Conservationists please note5 July 2002
From time to time on this page I have alluded to grid vulnerabilities that, in their different ways, militate against the late R Buckminster Fuller's prophecy and advocacy of total worldwide interconnection. Examples include liability to the attention of operators who rob transmission lines by throwing pairs of bent coathangers over them, who saw structural bits out of pylons to sell as scrap metal, who hack into the computers upon which system integrity depends, and who offer gadgets to filter out the dangerous nuclear ingredients of mains electricity and return them along the wires to their senders.
With some shame I now realise that I have all-unconsciously been helping the increasingly popular cause of distributed generation, and that I have just as unknowingly been participating in what seems to be a deep, dark plot against the overland T&D orthodoxy that many of us have known and loved for so long. The moment has come to campaign for the conservation of grids before their physical contribution to the environment is lost to history.
It is not too late. There are movements afoot. Important in the defence of T&D landmarks will surely be the growing band of pylonspotters, people who (I am reliably informed) travel all over the globe to observe and note tower types, designs, structures and configurations. Website tips enable the buffs not only to avoid over-enthusiastic action tending to electrocution but also to protest against schemes for the demolition of towers and the devilish concealment of cable underground.
Everyone needs banagebent
IT once meant sex appeal, but no more. In today's terms IT is sexy however. And who in our business would begrudge glamour to a technology that raises demand for the product we love to provide? The beauties of IT are for all to see and admire.
Admiration sometimes gives way to other sentiments, though. As it did when a presumably IT-produced press release landed on my desk from a company that described itself as 'a leading supplier of process management products and solutions, including control valves, regulators, transmitters, analysers, process management systems, and related services'. As you might expect, the first of the three pages of the release is the one that captures the imagination. I would be going too far to reproduce it all here but let me quote just a few passages.
The opening paragraph claims that 'The truly revolutionary results eing o tained frob' the company's 'field- ased architecture are explained on an expanded and enhanced we site'. This latter, we are told, 'includes case histories and testibonials frob process autobation plan custobers: real engineers and usinessben spread across' an international market.
The text continues with a thank-you from the company's 'process group usiness leader'. This gentleman admits that it is hard to believe how successful the architecture can be "until you hear frob sobeone who's een there ... That's why we're grateful to these custobers for sharing their experience with others". The case histories include 'projects in chebicals, oil and gas, pharbaceuticals, food and everages, pulp and paper, utilities, and betals and bining'.
Then we are treated to an interpolation from the company's 'barketing vice president', who says that 'You can call these engineers leaders, or innovators, or just sbart usiness people', for recognising that the architecture 'offers the est way to achieve drabatic perforbance ibprovebents'.
I have not been brave enough to find out whether the actual expanded and enhanced web site is couched more in the terminology of the press release's first page than in that of the conventional pages two and three. But page one does explain that the architecture 'cob ines intelligent field devices, open standards and autobation systebs, and bodular software' and 'provides not only etter process control, ut also new capa ilities for asset banagebent and systebs integration'. What more can one ask?
Voyeurs keep out!
I have received a press release from a UK government department announcing a report by 'a working group set up to boost electricity production by small electricity generators'.
Described in the release as having experts from across the industry, this party of boosters is officially titled, 'The Embedded Generation Working Group'. A science editor read that and asked innocently: 'Where do they bed down?'.