|From Yahoo! KVHI thread, an interesting article on the need for stable power - but more importantly power for the DIGITAL era we are in. This looks very promising for the KVHI power sensor product. No matter what new solutions are developed by anyone, sensing power changes in a digial manner seems a critical component need - which is exactly what KVHI has in their power sensor.|
Here is the WSJ article, as extracted from Yahoo! (emphasis is mine).
TECHNOLOGY; Digital Economy's Demand for Stable Power Strains Utilities
Read-Rite, an electronic components maker in Milpitas, Calif., has been in no position to complain whenever fluctuations in electrical service shut down a vital computer-controlled milling machine. After all, the local utility, Pacific Gas and Electric, has lived up to its contractual obligation to keep the power flowing and to prevent voltage surges or dips of 10 percent or more.
Unfortunately, the milling machine, which helps Read-Rite make the tiny devices that read and write information on computer disk drives, crashes if voltages vary as little as 5 percent. And such flutters have occasionally occurred the last two years as Pacific Gas, a unit of the PG&E Corporation, has performed its daily juggling act of matching power demand and supply in the region. So far, Read-Rite's solution has been to monitor the incoming power closely and adjust settings on the milling equipment manually.
"We have to watch it closely because we can lose materials worth thousands of dollars," said Shahzad Mahmud, director of facilities.
Read-Rite's milling machine is indicative of a long-running, but accelerating problem: the nation's electrical power supply system is not up to the task of meeting the digital economy's needs. While the utility industry has historically prided itself on delivering fairly stable power 99.9 percent of the time, today's computerized economy is demanding even fewer interruptions and a much steadier current.
That is because electricity is more than just energy for computers -- it is the medium they use to do their job. Rapid, minute changes in voltage represent the ones and zeros that make up digital information.
Power disturbances around the world cause more than 17,000 computer disruptions every second, from annoying frozen cursors to serious destruction of equipment, according to the latest calculations of American Power Conversion of West Kingston, R.I., which began building backup power systems for computer users in 1984.
"What we have worked well for an economy that ran on motors and lights," said Peter Gross, a leading designer of giant telecommunications hubs, data centers and other buildings that operate around the clock. "There's a major disconnect with what's happening in the digital world."
There is also an explosion of interest in technologies and services that address the new economy's power needs. And the remedies go well beyond the surge suppressors that most home PC users employ to protect their computers during lightning or voltage spikes. The solutions aimed at businesses include backup generators manufactured by companies like Caterpillar and smaller power supplies from American Power Conversion and the Liebert unit of Emerson Electric. There are innovative fuel cells from start-ups like FuelCell Energy; new flywheels from Active Power and Beacon Power and a variety of battery improvements. Companies like International Rectifier and Ixys are finding strong demand for new microchips that manage power equipment.
The computer-driven economy's push to transform the electricity business adds up to a $500 billion opportunity for the companies selling into it, according to Mark P. Mills, a Washington-based consultant who, along with Peter Huber, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, coined the term "powercosm" to describe the evolving market. The two men jointly publish The Digital Power Report for the Gilder Group.
The message certainly is resonating on Wall Street. International Rectifier has soared from less than $12 last summer to more than $55. Ixys, a smaller competitor that was hovering around $3 in November, reached $69 last Tuesday. Start-ups like H Power, a fuel-cell maker, and Active Power are on the runway for public offerings this summer, hoping to find the same kind of welcome as Capstone Turbine, which went public on Thursday at $16 a share and ended the week at $45.0625.
Meanwhile, giants like General Electric and the deregulated arms of numerous utilities have been pouring venture capital into the field.
Still, even the most extravagant estimates of the new economy's impact on sheer demand put the level at less than 10 percent of the total capacity of traditional utilities. To energy managers, engineers like Mr. Gross and, more recently, Wall Street, the volume of demand for power is less noteworthy than the higher quality of electricity that digital users are insisting upon.
"Three nines is great for the grid," Mr. Mills said, referring to 99.9 percent reliability, or roughly eight
hours of power losses a year. Indeed, it is hard to imagine this figure becoming much better, given the vulnerability of power supply grids to bad weather, animals shorting out transformers and other equipment and drunken drivers hitting utility poles.
But even "three nines," Mr. Mills said, is "trash for a computer." Mr. Mills's prescription for microprocessor - friendly power quality is 10 nines, or 99.99999999 percent reliability -- a mere 32 seconds of power loss a year -- plus equipment to protect against those gaps and the sags, spikes and surges in between.
So great is the cost of computer disruptions to the economy that the sale of services or equipment to prevent such problems is starting to be seen as a can't-miss proposition for those with the right technology.