ORIGINS OF DESIGN IN ENGINEERING AND POWER SYSTEMS

STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS

A BRIEF HISTORY OF DESIGN IN ENGINEERING AND POWER SYSTEMS LEADING TO THE FARADAY GRID

In every era in the history of humanity, innovation and development has been implemented in all areas to simplify the functioning of operating systems and ultimately, to increase efficiency and boost productivity. The Faraday Exchanger builds on the work of key physicists and mathematicians by going back to fundamental principles.

Innovation in the area of power and energy can be dated back to 600 BC, when Thales of Miletus, a Greek philosopher, first wrote about the concept of static electricity. He observed that if one rubbed fur on various materials, such as amber, they could create an electric spark.

Later in the 16th century, scientists such as William Gilbert, who is described by some as the father of electrical engineering, would carry out extensive research into electricity and magnetism, leading to him correctly and most significantly concluding that the earth behaves like a giant magnet.

With discoveries like these, came further findings such as Coulomb’s Law in the 18th Century. French physicist Charles-Augustin de Coulomb defined the law of electrostatic attraction and repulsion. Later in that century, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta created the first electric battery using chemicals and metals. By doing this, Volta proved that electricity could be generated chemically.

Such initial findings paved the way for Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Oersted who was the first person to ascertain the relationship between electricity and magnetism. He discovered this by proving that electric currents affected compass needles and created magnetic fields.

Following this, French physicist André-Marie Ampère found that current carrying wires produce forces on each other. He stated that two parallel portions of a circuit would attract one another if the currents in them flowed in the same direction and vice versa.

At the same time, Michael Faraday, one of the most influential scientists in history, was credited with inventing the first electric motor. Following Oersted’s discovery of electromagnetism, Faraday constructed two devices to produce an electromagnetic rotation. Faraday’s inventions and discoveries of electromagnetic induction and the laws of electrolysis have paved the way for inventions such as the modern electric motor, electric generators and transformers as we know them today.

By summarizing and amalgamating the findings of Coulomb, Oersted, Ampère and Faraday, a scientist named James Clerk Maxwell produced four equations that are used today as the basis of electromagnetic theory. He showed that electricity flows through many metals due to the movement of electrons amongst the atoms of the metal. The movement of these electrons produces a magnetic field, the strength of which depends on the number of moving electrons.

These studies and findings have made possible the design and manufacture of the systems that underpin modern life. However, despite the accelerated global development of the past century, the technology in use based on these findings has not fundamentally changed since the invention of the transformer by William Stanley in 1885.  

This lack of cardinal development means that today’s power systems would not be able to cope with the increasing global energy requirements without further increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, based on these fundamentals of physics, theory from several academic streams, and using the principles of Artificial Intelligence and network optimisation, The Faraday Grid was designed to eventually replace existing technology and address the world’s global energy problem.

OUR DESIGN APPROACH: DESIGN BY RATIONALISED CONSTRAINT

In order to deliver the best design outcome in any situation, the problem and opportunity must first be truly understood.

Faraday Grid use a robust design methodology, developed by its founders, called Design by Rationalised Constraint (DbRC). This has enabled us to truly understand problems, and then work from fundamentals to define the area within the constraints in which the optimal design solution must exist.

This is how we established our unique solution to the energy trilemma.

‘TRADITIONAL’ APPROACHES TO SYSTEMS DESIGN

Engineering as a profession has gradually moved toward a methodology of design by precedence. At the core of this commercially driven approach is the desire to limit risk by trying to understand and quantify factors – such as schedule and cost – as early as possible in the process. Ultimately, this leads business to disproportionately value ‘known knowns’ and pre-existing design solutions.

However, as no two circumstances can be exactly alike, it verges on the statistical impossible for a predetermined solution to be the best outcome – even when it may have ‘worked’ previously. The gap between the best solution and the predetermined solution is defined as ‘opportunity cost’.

The academic approach takes an inverse approach, seeking to discover new ideas, methods and outcomes. This has been central to many important and significant discoveries over time.

However, academia is not always aligned with commercial requirements - economic or otherwise - and new solutions can be left trying to find an application, or are abandoned entirely. This is epitomised in the classic criticism -  “a solution looking for a problem”.

Ultimately both approaches suffer a similar requirement for the problem’s parameters to adapt to their solution. Simply, the world doesn’t easily adapt to human ideas, but human imagination can easily adapt to the universe. We just need to get ourselves out of the way of the solution.

DESIGN BY RATIONALISED CONSTRAINT

When we apply DbRC to a complex system like an electricity grid, we must first define the problem we are trying to solve for. Rather than focussing on resolutions to the symptoms from which the grid is suffering such as blackouts or brownouts, understanding why the grid behaves in certain ways is key. These behaviours can be expressed in the form of system constraints.

