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We Got the Power

2008-10-16 12:42:49.608141+00 by petronius 8 comments

An interesting report from the Manhattan Institute: we don't need more power stations so much as we need better wires. They propose a massive program to install 1 Million volt capacity cabling atop the current regional power grids to create a truly national electricity grid. The idea is to maximize the potential of our existing eneration capacity, plus whatever other systems (wind,solar) may come. At first I thought he was talking about super-conduction, but apparently not. I'd like to see some candidate take up this idea.

[ related topics: Cool Science Photovoltaics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-16 13:32:33.22858+00 by: meuon

Transmission losses aka: "Technical Losses" are a problem, and we are missing enough cross country capacity. It affects wind and solar generation locations a lot. They can generate the power, but they also have to get it to where it is needed. 375kvolt is currently the standard. 1megavolt theoretically offers a proportionate increase, hopefully worth the increase in cost of.. well just about everything associated with the lines. Other issues include "non-technical losses" aka theft, Power Factor monitoring and correction and my favorite: demand load response/shedding. My big issue, empty nesters over-invested in 6k+ sqft houses with 15+ tons of HVAC. Yes, the over-invested big housing market also affected electricity grid needs. Those McMansions were built cheaply, have lots of windows and require lots of HVAC. Chattanooga's approaching 10 cents per kWh and will much higher than that soon. Prediction: There is money to be made in retrofitting those places with more efficient systems... and many of them will be sold cheap because the energy needs will soon be more than the mortgage.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-16 13:54:57.072626+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'm also not sure how high prices would have to get to start to time-shift other electricity needs, but it sure makes sense to me to have communication with utilities set up so that things like dryers can be run at optimal times. Of course our dryer is gas, so that basically reduces this house to refrigerator and lighting.

But, as meuon points out, we're two people in a sub thousand square foot building in a moderate climate.

However, to Petronius's original article, yeah, we're either going to have to move generation extremely locally, or find better ways to move that electricity, and I think the easier and cheaper option, at least short (50 years or so) term is the latter.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-16 16:03:21.345562+00 by: Larry Burton

Local generation of power is good. Local generation of power coupled with the ability to share that power remotely, very remotely, is much better. If I can put up a windmill in my backyard that supplies me with most of my power during my peak usage and more than I can use at other times I can put my excess production back on the grid. If it isn't needed where does it go? If that grid is capable of delivering my excess power across the continent it is more likely to be needed.

The $75bln needed to build out the high-voltage backbone for the grid seems a cheap price to pay considering we've just given away $700bln to another industry sector. Maybe T. Boone Pickens needs to rethink his plan.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-16 17:48:49.021042+00 by: meuon [edit history]

re: Dryers at optimal times.. Electric dryers show up less than dishwashers, which if you have electric hot water, plus over-heated washing and drying cycles, really spike a usage chart.

Think: Solar Powered Clothes Dryers - They need about $5 of rope to make. Ours is fancy, has pulleys and hangs clothes from off the deck, 30+ft into the air. - Cost maybe $25.00 total.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-16 18:17:33.76066+00 by: petronius

The last time I tried a solar clothes dryer in January I got sock-sicles.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-16 19:32:09.684182+00 by: Dan Lyke

Meuon, our dishwashing only shows up on the gas bill, although I'm led to believe that washing by hand may actually be less efficient than automated washers. It certainly is in terms of water use, but that's not a huge economic burden on us yet.

Petronius, our weather is pretty good for air drying (unless we have a rainy winter), but throughput and convenience are so much lower with a line (especially given that in Meuon's neck of the woods the real estate to hang that line is super cheap, in ours, with my shop outside and lots of gardening, it isn't) that energy prices will have to go way up before that becomes preferable.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-17 05:53:29.197183+00 by: Diane Reese

Try as I might over the years, I just can't get used to the feel of a crispy, crunchy, cardboard-y bedsheet or towel that's been hung out to dry. It feels wrong to me, and surely not soft or comfortable, as I'd like bedsheets and towels to feel. Same with shirts, and pants (especially jeans), and underwear, and you name it. If the item is hard and stiff after drying outdoors (and it usually is), it really disappoints me. So I've stopped my solar clothes drying activities. If there's some trick to ending up with those fresh-smelling sheets that wave softly in the breeze (of commercial fame), I'd love to learn what it is.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-17 10:18:49.46853+00 by: meuon

Diane: Nancy prefers the smell, and I've never noticed 'crispy' clothes, but our clothes line is literally 30+ feet in the air and seems to always have a nice breeze. It keeps things moving.