2016-09-12 Solar Power info from Timothy Schoechle

1)    Katie Singer, author of “Electronic Silent Spring” (and who receives these updates) asked Dr. Timothy Schoechle, author of “Getting Smarter about the Smart Grid” some important questions about use of solar power. Her questions and his responses are below in “Letters”.


2)    Concerns are being raised about the extremely high frequencies that the US  FCC has approved, calling it 5G. The health concerns raised by experts about the lower frequencies have not yet been addressed yet the industry and its supporters (e.g. FCC) are already pushing the next generation of frequencies. There have been no studies on the possible effects posed by these.

Please write to Health Canada, your MP, etc. about this danger, asking for Industry Canada to not be allowed to approve use of these frequencies where the public will be exposed until/unless experts have found them to be harmless. We can’t wait until we are being exposed to begin to fight this.


3)    Those who make wireless gadgets limit use by their children. They know the problems that they don’t want us to know.


4)    A member found this 2004 study in which it is reported that green tea extracts have been found to reduce the effects of RF exposure.  I haven’t seen anything about this before and will attempt to see if any further research has been done to confirm this.

“Microwave irradiation significantly increased levels of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances, carbonyl values, and lipofuscin contents, but green tea catechin partially overcame the effects of the microwave irradiation.”




First set of questions to Dr. Schoechle:

In considering using a network of batteries at the home level, nano grids, or microgrids, for load balancing on the “big grid”, there would need to be some kind of meter or computer technology communicating between the batteries and the grid.  Is there a safe option of a premise meter, i.e. non radiating meter,  that could allow communication with the grid to integrate premise battery backup with the “big grid load.” 

In case I am not being clear, evenings, for example, the sun is not shining and yet the load is increased on the grid from people returning from work – cooking dinner, showering, watching TV etc.  From my understanding, there is currently no real option for battery back up at the grid level.  If the utilities were to hold onto the control of the big grid rather than “committing suicide” (which would probably be the better option), what would the technology look like for them to use the premise batteries to supply energy in the evenings rather than having to rely on fossil fuel for peak usage times?  And can the technology be made safe – no wireless?



Dr. Schoechle’s response:

To your question about what the technology look like to use premises batteries to supply energy in the evenings or at peak times:

You also asked “Is there a safe option of a premise meter, i.e. non radiating meter,  that could allow communication with the grid to integrate premise battery backup with the “big grid load.”  The answer is “yes”.

Meter history
When we developed the first prototypes of remote-reading meters (now called AMI) in the early 1990s, they were intended to be read from inside the house by a EMS/gateway device (energy management system).  The device used the meter data internally and controlled energy within the building (including loads, generation, and storage).  The EMS/gateway then would send meter readings to the utility via phone lines or cable.  We developed prototypes in collaboration with BellSouth/Florida Power, BellSouth/Duke, US West/Northern States Power, Hydro Quebec/Videoway, and Southern Cal Edison.  The meters were hard wired or used powerline carrier to communicate within the building with the EMS/Gateway.  The idea of a separate utility-owned metering network is mainly an artifact of the 2008 financial crisis and the U.S. government’s need to spend money on something they could call “smart grid”.

In our test sites in Boulder, we are metering not with the clunky utility meters that hang on the side of the house, but rather with electronic metering (see “eGauge.com”) that uses sensors in the circuit breaker panel, or on the loads, or on the battery, and uses software in the EMS/gateway to actually read the metering data.  The eGauge sensors connect to the EMS/gateway by powerline carrier (HomePlug™), or more commonly, buy twisted pair wire (using the Modbus™ protocol).  This is essentially the same as what we did in 1992, just newer equipment and better networking.

Architecture and operation
This philosophy has not changed.  See CEA #2 Solar-plus-Storage for a diagram [http://www.stopsmartmetersbc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CEA2-SolarStorage-v5.pdf] of what the control system looks like in the house.  As for communication with the grid, what the house needs is information FROM the utility grid about load conditions (e.g., loading, price, etc.), NOT sending information TO the grid.  One form of information FROM the grid that the house EMS could act on would be ToU pricing or Peak event timing.  Another more sophisticated approach might be real-time pricing such as TE (transactive energy) methods.  See  CEA #4 [http://www.stopsmartmetersbc.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/CEA4-TransactiveEnergy-v2.pdf] on how this might work.

