How will the city of the future generate, transmit, and distribute energy? That basic question is being debated in a global conference called 'The City of the Future,' which is sponsored by CPS Energy's innovative EPIcenter incubator, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
EPIcenter CEO Kimberly Britton says experts in clean energy and energy transmission and storage will come from as far away as Germany to participate in the event, which attempts to get ahead of the trends in the world of power management.
She says the 'decentralization' of the power grid is one area that will be discussed.
"In the future your home could be its own power plant," she said. "Getting solar panels, utilizing 'microgrids," she said.
She says one thing which will have to be determined is how electric utilities will bill for power created in decentralized systems, because there will still be costs associated with the macro-system,but the current model of billing consumers for the amount of electricity they use would not work in a decentralized model.
While the move away from coal as a fuel for electricity generation is already well underway, with CPS Energey decommissioning its coal fired Dealy Power Plant last month, Germany is far more coal-dependent than the U.S., and officials from Europe will also be studying how to get beyond coal to natural gas as a bridge fuel...and eventually to some form of renewables.
Also on the table will be new ways to distribute electricity. She points out that alternating current pioneer Nikola Tesla imagined electricity being distributed through the air, much like radio and TV waves, and she says new technologies may make that possible.
"Distributing energy over wi-fi," she said.
Britton says that would be extremely useful in powering everything from mobile phones to electric cars, which now are 'tied' to the need to charge them up using old-fashioned cords which stick into electric plugs.
She says there one one key to the future that everyone recognizes will be the tipping point to unlocking these and many other possibilities.
"Batteries are going to play a much larger role in our lives, and in our ability to move much more freely in our energy consumption."
Battery technology has not made noticeable advancements in nearly fifteen years, although advances have been made in allowing mobile devices to use the power more efficiently so a charge lasts longer. But the battery on your iPhone dates from before the introduction of the iPhone. Power industry officials say that is the major barrier to widespread use of solar and wind power, the development of efficient batteries to power 'The City of the Future' when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.
"This conversation is all about these technologies," Britton said. "What is happening now, and what is the utility sector looking at for the future, and to insure that we have a very bright future."