The irony for this blog post is quite amazing. Astounding, actually.
Iâ€™m writing this blog post from a friendâ€™s house, because a freak snowstorm in the northeastern US caused thousands of trees and major branches to fall on electrical transmission wires (due to excess weight from wet snow).
I had no backup power. No generator. No batteries. No resource leveling.
By candlelight that night, I read a story which was about the â€œunevenâ€ supply of power from renewable sources, such as wind, tide, and solar.
The article â€“ from the Boston Globe â€“ laments the failure of renewable energy to provide regular, â€œleveledâ€ amounts of energy. And yet, as I write this, the following day, itâ€™s intensely sunny out. Solar power would be very productive and reliable today. The electricity provided by non-renewable sources, though, is unavailable, eliminated by the effect of hundreds of downed tree limbs have taken out the â€œreliableâ€ standard electrical power supply.
There’s a connection to Project Management here, and it’s multi-faceted.
Here are two of those facets: Opportunity, and a connection to Resource Leveling.
- Opportunity knocks.
The article discusses several very interesting projects and developments around the effort to store energy from uneven sources (tide, solar, wind) so as to provide a steady-state supply. So there are opportunities galore for project management.
Says the article: â€œThe challenge for people developing renewable power projects is that you get a low price if you can only provide sporadic power,â€™â€™ explains Rob Day, an investor at Black Coral Capital in Boston who focuses on the energy industry. â€œIf you can deliver a consistent load of power, you can get perhaps double the price, so developers might be willing to invest in additional equipment.â€™â€™
In New Hampshire, a start-up called SustainX is designing and testing compressed air storage systems. Founder Dax Kepshire says the technology could store power from any sort of generating facility. Electricity from the facility powers an electric motor that pulls air into a maze of pipes and compresses it to about 3,000 pounds per square inch. (A typical car tire is inflated to about 30 pounds per square inch.) â€œWhen you reverse the process, uncompressing the air drives the same electric motor, which functions as a generator,â€™â€™ Kepshire says. Is there opportunity here? Well, SustainX has raised $24 million in private financing, along with a $5.4 million grant from the Department of Energy. Thatâ€™s going to provide some work for project managers, for sure.
General Compression, a company from Newton, MA, has raised $75 million in funding. The company plans to use â€œunderground geologic formationsâ€™â€™ to store the compressed air. They are â€“ one could say â€“ â€œcaving inâ€ to pressure. Sorry.
Other companies in the Boston area, A123 Systems, Boston-Power, and 24M Technologies – are working on large-scale energy storage systems. â€œWeâ€™re still in the R&D phase,â€™â€™ says Throop Wilder, chief executive of Cambridge-based 24M, which received $10 million in venture capital funding last year. Like executives at SustainX, Wilder wonders whether his company will find interested buyers in Asia and Europe before the United States.â€œEven though the US doesnâ€™t believe in climate change, the rest of the world does,â€™â€™ he says.
- Resource Leveling
When you think of whatâ€™s going on here, whether itâ€™s compressed air, batteries, or whatever, it should sound familiar. Why? What these companies are doing is something with which we project managers are already quite familiar. Itâ€™s resource leveling resource leveling. Whatâ€™s resource leveling? From an IBM source, we have this nice explanation:
Resource leveling is the project management function of resolving project resource over-allocation. By definition over-allocation means that a resource has been assigned more work than can be accomplished in the available time as dictated by the resource’s calendar definition.
In most scenarios, over-allocations can be remedied manually by extending tasks or moving them to accommodate the resource’s availability.
In other instances, however, schedules can be impacted not only by the resources’ assignments in the current project, but by planned and proposed assignments in other projects as managers compete for the most critical resources in an attempt to align them with the most critical initiatives.
As well, project constraint dates, estimate to complete forecasts that do not align with the constraints and dependencies can all play a role in whether a manager chooses to level or manually adjust the project schedule.
So in PM, we have a need for a resource (power) and not enough power to meet that need â€“ at times â€“ and too much power (for example when itâ€™s very windy) when we donâ€™t need it.
You want more? More, more more? We have resources – right on the level.
- You can read more about the energy technologies here.
- And you can read more about Resource Leveling in this nifty article from Penn State University here.
Keep tuned to EarthPM for more stories like this that are right at the intersection of sustainability and project management.
Weâ€™ve tend to stay neutral when it comes to the global climate change debate, although we have tried to arm you with the information we believed you, as project managers, need to make sure you can take advantage of any projects that may arise as a result of any mitigation strategies. Today, we heard about a couple of disturbing reports due out over the next several months. Their titles were pretty ominous so we decided to dig a little deeper.
