The Answer my Friend is Blowin in the Wind

I never thought I would be referencing Bob Dylan about the realities of technology.  But, the wind industry released a statement that says it all: Read what Wind Watch has to say. 

Anyone who is technically versed in power system dynamics knows just how hard it is to keep the lights on.  It is not simply about having sources of energy… it is all about ramping sources up and down to keep the voltage and frequency within the specifications required for our motors, lights and equipment to operate.

Batteries have been a part of the renewable dream and are certainly a key feature of making PV solar panels and wind work (the other solar renewable source – remember friends that wind is a result of solar energy hitting our planet). But, the scale of this requirement is staggering for batteries alone to make a dent… staggering… especially when wind is priced in to the mix without regard for these balancing costs.

Balance… something designed into the system a hundred years ago… assumed centralized generation.  Yes, that balance has shifted with new sources of energy distributed through the system.  But, the essence of the balancing model has never changed: select all sources of energy based upon the costs and benefits.

Wind may appear inexpensive from a source perspective … but it consumes balancing energy out of proportion to any other renewable energy source.  It is time to put balance in the equations again.


Incremental Thinking May Not Get You There

I painfully remember my first course in digital optimization theory where the approach was to increment variables to find the optimal solution.  The thought was that “as long as you are climbing the hill” you can always seek the peak and know you have found it.

Of course, this assumption rests on computational continuity (technically speaking … no singularities) and nothing more complex than parabolic curved surfaces.  Very simply, if there was only one peak and no other lesser peaks, the methods would probably find it.  However, if there was one big peak and other smaller peaks, you might not find it unless your staring assumptions were within the “mound” of the big peak.

What I am trying to point out with all this, is that continuous improvement in business processes assumes this is true.  But, what if there needs to be a leap of faith to the best mound?  Incremental thinking generally will never find it.

So, now my friends, let me ask you to read this announcement and see if you can spot the “stinkin thinkin” associated with incremental thinking: Read the Energy Voice article here. 

Can you see it?  Why offer a lower cost mortgage for a home like this?  Why not bundle in the energy costs and write a long term fixed payment stream that uses the energy efficiency to drive a better yield on your money?

Think I am way out ahead of people?  Nope.  Thomas Edison never thought you would be able to sell kWh.  He thought the answer was to sell heat and light.  He was right … and that is the golden opportunity in today’s market and on into the future.  Stop thinking you are selling electricity or fuel.

Rethinking Beyond the Box Itself

Almost all of us know the puzzle where you have to connect the nine dots with four straight lines … and the only way to do that is to go beyond the edge of the box itself.  The facilitator will often summarize this as “thinking out side the box” and it has become synonymous with creative thinking.

Well, Toyota has just recently taken that to a new level.  Autonomous vehicles have largely been extrapolations of what we already have the cars just driving themselves.  Jeff Bezos at Amazon startled everyone with his drone delivery ideas last year… everyone thought he was nuts because we all assumed the drones would start at the distribution center… not launched from the delivery van using a hub and spoke concept.

Watch this video and think about how disruptive this idea really is.

Then, please go back to some of my earlier blogs and ask yourself: “Why are we so afraid of the future?  Shouldn’t we be thinking beyond the box we think we are in?”


Just because you can … should you?

Watch the WSJ Video

You have to admit, the choices we consumers have in the United States can make us the envy of the world.  I am aghast at the choices in the supermarket and of course online for whatever I am looking for.

And, when what otherwise might seem like a commodity can be presented as a choice, prices reflect that.  We now have organic this or that … and at times I am just a bit puzzled why I should care about whether “that” was organic or not.

Obviously low fat and no calorie must cost more … they had to remove all those ingredients to make it that way … so it should cost more … or should it?  Read what they do put in the food to achieve those goals and be afraid … be very afraid.

Well, in the Wall Street Journal a restaurant that has yet to serve its first meal was declared the best in the world.  So, of course I had to watch the video proclaiming why this was true.  Here is the link if you have the time to watch the full five minutes: WSJ Video

If you are like most people, here is what I consider the key takeaway:  Just because you can safely serve these foods, does that make it the right thing to do?  Personally, I don’t think so.  When you want to be the best in the world you don’t serve things people are intrinsically afraid to eat in a culture.  Try serving octopus in the US and see what you find.  You serve what people normally might eat but in a way that makes them appreciate why they are in the restaurant having you serve them what they could prepare at home.

I can’t wait to see what happens to the menu in this restaurant after being open for a few months.  I suspect a drastic change … and the chef who had this dream will probably move on in disgust that people have no appreciation for fine dining.

It reminds me of a Christmas dinner I had when my wife Susan was invited to an officer’s party at her firm.  Since I was the spouse I sat next to another spouse.  In this case, she was a playwrite.  So, after asking her what plays she had done and was working on, I just commented that I was amazed at the prolific success of Andrew Lloyd Webber and she scoffed at that saying: “He was just pandering to the masses!”  I then asked how her plays were going and she remarked that attendance was just awful … people just don’t appreciate fine theater.

I rest my case.