Of course, existing trends, concerns,
and challenges cannot be ignored. But
relying solely on existential conditions
as indications of reliable predictability
must be done cautiously.
A futurist is not someone who forecasts the future, but rather someone
who studies what forces are in play in a
particular area of interest and how
those forces can impact what may be in
store ahead. Projecting one’s business
imagination into another discipline,
technology, generation, or decade is not
easy to do. Yet doing so can stimulate
avenues of innovative thinking relevant
to more immediate (and future) possibilities and obstacles. From a forward-thinking perspective, nothing prevents
electrical distributors from being nonprofessional yet successful futurists.
And today’s electrical industries climate
is fertile ground for speculation and
advanced preplanning initiatives.
THE FUTURE OF POWER
Alternative energy sources are being
developed and installed with expectations of relieving the increasing
demands on the electric grid system.
Harnessing wind power is one example
and has considerable potential for some
In March, Megan Treacy reported
that the United States should have
its first offshore wind farm by the end
of the year ( treehugger.com/renewable-energy). Authorized by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission in
2010, the Block Island Wind Farm will
reportedly have five wind turbines,
each twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty and with a diameter double the size
of a 747 jumbo jet’s wingspan. Underwater transmission cables will connect
the island and mainland where excess
energy will go to the grid.
According to the DOE, nationally,
“wind power accounts for nearly 5%
of total U.S. electric generation” with
an installed capacity of nearly 74GW.
Furthermore, the DOE predicts that
“an additional 700,000 square miles of
land will be suitable for wind develop-
ment.” In 2015, land-based wind en-
ergy generation produced 191 million
MWh of energy. How and if electrical
distributors will participate are reason-
And then there’s solar. Futurist Ray
Kurzweil noted that in 2012 solar panels
accounted for .5% of energy supply
worldwide ( cleantechnica.com/2016/
04/15). Four years later, solar panels
account for 2% of the world’s energy.
He added that solar energy is a 25-year-
old industry that has been growing
exponentially from its inception, doubling every two years. However, harvesting energy from the sun is only part
of the technology. Developing batteries
capable of long-term storage capacities
is another challenge to be considered.
Elon Musk of Tesla electric automo-
bile fame helped create SolarCity, a
company focused on installing solar
panels for residential and business es-
tablishments to store the sun’s energy
into batteries. When needed, the stored
energy could be used to provide elec-
tricity for a limited amount of time. The
SolarCity product is now available in 22
states, claims to have 285,000 custom-
ers, and is reported to be adding 12,000
customers per month. This alternative
energy concept promotes using battery-
stored energy during the most expen-
sive daytime hours. Excess power can
be sold back to the appropriate utility.
Supported by his investments in the
Tesla battery-operated automobile,
Musk and Panasonic have also created
the Powerwall energy system, produc-
ing commercial battery storage units for
Including all installations, the DOE
reports that the estimated installed,
distributed solar PV systems exceed
1 million nationally and are producing
11GW of energy.
Kurzweil noted that, theoretically,
solar technology could provide 100%
of the earth’s energy supply in 12 years.
Even if his estimate is off by 50%, the
results would be staggering.
Government directives will undoubtedly play an important role in the continuing development of alternative
energy sources. For instance, California
has mandated that state-regulated utilities get 50% of their electricity from
renewable energy sources by 2030;
Hawaii’s official goal for renewable
energy is 100% by 2050; and New York
City’s target is 100MWh by 2020 and
1,000MWh by 2030.
How is the electrical distribution
community preparing to engage in
wind and solar energy technologies?
66 the ELEC TRICAL DISTRIBUTOR • Dec. 16 www.tEDmag.com
REPOR T SPECIAL
“And today’s electrical industries climate is fertile ground for speculation and advanced preplanning initiatives.”