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The Net-Zero Neighborhood: Advanced Energy Storage and Highly Efficient Photovoltaics Take Transportation Off the Gasoline Grid and Residential Off the Electric Grid

The NZN concept relies on high energy density storage systems incorporated into the local grid, as well as efficient photovoltaic generation. NZN can integrate with the centralized grid. Source: Gil Weigand. Click to enlarge.

In a special presentation yesterday at the “Beyond Lithium Ion: Computational Perspectives” conference held at Argonne National Laboratory, Dr. Gil Weigand of Oak Ridge National Laboratory outlined his vision of a critical solution to the energy, climate and ensuing national security threats facing the US: the Net-Zero Neighborhood (NZN).

The Net-Zero Neighborhood is based on local generation using renewables; distributed energy storage in proportion to the population; electric transportation as an integral part of energy storage; energy becoming a consumer commodity that is bought and sold in a local marketplace; and a new jobs base in the form of local energy service providers.

NZN Needs the Exa Era
Actually delivering commercially viable 500-mile batteries will require exascale computing—i.e., ultra-high performance computing with computing speed on the scale of 1 x 1018 operations per second, Weigand says.
Ab initio materials, design, performance, and manufacturing can initially be handled with petascale (1 x 1015 op/s) computation, Weigand suggests.
But safety analysis, cycling/aging analysis and integrated validation will push those computational requirements into the exa era.
If we are going to create some of the batteries, you better be ready to crank out some cycles.”

The plan requires significant scientific advances; key technology drivers for the NZN are highly energy dense, mass-market, interchangeable energy storage products (e.g., batteries); the creation of grid-enabled consumer-side energy generation appliances; and a robust set of standards and protocols.

Weigand is looking for a “500-mile battery” such as a Li-O2 (Lithium air) thin film nano-technology system and for 50% efficient photovoltaic cells. (Weigand also noted that “I’m not selecting a technology—when I say battery, fuel cell is fine with me.”)

Weigand, a former assistant energy secretary and Time Warner technology executive, is currently the director of strategic programs and planning with the Computing and Computational Sciences directorate of ORNL. Weigand served in several management positions with the Department of Energy (DOE) during the late 1990s and received the Secretary of Energy Gold Medal in 1996.

Among the DOE titles he held were deputy assistant secretary for research, development, and simulation with the agency’s Defense Programs, now National Nuclear Security Agency; deputy assistant secretary for strategic computing and simulation; and Defense Programs senior technical information officer.

He also served as a media and technology executive at Time Warner, both in corporate positions and at the company’s America Online (AOL) division. Weigand’s positions with the company included vice president of the Corporate Technology Group as well as chief technology officer international and senior vice president for Web services at AOL. The core of his NZN approach is turning energy into a consumer product.

The rationale. Noting that the status quo in US energy consumption “is no longer viable”, Weigand went on to explain how the conventional wisdom on tackling the energy and greenhouse gas emissions issues (as exemplified by the stabilization wedges of Pacala and Socolow or variants thereof) is insufficient to the task.

Plans based on conventional wisdom rely on current technology or a modest extrapolation of current technology, and can be implemented immediately, such as in plug-in hybrid cars, the now moribund Pickens Plan, or solar thermal plants, according to Weigand.

There are real-world realities that prevent or slow progress on those implementation objectives, however. On top of that, there is little or no communication between the wedges, he noted.

Delivering more than 29 TW of clean energy to meet demand in 2050 is a significant challenge. Click to enlarge.

Meet Mr. Reality.” The current thinking on climate stabilization is based on a world-wide goal of an 80% reduction from 1990 levels of GHG emissions by 2050.

Global annual demand for energy in 2005 was about 16 TW, Weigand noted. By 2050, the annual demand is expected to double to about 32 TW. But with an 80% reduction target in GHG, that means that in 2050 the allowable annual level of energy with associated greenhouse gas emissions is about 2.7 TW.

To bridge that gap between the 2.7 TW of fossil-based energy and the 32 TW demand, Weigand said, would require the daily construction—starting today—of one million square feet of solar panels; about 200 square miles of wind turbines, and one 1 GW nuclear power plant.

There are 14,600 days-ish until 2050. At just 1 GW per day, that’s only 14 TW. This is not a small engineering feat. And there will be resource contention...Energy objectives, meet the reality of environmental concerns.

—Gil Weigand

The Net-Zero Neighborhood. Click to enlarge.

Net-Zero Neighborhoods. The NZN approach relies on the multiplier effect of consumerism. Energy storage becomes an integral part of the local grid infrastructure, for both mobile and stationary systems. NZN shifts the emphasis of energy storage from centralized to distributed at the points of use.

It creates point-to-point mass-transit transportation; electric vehicles will ride on common/shared battery infrastructure.

You generate energy locally using renewables. You electrify transportation, and unify energy storage and transportation—they are one and the same. You commoditize energy. The consumer buys and sells energy per their ability and needs in a localized open marketplace.