These constraints include things like the laws of physics, policy and environmental regulations, system economics, and even social license. For example, the electricity grid cannot be switched off for an extended period while we resolve issues.

Once we have defined all the constraints on the system and how they interact we have, in fact, created a solution envelope. By definition, the optimal solution to the problem must lie within these boundaries. The closer the definition, statistically the more optimal the solution and the lower the risk.

Rather than presupposing a solution based on a set of assumptions – whether they be calculated or arbitrary – Faraday Grid use DbRC, the tools of advanced simulation and data analysis to identify the optimum design of a solution.

As the constraint model is built up from fundamentals, the inherent error introduced by assumptions is limited, and can be further reduced by testing the constraint boundaries. Understanding what the solution cannot be allows us to understand the location of possible solutions. The optimal solution emerges

HOW DOES ALL OF THIS APPLY TO ELECTRICITY GRIDS?

By using the principles of DbRC, it is clear that the present and future requirements society has of electricity grid are beyond its original design intentions. This is a function of the radical change underway in how we generate electricity and how we use it.

Simply adding complexity to resolve the symptoms for example, introducing even more variable renewable energy to resolve a single leg of the energy trilemma, severely limits our design choices and ability to adequately resolve the delicate balance of affordability + sustainability + reliability.

Faraday Grid designed our technical solution to rebalance electricity networks by analysing and understanding the constraints of the current system as they are, not as they are perceived.

That is why Faraday Grid presents a more economical and technically viable solution for the energy transition.

Introducing the energy system of the future to Washington DC

Introducing the energy system of the future to Washington DC

Our society has great aspirations for the future. As progress accelerates in every area of our lives, so does the energy system – the very underpinning of our economy – transition as well. However, an energy future shaped by evolving innovation cannot be not be realized while relying on a grid that is fundamentally no longer fit-for-purpose. On March 28 we introduced our vision for the energy system of the future to the American people. Watch our videos of the event here.

Energy and Productivity - Part 3: The Relationship Between GDP and Electricity Consumption

Energy and Productivity - Part 3: The Relationship Between GDP and Electricity Consumption

Research Analyst Oliver Forsyth continues his series exploring the relationship of energy and productivity, this piece focusing on the relationship of energy consumption and GDP.

Celebrating the launch of our global Innovation Centre in Edinburgh

Celebrating the launch of our global Innovation Centre in Edinburgh

Last week we took a moment to appreciate the lengths we have come. In the company of our friends and family – our vital support system on our quest – and the Scottish Government’s Minister for Energy, Connectivity & the Islands Paul Wheelhouse MSP we officially opened our first global Innovation Centre in Edinburgh.

Energy and Productivity - Part 2: What impacts productivity?

Energy and Productivity - Part 2: What impacts productivity?

The first article for this series discussed what productivity is and why it is important. This writing will delve into how individuals, companies and governments can influence measured productivity.

If not nuclear then what? Time to reimagine the grid.

If not nuclear then what? Time to reimagine the grid.

Until recently, the UK government’s future energy plans relied heavily on expensive new nuclear power plants to provide baseload capacity as old fossil fuel plants shut down. This was also going to ensure grid stability to support increased intermittent and volatile renewable generation. However, the energy system is fundamentally changing. We don’t need expensive nuclear power to keep the lights on – a more flexible energy system will enable renewables to flourish.

The Future of Energy is Shared Technology Innovation

The Future of Energy is Shared Technology Innovation

Founder and CTO Matthew Williams will represent both Faraday Grid and LF Energy at DistribuTECH in New Orleans this year, where he will deliver a talk on why he believes an open source system is a necessary foundation for a prosperous energy future. Read this article in which Matthew explains how open source will fuel innovation in energy and find time and date for his presentation below.

Encouraging innovation in regulated utilities: consultation - response from Faraday Grid

Encouraging innovation in regulated utilities: consultation - response from Faraday Grid

The HM Treasury’s and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) initiated a consultation focusing on innovation in utilities, with the aim to “ensure our system of utilities regulation is fit for the future.” As an innovator of technology that will radically transform the market and with a growing global presence, Faraday Grid is keen to engage in the conversation and submitted a response to BEIS, which can be accessed here.

Blockchain and energy – a solution looking for a problem to solve?

Blockchain and energy – a solution looking for a problem to solve?

