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TechnologyI discovered a novel design for Sustainable Energy Generations Systems and released my proprietary rights into the public domain. AMA!

Oct 11th 2017 by LiveWithEarth • 13 Questions • 2635 Points

While completing my MSEE degree, I got an idea for how to design sustainable energy generation systems. To give some background, the electric power system delivers electricity to homes and buildings to power televisions, refrigerators, computers, and every other device that plugs into an outlet. A sustainable energy generation system is an off-grid (stand-alone) electric power system that can independently provide reliable electric power to a home/building from renewable energy resources. The main challenge in designing sustainable energy generation systems, i.e. solar and battery storage, is determining how much solar and how much storage are required to reliably supply power year-round.

By considering oversized PV, I pioneered an algorithm that approximates the energy storage requirements for increasingly oversized PV. The result was a graph of all possible configurations of oversized PV and storage, and I found an inverse relationship between PV and storage. Here is an animation of what this looks like.

This relationship is important to optimize for the cheapest system. Since PV and energy storage have different costs, the algorithm computes the price for each system and determines the most cost-effective configuration shown by the red “x”. This data represents the results for a residential home; however, this solution is scalable to any size.

After graduating, I founded OffGrid, an organization to design sustainable energy generation systems. My work involved working on the design, patent application, and funding opportunities. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure funding for this organization and found a job a few months after. I uploaded the algorithm on GitHub and released all potential proprietary rights, pertaining to the system, into the public domain. AMA

My Proof is a technical document with more information about the system and a link to the algorithm.

Q:

I assume at scale distance to the battery is baked in and can't be optimized and what does "good size conductor" mean?

A:

If the situation involves long distances, the algorithm can be modified to incorporate transmission losses and any other type of energy losses.


Q:

I'm a retired EE that spent my career in low voltage and have been out of the game for a long time, so I can't really keep up with the technical nomenclature anymore, but I'm curious...How does your algorithm account for the decreased efficiency and storage capacity of batteries over time? Are you simply relying on scheduled maintenance or do you actually account for it over time with a margin of error or other mechanism?

A:

The algorithm requires the expected time-series power demand of the building and the expected time-series power supply of the PVs. Using this data, the algorithm simulates the time-series stored energy for increasingly oversized PV. The result is used to determine the energy storage requirements.

Currently, the algorithm doesn't account for decreased efficiency over time, but that is something which can be incorporated into the algorithm.


Q:

Barely skimmed the doc cause low on time... But first question: why is the graph for such large quantities of power generation? Is there a graph for if I had a single house? So x axis scale being 0-20kW and y axis scale being 0-50kWh?

A:

I expressed the PV system in terms of expected annual generation. I did this to compare the expected annual generation to the expected annual consumption of the building which was 10MWh. As you can see from the graph, the smallest PV system size would require an expected annual generation greater than 10MWh because the energy storage system has losses.


Q:

Your graph is confusing, you would probably have done better to express the system size as a multiple of the expected annual consumption, such as 1.5 instead of 15 MWh.

A:

That is actually how I initially labeled the PV system size. I called it the power scaling factor, but decided against it. Didn't want to complicate things.


Q:

What makes this special? Looks like rudamentary maths to me.

A:

I searched online, through academic publications, and the patent database, and I did not find the relationship between solar and energy storage published anywhere.


Q:

So, why'd you do it?

Also, what is your favorite food?

A:

Because I believe achieving sustainable energy is the most important issue our society will face. And as I was learning more and more about sustainability, I realized no one (nor any organization/company) was even trying to solve the root problem. So I tried and made a leap forward.

Torta is a Mexican cuisine and my favorite food.


Q:

What do you think the root problem in sustainability really is?

A:

There are two main problems to achieve sustainable energy. The first is figuring out what the system will be (how much solar, wind, hydro, energy storage, etc,.) such that the system provides reliable power year round.

The second problem will be figuring out how to put the sustainable energy system into place. Currently, the consensus is to keep adding more and more renewable energy until we reach 100%; however, I don't think this is the best approach. I think we should upgrade sections of the electric grid one-by-one with sustainable energy generation systems such that the sustainable system is electrically isolated from the original grid. By continuing this process, as more and more sections are upgraded, the original grid gets smaller and smaller until eventually it's all upgraded.


Q:

Ever think about working in Dubai? I work for the group that built the sustainable city here and they are opening up a consulting arm. I'm sure they have room for your talents. At the minimum, you should book a speech at our innovation center when it's completed!

A:

Yes, that sounds exciting and something I'd consider. I would like to hear more.


Q:

As an inventor/Dreamer, is there a duty to release such things to the public domain?

A:

Absolutely!

Nikola Tesla is my biggest ideal. He practically gave away his patent rights to many AC power technologies. He didn't care about money. All he cared about was developing technology for humanity. Similarly, I felt releasing the patent rights was the best way for this system to succeed.


Q:

I think that has more to do with the fact that he got into some sketchy employment arrangements..

A:

From what I've read, he tore up his contract with Westinghouse because the money Westinghouse owed Tesla would have bankrupted the company.


Q:

If I know people (and trust me I don't) once is never enough. What's next on your list of cool things to do?

A:

Last year I was enlightened when I read "The Problem of Increasing Human Energy with Special Reference to the Harnessing of the Sun's Energy" by Nikola Tesla. After reading this, I was able to see the energy problem through the eyes of Nikola Tesla, and it gave me an insight into how he thought.

After we solve the sustainable energy problem here on earth, the next coolest thing that I might work on is Planetary Energy Harvesting Systems.


Q:

/r/iamverysmart material right here.

You are not some sort of prodigy, you asked why we can't build 25km large wind turbines... https://www.reddit.com/r/energy/comments/73iszq.

A:

Yeah, that was a fun discussion. The conclusion was it's absurd but possible. The best solution we came up with was using two space stations in geosynchronous orbit attached to opposite sides of the turbine. In addition, two ground stations that attach to the turbine one from the North and the other from the South. These four connects could hold the turbine in place and prevent it from rotating with the wind harvesting structure. https://imgur.com/oSAXu8N


Q:

Why would the storage requirements change along with the size of the system? Regardless of system size, when the sun goes down the system is no longer generating. I would think the nightime energy demands should stay relatively flat which to me means the storage requirements should stay relatively flat?

Simplistic example, but if our non generating period demands are 100kwh and a power wall has a capacity of 10kwh, we need 10 power walls regardless of whether or not the pv system charging the power wall is rated at 15kw or 150kw.

There is definitely some optimization, but I would assume that storage requirements are relatively static?

A:

Here is another way to view the problem. The main challenge for designing sustainable energy generation systems (i.e. solar and batteries) is the seasonal imbalance between the power supply of the PVs and the power demand of the building. Majority of PV generation occurs during the summer when the sun shines brighter and for longer periods. The standard PV size doesn’t produce enough energy during the winter days to power the building and charge the batteries for the nighttime. A sustainable system, with the standard PV system size, would need to store all the excess energy during the summer and use it to offset the energy shortage during the winter. This would require a lot of storage.

By increasing the solar power beyond the standard size produces more energy throughout the year and reduces the need for seasonal storage. The algorithm I developed computes how much storage is required as the the PV system increases.