[Paleopsych] Gaming the power grid

Steve shovland at mindspring.com
Mon Aug 16 23:37:00 UTC 2004

I agree that home-power systems are
a drop in the bucket, but I would suggest
that many such drops will prove to be
part of the solution.

The homeowner I wrote about has built
3 previous homes with passive and active
solar features.  He says that the first thing
is insulation.  The house he is building
in California is insulated to the levels of
many houses in Minnesota- R30 walls and
R45 roof.

The big problem with the large power grids is the
simple fact that they exist.  The present
system is set up for the efficient concentration
of economic power rather than for the
efficient  distribution of electricity.  

It would be interesting to have an idea of the 
transmission losses resulting from the current 
long-distance systems and see what could be 
done by breaking them down into smaller zones. 

Among other things we need to revisit the
notion of "economies of scale" and realize
that bigger is not always better and certainly
not cheaper.  Years ago I read that when Con Ed
built some of their larger units they encountered
unexpected technical problems that led to large
cost over-runs.

Steve Hovland

-----Original Message-----
From:	Werbos, Dr. Paul J. [SMTP:paul.werbos at verizon.net]
Sent:	Monday, August 16, 2004 2:41 PM
To:	The new improved paleopsych list; paleopsych at paleopsych. org (E-mail)
Subject:	Re: [Paleopsych] Gaming the power grid

Rooftop PVs are nice, but best solar thermal is cheaper and more efficient.
More important, rooftops are a drop in the bucket.

The one really serious and urgent energy crisis in the US is the crisis
of electricity regulation so crazy that we dramatically overuse natural gas
as a fuel, distorting markets worldwide. Even modest reforms
have gotten nowhere based on folks in Congress who have said
"First things first. First MUST come controversial corporate welfare
(pork for my buddies, either earmarks or tax breaks). And if we DO get that 
well, next year more of the same will come first..."

But the world oil situation is coming to a head fast. Decisions within the 
next 5 years will
be decisive, in terms of our ability to avert global catastrophe 20 years 
(Those poor folks who think TODAY'S problems with the Middle East are large...)

IF Bush were brave enough to dump Cheney AND Halliburton, and bring on 
McCain with
a promise to really clean house and get back to what the US and the world 
really needs...
well... there might be some hope by that route... But I have to admit, 
putting it all together,
it's my personal judgment right now that the chances of nonextinction would 
definitely be a lot greater
if we all picked Kerry (f Bush-Cheney is the alternative).

The present grid, and the modest reforms now before Congress, wouldn't do 
much to
give the US the kind of "spinning reserve" backups that made the big 
blackouts in France
and Italy last so much less time than the big one in the US Northeast. 
Expanding spinning
reserves is just one aspect of "intelligent" (and more rationally 
regulated) power grids,
and... as you say, critical to getting full value from intermittent 
distributed generation.

To put it another way... a major barrier to mega-use of stuff like solar 
thermal power is
the low VALUE (and payment) per kwh of intermittent power today. More 
intelligent grids
(including better and more use of spinning reserves) would raise that 
value... raise
what utilities can RATIONALLY pay to intermitted power generators... and 
increase the potential market for much larger-scale renewables.

By the way... "intelligent grids" are a major official priority of DOE. 
They will tell you
it's $80 million/year. But IEEE-USA people tell me more than half of that 
is just
Ronald Reagan's superconductor program, recycled and relabelled.
(Since current projections are that such wires will cost ten times present 
capability, and we can't even afford simple wires these days, one may question
the relevance to what I just discussed...) Lots more is pork. They estimate 
$2 million for the actual grid research in FY03, about half or a third of what
NSF put in. There are some unmet opportunities as it happens... a polite way
of saying we are sitting down marking time as the flood waters rise...


Best of luck to us all...


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