It is common to think of the “grid” as pertaining to energy, electricity in particular. But just as oils and gasses flow through pipelines, and those pipelines are also parts of the energy grid, so water infrastructure can be considered a grid. Water is as fungible as energy.
And just as centralized energy and water infrastructure are known as the grid, then independent energy and water systems are described as “off-grid.” But the engineering and political economy of the “mid-grid” ecosystem for energy and water production and management is where the market is heading. The primary reason for this is the inability of grid operators – the public sector and their powerful corporate partners – to remain competitive, and deliver energy and water to humanity at a price-point that reflects today’s advanced capabilities. Technology is a river, creating options against all obstacles.
A good example of a mid-grid system is an aircraft carrier. Energy and water are produced in very high quantities, but the carrier has no permanent utility interties. Another example would be a huge resort on a remote and isolated shore of the ocean. By these criteria, one definition of a mid-grid system is an energy and water infrastructure that can fulfill these resource needs for 1,000+ people indefinitely, with only limited access to the global energy and water grid.
Another way to think of mid-grid systems is to define them as intermediaries between individual property owners and their government regulated public utilities. The mid-grid infrastructure would buy and sell energy and water to the public utility, while producing and storing large quantities of energy and water on their own, and while distributing this energy and water to their clients.
Not only can a mid-grid entity provide a physical infrastructure, but also part of the mid-grid ecosystem are virtual service providers, who, for example, buy, hold, and sell energy and water for select clients. Typically, to be known as a “mid-grid” virtual services company, these financial entities would specialize in packaging the innovations and investments of actual mid-grid scale energy and water producers. In this manner mid-grid financial entities could provide property owners a hedge against punitive government schemes to artificially increase the prices for energy and water.
It isn’t hard to imagine what these mid-grid companies would look like, because there are too many vivid examples. A company that trucks water from a farmer’s irrigation canal – with the enthusiastic consent of the farmer, who sells this water – to water-starved homeowners in heavily regulated cities. A privately-owned water runoff cistern utilized by several neighbors, or, similarly, a thermal energy hot point or cool point.
A mid-grid company could be an unleveraged solar power producer who sells their surplus power to their neighbors, pocketing the profits as a real return on investment in these uncertain times. For that matter, a mid-grid company could simply be a propane delivery truck operating in areas previously uncompetitive. It is not possible to create artificial scarcity in a world of adaptable humans. The river of technology carves its way, naturally and inevitably, into the future.
The mid-grid can span the gargantuan gulf between big-grid tap water and off-grid bottled water, and in the process deliver options that avoid weaknesses of either standard. A product accomplishing this goal can be as simple as a tap water filtration system – a pitcher or a faucet attachment – or a more comprehensive system. Such a system, for example, would harvest all rainwater runoff, grey water and sewage output on the property, treat and store this water, then consume it or sell it to neighbors.
The mid grid can also span the chasm between atomized units of alternative energy – photovoltaic collectors, solar water heaters, wind generators, geothermal convection systems, thermal management systems, etc., etc., etc. – and integrate them into a total energy storage and management system that can, again, harvest all energy present on the property, treat and store this energy, then consume it or sell it to neighbors.
It isn’t fair, of course, to point fingers at the government or corporations, or even their collusion. Because not only is technology an unstoppable river, but also freedom. The fortuitous fate of humanity is that we evolve, in all ways, and there are best and worst in every time. And it is the turbulent market that brokers our ideas, bestows our individual freedom, bequeaths upon us better lives through better technology, and flows like the river.