May 2008

May Automation by the Numbers


The ups-and-downs of wind power are a real control and automation problem for electric grid operators. Now, they encourage and discourage users through financial incentives to keep grids stable. For instance, in western Denmark, on windy days electricity is free. Germany has the most installed wind energy capacity at 22,247 megawatts. The U.S. is second; Spain is third.


Engineers turned on the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) in 1947. It ran continuously through 1955. It was the first high-speed, purely electronic, Turing-complete, digital computer capable of being reprogrammed. The University of Pennsylvania's Moore School of Electrical Engineering designed and built it to calculate artillery-firing tables for the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory. ENIAC contained 17,468 vacuum tubes and weighed about 27 tons. It measured 8.5 feet by 3 feet by 80 feet. Today, a chip of silicon measuring 0.02 inches square holds the same capacity as the ENIAC.


U.S. coal-fired power plants must be compliant with mercury emission standards beginning 1 January 2009. Coal plants will have to install mercury emissions monitoring equipment on approximately 1,300 coal units. The cost will be $6 billion. Analysis groups, sensors communities, and automation & technology divisions should get on their toes and "cut hay while the sun shines."


The Council of Europe convention helps protect computer users against hackers and Internet fraud. It is reviewing the Convention on Cybercrime, the only legally binding international treaty that addresses online crime. Forty-three countries have signed the convention. The group is mostly European but also includes the U.S., Japan, and Canada. Their concerns are how governments should counter attacks aimed at crippling the Internet and hitting users with data loss, identity theft, fraud, sexual exploitation, organized crime, and terrorism.