Christopher Mims has a great piece at Grist on the state of Germany’s photo voltaic(PV) system compared to Japan’s Fukushima nuclear complex. We can skip over the math arguments that the PV system in Germany is 20% more efficient than Fukushima at the height of the day. The point now is that Fukushima is producing ZERO watts of electricity. The design of future green energy systems should incorporate concepts from Information Security.
Information Security attempts to build the CIA triad. CIA is
- Confidentiality – Is the data protected from unauthorized access?
- Integrity – Has the data been tampered with?
- Availability – Is the data available for people to use when they want it?
We will look at Availability. Information systems are typically protected by an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) which has a battery backup. If electricity is lost the batteries continue to power the servers. In most cases the UPS is supplemented by a diesel or natural gas generator to recharge the batteries. In very scenarios where interruption of service is a high impact event, a company will deploy backup servers along with the resilient electrical resources in a geographically separate area. In some cases this can be cross continent or across the world. The objective is to prevent a total loss of your business from a geographically isolated event. The second objective is to provide the customers with a service that is available when they want to use it. For example, a business in Japan may have located servers in another country. If the datacenter were destroyed by the tsunami, the severs in the other country would take over automatically and the customers would not know the difference or know immediately that something was wrong.
Green energy needs the “A” principle of CIA in order to be useful. Pundits on both the green energy side and fossil fuels side have advocated for a one size fits all solution. Windmills, solar panels, and ocean power have not reached the efficiency levels to replace fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are reliable, but are subject to supply chain disruption and competition for the resources themselves which results in higher prices for everyone concerned.
Green energy sources should initially supplement fossil fuels and should be used much like a hedging strategy in a stock portfolio. If there is a disruption of the main power plant, the green alternatives can take up part of the slack while the main facility is being repaired. As more green capacity is brought online it can be built in a decentralized manner. This reduces the exposure that consumers face from the loss of a centralized power source. Green energy is great, but if it is unusable due to a natural disaster the effort is wasted.