RoseWater Energy Unscripted: Why Utilities Can’t Provide Consistent Power Quality

In this thought-provoking sound bite from the “Importance of Power Management” podcast, Joe Piccirilli addresses the growing challenge of voltage control in the context of Florida’s changing landscape. He paints a vivid picture of how the state’s population has exploded over the years, with a surge from 7.4 million in 1974 to nearly 26 million in 2023, turning quaint 1,200 square foot cottages into sprawling 25,000 square foot mansions. Joe points out a significant issue – despite advances in energy efficiency, Florida hasn’t seen a new power plant built since 1975. As homes grow in size and energy demands increase, maintaining power quality becomes a daunting task. Joe sheds light on voltage sags, which can adversely affect electronic devices, particularly microprocessors. He explains that smaller microprocessors face challenges in heat dissipation as voltage is lowered, which hinders their efficiency. Joe emphasizes that these issues are not solely resolved with batteries, as they only work during power outages and cannot stabilize voltage. He ties these concerns back to the fluctuating nature of renewables, such as solar power, where cloud cover can reduce power generation significantly. This insightful discussion underscores the pressing need for comprehensive power management solutions and highlights the evolving challenges in an ever-changing energy landscape.


Joe Piccirilli:
What is difficult is voltage control. But think about your state and my state. I live in Florida. When I moved Florida in 1974, there were 7.4 million people in this state and all of the little houses along the water and on the Intercoastal here were 1,200 square foot winter cottages.

Fast-forward, here we are 2023, the population is nearing 26 million. The only two states that got more people than us is Texas and California, and the only one of those two that’s growing is Texas because California is shrinking. And then just like in Texas, I was in Austin recently and watched what used to be all these nice little old fraternity houses and things that are now gigantic mansions around Austin, in Florida, our 1,200 square foot Intercoastal cottages are now 25,000 square feet.

I don’t believe there has been a power plant built in this state since 1975. Despite the fact that air conditioning, lighting, everything’s gotten more efficient, we don’t generate more power. How can we expect power quality to be maintained? When you start looking at utility specs, all of a sudden you see a lot of voltage sags, and voltage sags are very detrimental to all of the things we talked about, all the microprocessors. If you think about, and most people have lives, so they don’t think about microprocessor design, we try and make microprocessors smaller and smaller and smaller.

The biggest problem with making something smaller is how do you dissipate heat? When you lower voltage, you increase amperage, which creates heat. Now we are working against the efficiency of microprocessors with voltage. That’s the discussion we have with many of our clients saying, hey, the problems you are experiencing have nothing to do with just a battery. They have everything to do with what’s going on with the expansion of population and the expansion of the size of a house.

And that’s going on in Texas. I mean, that’s what’s going on in many, many states, particularly along both coasts because everybody’s moving there. Tying that back to the renewable, when you have that kind of fluctuation in renewables, because people don’t think about, yeah, it puts out a kilowatt… On average, a cloud goes by, that kilowatt is cut to 200 because you can lose 80% of your power generation just when a cloud goes by.

Well, your house is really not going to like the fact that it went from a need of a kilowatt and all of a sudden you’re providing it with 200 watts, every breaker in the place trips. That’s why people now mitigate that effect by adding batteries to their solar. But solar and batteries only work when power’s off. They do not work to help stabilize voltage. That’s part of our issue.

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