Ecocentricity Blog: On the Pitch

By: John A. Lanier
Nov 10, 2021 9:30 AM ET
Campaign: Ecocentricity Blog
soccer ball on field

Ecocentricity Blog: On the Pitch

Happy end of the regular season of Major League Soccer! I know you were all as glued to your televisions as I was this past Sunday. It was Decision Day, and what a day it was! Especially out West, where both Los Angeles teams shockingly came up short, and the scrappy Colorado Rapids took home the #1 seed in the playoffs. As an Atlanta United fan, I’m just happy they turned their season around to make the playoffs. In the East, you definitely have to look to the Revolution, who are….

What’s that? Oh, really? You’re sure? Okay, fine then. Can I at least still talk about soccer? Okay cool.

My people are telling me that there is little overlap between MLS viewership and my blog’s readership. I suppose I must accept that I am probably the only person you know who’s favorite sports league is MLS. Unless you know my brothers, in which case we are probably the only three people you know who’s favorite sports league is MLS.

But I still needed a contrived intro to make a soccer analogy, so on we go. In soccer, many positions lend themselves to heroic moments. You have the striker, who’s single focus is on goal scoring. Goals often come from wingers and central attacking midfielders as well. In the modern game, overlapping full backs can bang them in, and central midfielders can make late arriving runs into the box to fire open shots on goal. Even goalies and center backs have heroic moments, making miraculous saves or last-second tackles to prevent a goal. But there is one position that’s different.

Central defensive midfield, or what is commonly known as “the 6.” This player’s job is to shield the back line of defense while also serving as a pivot that can move the ball from the defensive half of play into the offensive half. More than any other player on a soccer pitch, the 6 has the fewest heroic moments. Yes, elite CDMs can hit long passes to spring attacks and can almost single-handedly shut down opposing playmakers, making them incredibly valuable to their teams. But when a 6 is playing their position right, you hardly notice them. They just make everyone else’s job around them seem easy.

When we think about the transition that is underway toward a clean energy future, I think soccer positions make for an interesting analogy. Goal scoring is coming from ever-declining costs in new solar and wind technologies. Breakthroughs in battery technology will enable so much more, making them look like the assist providers. The electric vehicle revolution is creating interesting overlap opportunities like one of those modern full backs I was talking about. And work being done on carbon capture technology looks like a center back providing our last line of defense. But what’s the 6?

I think I found it. GridBlock is a new smart infrastructure company formed around intellectual property developed at Georgia Tech’s Center for Distributed Energy. In their own words:

“GridBlock is a software-defined energy router that dynamically manages the flow of energy between multiple sources and loads and has the ability to create and operate a self-contained microgrid. GridBlock packetizes and routes electrical energy 250 times faster than the traditional grid frequency. The precision technology enables a bidirectional power flow on multiple ports or channels concurrently, bringing the flexibility and control of Internet routers and switches to the electrical grid. Increasingly, electrical installations require smart integration of EV or e-truck charging, battery storage, solar panels and critical loads, with custom design and build for each location adding to the cost of implementation. GridBlock simplifies all of this with a flexible, software-defined, modular solution that can manage a wide variety of end-use configurations and applications.”

If none of that made sense to you (only a little bit made sense to me!), then I encourage you to watch the video at the top of their homepage. It’s really well done, and shows how this technology can be an enabler for a whole range of clean energy solutions. From what I can tell, GridBlock is designed to be the “Grand Central Station” for how solar, battery, EV, and microgrid technologies intersect. And it’s what could make it easier for all of those solutions to do their jobs to the maximum of their potential.

If we are to succeed in creating a robust clean energy future, we will need unsung technologies like these to succeed in the marketplace. Here’s hoping that GridBlock will be an elite 6 on the clean energy soccer pitch.

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