Guest Post by Joe Pawlikowski, ballplayer and tech writer (More about Joe at the end of this post)
When you think of your electric company, what comes to mind? Since many of us take their service for granted, we think of the negative. We feel frustration over the monthly bill, especially if we used an inordinate amount of energy in the previous month. Because we take the service for granted, nothing strikes up our ire in the same way as an outage. Yet there is something valuable we can learn from the electric company.
From power grid to smart grid
In the old days, humans had little control over electrical power flow. We had power grids, and we made sure that those grids connected to all necessary points. We also made sure that electricity flowed through the lines in that grid. But beyond that we didn’t have the tools for dynamic grid management. But with the rapid technological development that hit high gear in the 1980s, we’ve come a long way in how we manage our electrical grids. Now many power companies, particularly those in large cities, employ smart grids to manage their networks. The smart grid consists of both software and hardware upgrades that allow us to more efficiently manage how we distribute power. That is, we’re not just indiscriminately distributing power to each destination on the grid. We can now send energy to where it is most needed by employing smart meters that relay steady, accurate information. We can apply this concept to our own lives.
How smart grids create balance
Modern technology has allowed us to determine when an area is consuming more power than normal. When this happened in the past, the area risked creating an outage. Today, however, we can simply direct a disproportional amount of energy towards that area, fulfilling its need. Smart grids can do this by pulling from areas that aren’t consuming as much power. In doing so the grid can take are of demand without robbing from areas that also need power. In executing this process, the grid creates a balance. It distributes as much energy to an area as is needed. When one area needs more power — for example, a nightclub district in a big city on a Saturday night — it can fulfill that need by pulling from an are that isn’t consuming much. Perhaps that would be a business district on a Saturday night. What results is a balance of energy distribution. Each area gets what it needs, and everything flows smoothly.
Continued, fluid balance
It might seem, at first glance, that the old power grid was more balanced. After all, it evenly distributed power. In many ways, evenness is akin to balance. But that’s not always the case. There are many instances when we create balance in unevenness. The smart grid helps create true balance, because it balances various needs and creates an equilibrium. When that night club district powers down for the night, the smart grid no longer needs to distribute a high level of power. It can revert to a normal state, freeing up power for other areas that need it. When another area does need it — a business district early on a Monday morning — the smart grid can direct energy its way, perhaps pulling from the night club district. The energy moves from one place to another, but with the purpose of balancing needs at the time.
Applications to life
When we try to create balance in our lives, we often think of evenness. We need to balance our work and home lives, our frugalness and our indulgences, our exertion and our relaxation. But that’s not always an even distribution. Sometimes work calls and we need to work far more hours than we spend with our families. Sometimes we need to tighten our belts and save where we’d otherwise spend. Sometimes our bodies ache and we need to relax where we were exerting. That is to say, balance is a fluid state that is rarely even. The electric grid analogy can help ingrain that lesson in our minds. Electric grids are creating balance. They ensure that each area gets what it needs at any given time. In the same way, we need to find balance by determining where we need to focus our efforts. As time passes our focuses will change, and we need to create a new balance. Using the analogy, we can balance any aspect of our lives, or our lives on the whole. While we might associate negative feelings with the electric company, a smart grid can provide just the blueprint we need for balance.
About the Author: Joe Pawlikowski is a rabid baseball fan who continues playing in amateur leagues. He writes and edits several tech blogs across the web. He puts together his thoughts on life and work at A New Level.