Power to the People, As Long As There Is Power…


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Like any major nation in the free world, America faces a slew of hurdles caused by consumer demand. But perhaps the steepest hill is power – will we have enough for future demand? During a Wednesday CCA session entitled “Power is everything. How do we make sure we’re never without it?” Altergy VP Sales and Business Development Michael Balter said that the U.S. power grid endures more blackouts than any other developed nation with the average outage lasting 92 minutes. Compare that to Japan’s average outage of four minutes. Severe weather is the primary cause of power outages in this country and the frequency of weather-related outages has dramatically increased over the past year, Balter reported. For instance, he said, Hurricane Sandy knocked out 25 percent of cell towers with over 10 states causing cell outages for 8.5 million people. A greater portion of people were affected because of the growing switch to cellular phones from landlines.

Balter believes the U.S. grid is an obsolete business model. Still considered the ‘largest machine in the world’ and valued at over $876 billion, the grid actually loses power 286% more often today than in 1984. But Americans are relentlessly marching forward with demand, which grows by whopping 25% a year. Today, 47% of households rely solely on wireless communications, which relies on the grid. That’s worrisome considering the aging power infrastructure — the average age of power transformers are 40 years old.

But there is light ahead, Balter noted. Not only does Altergy provide Hydrogen fuel cell – an option for modernizing the grid with many benefits over battery and diesel generated backup power, but overall modernizing the grid could deliver almost 100 percent relief to demand. Some estimates put the cost of a new, smart grid at $500 billion. But there are new technologies that already exist — wind, solar, hydrogen – among them, coupled with a resurgence of R&D funding, that can deliver a new, more powerful generation.

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