited about.
So what uses can you see for this sort of technology? Will it change the way we design and power buildings and public transport systems? How will all this affect electricity generation and distribution? And what are the hurdles and how can they be overcome?