Thursday, November 27, 2014

EVolocity this weekend!

If you are in the know, you will have your tickets already, if not, get them now!

EVolocity 2014 is at Ruapuna, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Also, for those who want to know more, there is a good write up on the event here.

See you there!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Distributed Electricity Company (The Future of the Modern Electricity Network) - PART 2 of 3

The volume of distributed generation is climbing (as discussed in the first post).  This trend will continue and it will ultimately reduce demand on centralised plants.  Although, due to the need for stability and continuity of supply, centralised infrastructure and plants will continue to be needed.

When combined with the need to update and renew ageing infrastructure, centralised plants have reducing revenue streams and static or increasing costs.  Hence, the cost of buying power from centralised plants must and will increase (in the US this is already happening, for a NZ context, have a look at this google search both now and in the coming years).

Net result: The price of Grid purchased electricity is going to continue to climb.

Note: I haven't talked about other drivers for electricity price increases (e.g. privatisation and the need for good profit margins), plenty of others are discussing that already.

One very good way of insulating yourself from this trend is to join the growing throng of people who generate their own electricity.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels generate electricity from sunlight
Not everyone has the financial means to purchase and install their own PV system though (even if the ongoing financial benefits make sense, you still need capital readily available to purchase the system in the first place).  This effectively creates a roadblock for many people.

There are some solutions to this conundrum.  In the next and final post in the series on Distributed Electricity I will discuss the options.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Distributed Electricity Company (The Future of the Modern Electricity Network) - PART 1 of 3

Now that the NZ government has sold off a decent chunk of our generation assets, it's probably OK to let the cat out of the bag (releasing this cat is a double edged sword, read on for an explanation).
Mountains, water and electricity
(much of New Zealand's electricity is hydro generated).
Photo: courtesy Martin Stewart
To date, all of the arguments used to justify the sale of the assets fail logical reasoning. When it can be shown that the ROI of these assets vastly out strips the cost of money, it's hard to argue that selling these assets was a wise choice (the partial sale of these electricity generation asset has returned about 4.3 Billion dollars to the government).

Having said that, the government has left a key piece of information out of the story, a piece of information that can change this logical argument.  The fact is that the commercial value of these assets will be much less in the future (something the industry already knows). This will happen due to technology and market price changes on the horizon, changes that are already under way now.

What is happening is a slow but steadily increasing uptake of distributed renewable generation and this has a big effect on the electricity market.  An example of this can be seen in Australia, where the electricity spot market has recently gone negative in the middle of the day (yes, that means people are being paid to consume power!).

To be specific, the "Key Information" the government has left out of the public debate is: "As the cost of equipment for generating renewable energy continues to plummet, the value of the old industrial scale generation assets will drop."

From my perspective, this key information is the only "logical" way the government could internally justify the sale of these assets, because it means the country gets out while the capital value is high.  Of course there is also the ideological based reasoning that government ownership should be minimised, I don't think this simple reasoning can be considered logical though.  I'm also not sure what would hold more sway in the government caucus, ideology or logic?

Of course being honest about this information wouldn't have been a wise move from the governments perspective.  If you are trying to maximise the sale price of these assets (and your determined to sell), this is the last thing you want being discussed in the media...

In the next post, I'll be discussing how these changes will affect us all.

Friday, May 2, 2014

SolarNode plugin system

A long time ago SolarNode development switched from a traditional style Java application to a modular OSGi based one. One of the reasons for the switch was the premise of allowing users to easily download and use SolarNode modules without having to restart the SolarNode application. In OSGi installing, starting, stopping, and uninstalling modules (called bundles in OSGi) is fairly trivial. What SolarNode has lacked, however, was any friendly UI to allow users to browse the available modules and install the ones they want.
Finally that is about to change. The first step to enabling this feature was the deployment of a SolarNetwork-hosted software repository. There are a few open source packages out there, I ended up using Apache Archiva. Now SolarNetwork has a Maven-compatible online software repository to host its own modules, and the build infrastructure has been updated to easily publish modules as they are developed.
Browsing the SolarNetwork Repository
The next step was to make use of the OSGi Bundle Repository (OBR) developed as part of Apache Felix. OBR provides a way to resolve OSGi bundles along with their dependencies. Unfortunately, Archiva does not publish OBR metadata so I turned to another Apache project, Karaf Cave. Cave can act as a OBR proxy to a Maven repository, in which case it scans the Maven repository and generates OBR metadata files from which the OBR resource URLs point back to the artifacts in the Maven repository.

The final step was to develop some SolarNode bundles to enable configuring OBR URLs and a UI to allow users to browse the available software and install or remove individual modules. You can see the result of this work in the following demonstration:

This is a big step forward both in terms of ease of use for users and the SolarNode software development process!

Sunday, April 13, 2014


The future is often driven by excitement and youthful enthusiasm.  Evolocity has launched today with this thought very much front of mind.  The goal is to accelerate New Zealand's development and uptake of EV knowledge and technology.

By combining Motorsport and project based learning targeted at a range of different age groups and skill levels, I think this is set to be a winner.

In addition to the hands on projects for engineering teams, there are also competition categories for video production and social marketing, so there's likely something for everyone.

Evolocity project build options
Full details are available from the Evolocity website:

Check it out and get your team going!