Control theory
The key idea for people to understand is that the “control point” is not at the utility, but rather at the user end, at the premises where electricity is being generated, stored, and used.  This is why the smart meter and the Cornell/NSF fix of trying to manage batteries from the utility end is so stupid.  The notion that control information should or could make a round trip from the premises to the utility computer and back to the premises in “real-time” is absurd from an engineering standpoint.  A smart meter network, especially a radio mesh network, is too slow and has too much communication latency to support any “real-time” functionality.  Besides, what information from the meter would be useful for control purposes?

Cornell project
I am sure the Cornell guy is not stupid, but he simply realized that he had to pretend that he could find a way to make the meters useful in order to get the NSF grant money. And the NSF people are not stupid, but have no clue how this system really operates—but only know that they need to try to salvage the meter investment.  This is what I learned from my discussions with a California PUC expert a couple of years ago.  The Bonneville Power Admin people also told me the same thing: “we have invested several hundred $ million in smart meters already, but now how can we make them do something useful to manage our electricity?”

This is kind of a long answer, but I hope it helps.

= = =

Second set of questions from me:

  1.  I did not quite understand the e-gauge technology you described that is in place in Boulder, but it sounds as though it’s sending the data usage either over the power lines or wirelessly…???  And if so, how often is this data transmitted? …monthly or once every 15 minutes?
  1. As you obviously know, one of the main problems with solar for the big grid is evenings when the amount of energy needed increases and the sun goes down.  One of the other main problems of the grid is the need to perfectly match supply and demand as there is no real grid wise solution for battery back up…(there are a few systems such as hydro storage and such, but in general, storage at the grid level is not a viable option.  So if, as one of many possible modalities, the big grid could harness the battery back up of a network of premises batteries, couldn’t they use this without the need for second by second communication from the home to the utility and back to the home again?  The utility would just know that more battery back up of renewables is available as needed.  Believe me, I am not saying this is the way to go, I just think it might be what happens as the utilities gracefully, or not so gracefully, back out of the mess they’re in right now, and we transition to a decentralized energy future.
  1.  So in terms of balancing supply and demand on the grid, even with the influx of more and more rooftop solar, i.e. without either capping solar back to the grid or limiting in any other way customers’ use of solar, all that is needed is a meter to receive information from the utility of current pricing and load on the grid?  I know that’s what you said in “Getting Smarter about the Smart Grid,” but that was before the huge influx of solar.  Is it still the same?
  1. Finally, Gretchen Bakke says that customers cannot be counted on to reduce consumption on hot days and thereby help with load management.  The utility has to hold onto the reins of customer usage to actually accomplish the reduction.  What are your thoughts?  And as far as managing all this useless data, unfortunately, with 5G, it will not be so difficult and the latency problem is virtually removed.



Here is a reply to your question 1.  Let me know if this makes sense.

The eGauge is a small device that uses a small coil that clamps onto an electric wire and senses the power going through the wire.  The coil is wired to a small control box that takes the signal from the coil and calculates the power.  The box can connect to other devices through wired Ethernet or wireless WiFi.  The coil and box are typically installed in a circuit breaker panel, or could be installed anywhere near a wire whose power I want to measure.  It makes measurements continuously in real-time.  For example, I could measure the power flowing through a wire every millisecond, or even less.  The eGauge device fills the need for electric metering for our in-house control and measurement purposes.  The building’s external utility meter is a completely different device installed and operated by the utility for their own billing (or other) purposes.

We use several eGauge devices to read the power coming from or to the grid and the power being produced by solar inverters.  We also use them to measure the power used by appliances such as a water heater or air conditioner, or anything else. We hook the eGauge devices to our Energy Management System/gateway to get the power flow data and then to control the flow of energy within the building by using software algorithms to decide when to automatically turn various devices on or off.  For variable ToU pricing and other such grid signaling, such automated EMS equipment is necessary because consumers will never be able to do it manually (this is what Bakke was saying).

I will have to address your other questions later on.  I have been intending to write this up, so meanwhile, please keep asking the questions so I can get the answers right.




Sharon Noble
Director, Coalition to Stop Smart Meters

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.