Blockchain has been a buzzword in many industries over the last couple of years, including the energy sector. However, despite best intentions, blockchain for energy continues to struggle to get beyond the hype and provide any real benefit. Instead, it adds complexity to the electricity system rather than solving the critical systemic challenge to provide people with clean, reliable and low cost power – the energy ‘trilemma’. Ready Founder & Chief Technology Officer Matthew Williams’s article that originally appeared on Current+.

Response to The Institution of Engineers in Scotland Report

Response to The Institution of Engineers in Scotland Report

The Institution of Engineers in Scotland (IESIS) published a report, Engineering for Energy: A proposal for governance of the energy system.  IESIS claimed that changes to the energy supply, such as an increased amount of renewable energy onto the electrical grid, could result in “cost escalation, increased incidence of power cuts and prolonged reinstatement of supply”.  IESIS also called for the introduction of a “National Energy Authority… to ensure the provision of fit for purpose energy infrastructure.”

In response, Faraday CEO Andrew Scobie says that only radical change of the electrical grid will deliver the low carbon future we all desire, arguing that innovation, not more bureaucracy, will enable sustainable prosperity for all.  

Faraday at the Distributed Energy Resources: Digitization & IoT Conference

Faraday at the Distributed Energy Resources: Digitization & IoT Conference

The Distributed Energy Resources: Digitization & IoT Conference gathered prominent analysts, policy makers, business leaders in Vienna this week. With a focus on new types of energy generation, the event set out to focus on answering the key questions dominating the energy discourse. Representing Faraday Grid, CEO Andrew Scobie put the emphasis on the how rather than the what of the popular questions in his presentation. Read his speech, titled ‘Reinventing the Electricity Grid as a DER Platform’ via the link.

The Energy Trilemma is far from being resolved - Response to Greg Clark

The Energy Trilemma is far from being resolved - Response to Greg Clark

In this response to Greg Clark MP, Founder & Chief Technology Officer Matthew Williams and Chief Economist & Head of Government Affairs Richard Dowling together challenge the idea that the Energy Trilemma is “over” and examine how greater amounts of renewables will affect energy security and energy equity, should there be no change to the current grid.

Energy and Productivity - Part 1: What is productivity and why should we care?

Energy and Productivity - Part 1: What is productivity and why should we care?

The word ‘productivity’ gets thrown around quite a bit by policymakers and economists, but is it really that important to our everyday lives? In this introductory piece in a series about energy and productivity, Research Analyst Oliver Forsyth explores how productivity relates to measures of welfare and economic performance.

Reinventing the Electricity Grid for Continuing Prosperity and Innovation

Reinventing the Electricity Grid for Continuing Prosperity and Innovation

The European Utility Week, a summit for key players in the energy sphere working towards a fully integrated and interconnected electricity system and market in Europe took place in Vienna this year. Read CEO Andrew’s Scobie’s speech on why the Faraday Grid is the necessary evolution of the energy system.

Prosperity, Academia, and the Faraday Grid Prize for Research for Industry

Prosperity, Academia, and the Faraday Grid Prize for Research for Industry

Last week, Founder and Chief Technology Officer Matthew Williams travelled to the University of Manchester to award the first ever Faraday Grid Prize for Research for Industry. This prize recognises rigorous academic research with strong industrial applicability. It is also a great example of Faraday’s drive to enable collaboration among the academic and private sector thereby catalysing societal progress. Read Matthew’s article below to find out why he believes collaboration is a key pillar for building future prosperity.

Nature’s constraints need not limit innovation and growth – Part 2: Paul Romer

Nature’s constraints need not limit innovation and growth – Part 2: Paul Romer

The story of how two economists integrated innovation and climate with long term economic growth and won a Nobel prize, part 2.

Nature’s constraints need not limit innovation and growth – Part 1: William Nordhaus

Nature’s constraints need not limit innovation and growth – Part 1: William Nordhaus

The story of how two economists integrated innovation and climate with long term economic growth and won a Nobel prize.

Faraday at the LF Energy Summit

Faraday at the LF Energy Summit

As part of the inaugural LF Energy Summit earlier this week, Faraday Grid connected with distinguished open source developers and power systems professionals to discuss the innovation needed to enable the energy transition.

Introducing the world’s first Faraday Grid in London

Introducing the world’s first Faraday Grid in London

The Faraday Grid is thrilled to announce the deployment of its revolutionary technology in London, one of the world’s most sophisticated electricity networks. The agreement will see the world’s first Faraday Grid utilised in a live network from early 2019 in partnership with the UK’s most innovative distribution network operator UK Power Networks, which characterised Faraday’s technology as ‘transformational.’ As the Faraday Grid expands through the rest of the UK and beyond, it promises to unlock new frontiers in innovation and underpin the sustainable welfare of generations to come.