Computational Sustainability Seminar: Enabling a Sustainable Energy Infrastructure - a role for Information Technology

Sponsored by CSAIL



David Culler, Professor and Chair of Computer Science

Associate Chair of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

Faculty Director of i4Energy at the University of California, Berkeley



After 150 years of industrial (r)evolution, as we contemplate how to arrest the rise in global temperature we must ask how we can bring Information Technology, which has brought such advances in productivity and performance, to bear on efficiency and sustainability. The problems of energy, climate, and sustainability are not crisp, clean technology challenges; they are complex Cyber-Physical Systems challenges. In this talk, we explore how to apply lessons of the Internet, i.e., design principles for building distributed and robust communications infrastructures, to develop an architecture for a cooperative energy network that promotes reduction in use and penetration of renewable sources. We explore how pervasive information can improve energy production, distribution and use. We investigate how design techniques for scalable, power proportional computing infrastructures can translate to the design of a more scalable and flexible electric infrastructure, encouraging efficient use, integrating local or non-dispatchable generation, and managing demand through awareness of energy availability and use over time. Our approach is to develop a cyber overlay on the energy distribution system in its physical manifestations: machine rooms, buildings, neighborhoods and regional grids. A scaled series of experimental energy networks demonstrate monitoring, negotiation protocols, control algorithms and Intelligent Power Switches integrating information and energy flows in a datacenter, building, and campus. We seek to understand broadly how information enables energy efficiencies:
through intelligent matching of loads to sources, via various levels of aggregation, power proportional design, and by managing how and when energy is delivered to demand, adapted in time and form to available supply. Together these offer a path to a comsumer-centric grid with supply-following loads.

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