Abstract: Few creatures are more amazing than the octopus. Jet propulsion, RNA-powered camouflage, and magic ink that helps it disappear faster than David Blaine. But did you know that its neural network is a great model for how to modernize our electric system? We know that achieving the kind of emission reductions we’ll need to ward off the worst consequences of climate change will require a more flexible, responsive and sophisticated grid. And that will take new thinking. But when it comes to rethinking our grid, we may have some guidance from natural systems that were designed long before the first watt ever powered a lightbulb. An octopus’s neural network is distributed throughout its body, with a third of its neurology in a centralized cluster and the other two-thirds spread across its body - making real-time decisions without sending information back to a central command center for processing. To fully optimize investments in clean energy, distributed energy resources need to respond to the needs of the grid within a few seconds, if not milliseconds - requiring artificial intelligence solutions deployed across our grid to balance out our grid’s needs and resources in real time. This will allow distributed energy resources to perform like a virtual power plant that can be ramped up and down and that, unlike traditional power plants, can provide smart grid services like voltage stabilization. All of this is critical for phasing out fossil fuels on the timescale required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Bio: Suzanne is chief executive officer for Pecan Street Inc., a not-for-profit organization based in Austin, Texas that utilizes a community-based approach to high-fidelity data generation to accelerate development and adoption of climate solutions in the electricity, transportation, water and agriculture sectors. Prior to joining the organization in 2010, she was director of sustainability initiatives for New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development where she led the development of green building and sustainable retrofit standards for municipally-funded affordable housing. Over the past seven years, Suzanne served as chief of staff and then chief operating officer for Pecan Street, during which time Forbes named her one of five women ‘Using Technology to Blow Up Social Change.’ An urban planner with a masters degree in community and regional planning from the University of Texas at Austin, Suzanne has worked in Africa, China, India and the USA on community-based sustainable development. and potential solutions to modernizing and cleaning our energy system at the same time.
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