...the whole concept rides and lives on energy storage...every energy type becomes baseload regardless of temporal or geographical behavior. If you have local storage, transients are irrelevant.

Weigand envisions a vehicle he calls the “iCar”—a mobile energy (distributed) storage unit that can be used for transportation. When plugged into the grid, energy can be withdrawn as required by the system per consumer controls and driving statistics. The iCar would be transformational, he has suggested; it is based on marketplace driven requirements rather than an evolutionary car.




OTOH you could simply apply current and near current technology instead of betting the farm on breakthroughs and throwing money at it.
Cars now can do 100 miles on batteries, By 2015 they will be able to do 200 miles.
They are around 6 times as efficient as oil burners.
Proper insulation of houses and the use of air source heat pumps could reduce energy use for space heating and cooling by similarly large amounts.
Most of the extra power is needed in the developing world.
South Korea turns out nuclear plants in 50 months for $2,500kw
At 1GW per day that is around $1 trillion/year, or for 8 billion people around $125 each.
Running costs of nuclear are negligible.
What's the betting that 'neighborhood generation' etc would cost ten times that?
It is a truly daft idea, as the nature of renewables is that they vary enormously by location, with some areas having excellent resources and others almost none.
No-one in their right mind takes the route of producing energy where it is difficult and expensive instead of cheap and easy, even if the discussion is confined to renewables.
The list of those who are in their right mind does not include Dr Weingard.


With $1 trillion one can build thinfilm PV factories http://bit.ly/8goD3q which produce 6000 GW of nuclear fusion power collectors in ten years and can even provide power to the over 2 billion people which are not connected to the grid. Thinfilm PV modules can be installed on existing roofs and reduce the load on the grid, since the power can be consumed close to production and PV modules only produce power during day time when the electric load is more than doubled. In addition they don't depend on uranium imports, they don't need cooling water and don't have high decommissioning and repository costs.
Heat energy (e.g. hot water, heating, washing, air conditioning, refrigeration etc.) can be produced with heat pumps when there is a surplus of renewable energy available and heat energy (hot and cold) can be stored in a water/ice tank orders of magnitudes cheaper than in a battery.

Will S

Davemart wrote;

Running costs of nuclear are negligible.
What's the betting that 'neighborhood generation' etc would cost ten times that?

This ignores the tremendous cost of nuclear design and construction.

- For two new AP1000 reactors at its Turkey Point site Florida Power & Light the overall figures were $5780 to $8071 per kW.

- For two new AP1000 reactors in Florida, Progress Energy estimated the total cost would be about $14 billion.

Wind is far less per kwh than nuclear, and solar PV is not far behind.

Dr. Weingard has some interesting points; I do believe in neighborhood renewable energy generation, though I still think the smart grid will be needed to have high level percentage penetration of renewables such as solar and wind to balance out variations in sun and wind levels.


If we could build a 100 mile x 100 mile array of PV panels, it would supply 100% of US electricity demand during peak hours. Probably several arrays spread across the country would be better because of the changing sun angle. With large arrays like this, the cost of solar would be less than $1,000 per kW. Nanosolar cranks out PVs faster than anyone, but they can't make 1 GW per year yet. So we need a few hundred of their PV printing presses.


Actually 10,000 square miles = 25,900 km2. At only 12% PV efficiency that's a maximum power of 3108 GW (at 1kW per m2). With 1500 sunhours that's 4,662 TWh or almost 30% more electricity than what the US currently consumes.

For comparison, the built area (highways, streets, buildings, parking lots etc.) of the US covers 120,000 km2 or roughly the area of the state Ohio.

Weigand, a former assistant energy secretary and Time Warner technology executive,
Time Warner!!! LOL

they should stick to making Sitcoms.... maybe this is their answer to "The Big Bang Theory"


Future energy sources mix will include more Nuclear, much more Wind and much more Solar with progressive reduction from coal fired power plants and heavy oil. NG will be used in many places for the next 50 years or so.

As for total energy usage, the idea that we will always consume more and more per capita could be challenged if we were to build better homes and use much better HVAC systems, better appliances, lights, water heaters, etc and specially if we phase out most of the inefficient ICE machines around in favor of more efficient cleaner electrified machines. Using ultra high speed e-trains instead of private cars, ICE buses and ICE aircraft for longer distances can reduce energy consumption per passenger/Km by up to 240 times.

Future homes with built-in integrated solar cell roofs and windows + a 20 to 30 year program to progressively change most existing roofs with solar cell tiles or membrane could reduce power grid load by 50+ % and reduce the need for centralized power stations.

More education and efforts have to be used to convince us to do more with less energy. It is relatively easy to do twice as much (and more) with less energy. In the last 20 years, our all electric home went from 65 KWh/day to 22 Kwh/day with an improved comfort level. Part of it may be due to climate change but the latest home is much better built, much better equipped and 3 times more more energy efficient. The e-energy saved is enough to run 3 to 4 future BEVs. That's our next challenge as soon as they become affordable with more e-range and designed/adapted for cold weather operations. Future Altair batteries + ultra caps may do just that.

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