Distributed Utilities

Distributed manufacturing is poised to change our world using 3D printing technology to manufacture objects locally. Our utility infrastructure can move in the same direction.

Our basic needs are water, food, shelter, power, communications, and medical services. The basic utilities we consume most are water, electric power, communications networks. We are already seeing the beginning of distributed utilities in the way solar electricity can be sold to the local power grid.

Without solar power, we simply buy electricity from the grid and use it. With solar panels supplying electricity during sunlight hours, we can sell the excess to the grid and either draw down stored battery reserves during the night or buy back some from the grid.

Our water utilities work in a similar fashion, with centralized collection, filtering and purification, then a distribution network of pipes that supplies water to our homes. With no water utility, it becomes necessary to perform these functions on our own. One method of doing this is rain water collection from rooftops. Most areas drop more than enough rainwater on rooftops to supply at least basic drinking water needs (assuming careful conservation protocols). Needed are gutters (already on most homes), collection tanks, filtering and purification ability and also a parallel second pipe conduit for return flow. Once those are in place, it could become possible to pump excess water back across the pipe infrastructure to public surplus collection points. We could use public water when needed and replenish the supply when we have excess, just as we can now with the electric grid. There may be other difficulties or inefficiencies that would render this idea impractical, but it would be interesting to test it on a small local basis for learning.

The same concept is becoming practical with our communications networking and wireless mesh networks. With enough capacity, wireless mesh networks can connect homes to immediate neighbors, creating a neighbor-net that would be fault tolerant and low cost. There would still be a need for the public infrastructure that connects neighborhood like an electric grid or water pipes.

SEE ALSO:
An Economic Singularity
A Surplus of Abundance
Hyperlocal Manufacturing
The New Renaissance

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