Brand & Culture

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.

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.

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.

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.

Faraday Grid at the Clean Energy Summit

Faraday Grid at the Clean Energy Summit

CEO Andrew Scobie, CMO Jacqui Porch, and Director, Paul Ezekiel travelled to Sydney to represent Faraday Grid and join key players of the energy sphere at the Clean Energy Summit 2018.

Brand leadership and the responsibility of upholding values - and what happens when it fails

Brand leadership and the responsibility of upholding values - and what happens when it fails

Companies who become truly successful are the leaders in their field and icons of industry that command significant followership. They do not only carry the responsibility of representing their own brand but they also have an impact on the reputation of their whole sector. Accordingly, true leaders face far-reaching implications if the fundamentals of their culture fail. Chief Marketing Officer, Jacqui Porch reviews a recent Australian cricket scandal from the viewpoint of company culture and founding brand values. 

Shining The Light On Our Women Engineers for International Women's Day

Shining The Light On Our Women Engineers for International Women's Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day I took the opportunity to shine the light on the women in our team at FGL. I sat down with 2 of our engineers, Emilia and Elizabeth, to discuss their thoughts on being an engineer now how they got here and where they’re headed into the future. Here’s what they had to say..