On Mondays, I’m sometimes invited to attend an adult English conversation class that is run by one of my students’ parents. This past week, she invited a researcher at Aizu University who is working on how to harness “smart energy” with information technology. “Smart energy” is the buzzword that refers to wind, solar, geothermal (地熱）, and underground thermal （地中熱）energies. How he got to this point was incredibly interesting.
After the nuclear accident (he kept using bomb at first… freudian slip?), offices in Tokyo were asked to conserve energy because there wasn’t enough going around. At the time, he was a manager at his office, and was put in charge of energy conservation, which meant light regulation. Every day, he had a routine of turning on and off lights in different parts of a wide open office room and different times of the day. After a while of doing this, and seeing the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of scheduled manual regulation, he thought that this could so easily be automated. So he did a lot of his own studying in energy automation. (I didn’t ask if he actually implemented any automation software.)
Conveniently, the university was looking for someone who could lead a project that would process and analyze data collected from smart energy sources to efficiently distribute that energy to individual homes. And they found this researcher. With Fukushima’s vast land area and varying climates, the researcher was excited to talk to about transporting smart energy collected from all three parts of Fukushima to and from each other, and regulate that energy transport depending on seasons when the respective areas collect less energy than usual.
What is great about this project is its goal to make smart energy distribution and transaction an open source model, so that localities can take advantage of the system and engage in self-revitalization. The top 3 players in the energy business are Hitachi, Toshiba, and Fujitsu. Instead of using these companies to do business and sell to the public consumer “smart energy” collected from solar panel and wind turbine farms, and geothermal sources on land that belong to the citizens, this open source system cuts out corporate middle-men.
Of course, this is just the vision, and our visiting researcher has been doing a lot of work in the last few years without significant results, but certainly small progressive ones.
I asked him if he liked Aizu and what hikes about it, and he loves the sake here, and how close it is to the ski slopes. That was great to hear that from a guy born and raised in Tokyo.