Take a look at some of these headlines and reports to be released and see if you donâ€™t agree that they are unnerving;
NOAA: Past Decade Warmest on Record According to Scientists in 48 Countries
Earth has been growing warmer for more than 50 years.
And this one a report that is indicative of what is to come.
The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.
The title says that those extreme events we have been experiencing, a major snow storm in the northeast in October 2011 for instance, are going to continue and we need a risk mitigation process to address them. Further, we will need to â€œadaptâ€ to these changes.
Another report coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC);
Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation
And finally, an interview from a scientist who has not only been one of the questioners of global climate change, but also his study was partially funded by an organization made up of climate change skeptics. Dr. Richard Muller, professor of physics from the University of California, Berkeley, and founder of the Berkley Earth Surface Temperature Foundation, undertook an independent two year study of global climate change.
It was not that he himself was a sceptic, he just didnâ€™t believe the likes of Tom Friedman and Al Gore because Dr. Muller believes their contentions were not truly science based. Here is part of the interview between Dr. Muller and Eleanor Hall with Bronwyn Herbert from the Australian Broadcast Network (ABC). You can hear the entire interview here.
BRONWYN HERBERT: Richard Muller says he wasn’t convinced the earth was warming, and set out two years ago to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong.
RICHARD MULLER: Sceptics had raised legitimate questions. Many of the thermometers were of very poor quality and poorly placed. There were djustments being made to discontinuities in the data. There was perhaps undue influence from warming of cities, which was warm, but that’s not global warming.
BRONWYN HERBERT: He says he was particularly surprised that his results so closely correlated with previously published data from other teams in the US and the UK.
RICHARD MULLER: Somewhat to my amazement, none of the effects changed the answer. We wound up getting the same answer that the other groups had previously gotten for the amount of warming. It’s about 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last 50 years. The poor temperature quality data, even though it was at bad locations, the change in temperature I recorded was accurate. The urban heat island, just not that much area of the earth is urban. The temperature adjustments that people made, well those adjustments were made with more care than we could know, and in the end the adjustments didn’t bias the data. We picked five times as many stations as they did. Their selection of stations was sufficiently representative that it didn’t change the answer. So, in the end, the amount of global warming is what they said it was.
BRONWYN HERBERT: So do you now believe that global warming on earth is occurring?
RICHARD MULLER: Oh yes. I certainly believe that now.
And finally, from a report Agence France-Presse (AFP) states that a draft UN report three years in the making concludes that man-made climate change has boosted the frequency or intensity of heat waves, wildfires, floods and cyclones and that such disasters are likely to increase in the future.
â€œThe document being discussed by the world’s Nobel-winning panel of climate scientists says the severity of the impacts vary, and some regions are more vulnerable than others. Hundreds of scientists working under the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) will vet the phonebook-sized draft at a meeting in Kampala of the 194-nation body later this month.
“This is the largest effort that has even been made to assess how extremes are changing,” said Neville Nicholls, a professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and a coordinating lead author of one of the review’s key chapters. Mindful of an outcry by climate skeptics over flaws in an earlier IPCC text, those working on the document stress that the level of “confidence” in the findings depends on the quantity and quality of data available.
But the overall picture that emerges is one of enhanced volatility and frequency of dangerous weather, leading in turn to a sharply increased risk for large swathes of humanity in coming decades.â€
â€œIts publication coincides with a series of natural catastrophes around the world that have boosted the need to determine whether such events are freaks of the weather or part of a long-term shift in climate. In 2010, record temperatures fuelled devastating forest fires across Siberia, while parts of Pakistan and India reeled from unprecedented flooding. This year, the United States has suffered from a record number of billion-dollar disasters ranging from flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Hurricane Irene to the ongoing Texas drought. Large swathes of China are suffering from intense drought as well, even as central America and Thailand count their dead from recent diluvian rains.
Most of these events match predicted impacts of manmade global warming, which has raised temperatures, increased the amount of water in the atmosphere and warmed ocean surface temperatures — all drivers of extreme weather.
– It is “virtually certain” — 99-100% sure — that the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes will increase over the 21st century on a global scale;
– It is “very likely” (90-100% certainty) that the length, frequency and/or intensity of warm spells, including heat waves, will continue to increase over most land areas;
– Peak temperatures are “likely” (66-100% certainty) to increase — compared to the late 20th century — up to 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2050, and 5.0 C (9.0 F) by 2100;
– Heavy rain and snowfall is likely to increase over the next century over many regions, especially in the tropics and at high latitudes;
– At the same time, droughts will likely intensify in other areas, notably the Mediterranean region, central Europe, North America, northeastern Brazil and southern Africa.â€ © 2011 AFP