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Texas To Build $4.93B Wind-Power Project

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-just-hot-air dept.

Power 250

Hugh Pickens points out a story in the NYTimes about Texas' $4.93 billion wind-power transmission project. One of the major goals of the project is to improve electrical throughput to the population centers. Current transmission lines are unable to handle all of the power generated by Texas' wind fields. State citizens will be paying slightly more to help cover the cost, though the project is expected to eventually lower the cost to consumers. Quoting: "The lines can handle 18,500 megawatts of power, enough for 3.7 million homes on a hot day when air-conditioners are running. 'The project will ease a bottleneck that has become a major obstacle to development of the wind-rich Texas Panhandle and other areas suitable for wind generation. The lack of transmission has been a fundamental issue in Texas, and it's becoming more and more of an issue elsewhere,' said Vanessa Kellogg, the Southwest regional development director for Horizon Wind Energy, which operates the Lone Star Wind Farm in West Texas and has more wind generation under development. 'This is a great step in the right direction.'"

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Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261259)

The idea of putting solar panels in orbit, whose power could be beamed back to Earth, is an old staple of science fiction. Why haven't these come to fruition? One can't imagine the cost would be very great compared to the immense power you'd get in return. Since all the energy up there is free, less than total inefficient transmission shouldn't be too bothersome.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (2, Funny)

imipak (254310) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261295)

...an old staple of science fiction. Why haven't these come to fruition?

I think you just answered your own question.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261381)

If you gather solar energy that would have missed earth, and send it to earth; aren't you increasing global warming?

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (2, Funny)

welsh git (705097) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262215)

Not if all that heat/light is collected and converted into electricity!

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (3, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261587)

Thing is, plenty of science fiction technologies have become science fact.

I have a different answer for him: Much like the flying car, it turned out to be too expensive and not efficient enough.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261321)

Because it's an old staple of science fiction. The answers in the question.

We already have solar power beaming down to earth all the time. Why not just build a bunch of mirrors to focus it terrestrially if you want to use solar power? To my mind that sounds safer than having a 1.21 Jiggawatt death ray beaming down from the heavens in the hands of the government.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261547)

Great, now you've given them incentive to build the darned thing.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

Whiteox (919863) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262743)

NOOOO!!!!!!!! You beam the Sun's rays AWAY from the Earth! That way global warming don't matter anymore!

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

chunk08 (1229574) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261343)

...less than total inefficient transmission shouldn't be too bothersome.

My first impulse was to be a grammer nazi, but I refrained ;-).
What "immense power?" You would need immense arrays to create "immense power." So big, in fact, that they would greatly interfere with the orbits of other satellites, including communications and spy satellites. No government is going to give up its spying capabilities to provide electrical power for the rest of the world. Besides, think about any poor bird/plane/helicopter/space shuttle that got in the way of any power beam worth sending back down to earth.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261477)

My first impulse was to be a grammer nazi, but I refrained ;-).

It's funny that you would mention that, because my first impulse was to be a spelling nazi.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261561)

Besides, who would own the electricity? The beams would only be sent down on the night side of the earth, and come to think of it, won't they cast shadows down on earth on the other side?

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (4, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261649)

>..My first impulse was to be a grammer nazi, but I refrained ;-).

Gramm_a_r nazi!

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (3, Insightful)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261401)

Because everyone freaks out about the "Death ray from space" aspect of it. And at power densities where it's not an issue, it's not really worth it.

Red State (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261405)

Hmmm... A Wind Power Project in a Red State.

Sounds like a good plan.

}:o)

-AI

Posting AC for the inevitable...

Re:Red State (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261631)

Texas is the second largest Communist nation on earth. Full of hot air to boot. Whats your point anyway?

...an old staple of science fiction. (2, Funny)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261421)

Well, if we are going to SciFi power sources, then I perfer to hold out for fusion (hot or cold), or perhaps a device that sucks out all of the static electricity in the atmosphere and harnesses that.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261455)

Manufacturing. If you want to manufacture the solar panels on the ground and lift them into orbit then you are probably never going to get more than a fraction of the energy you need to build the array out of the system. The only way to do it sensibly is to build the panels in orbit. This requires capture of near-Earth asteroids with the right mineral mixture and orbital factory infrastructure. Once you've got the basic infrastructure up there then it's self-sustaining, but the start-up costs are immense.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (5, Insightful)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261537)

42% of the USA's territory is desert. Why even consider a second sending solar panels to orbit when we have millions of unusable square miles right here. Just think of those area of Nevada desert which are covered with craters from atomic bomb tests, there's nothing there worth not being covered by solar panels. Then think about how much it would cost to send to space the same area of solar panels you'd could put down here, not to mention the lesser transmission loss, although on the other hand nights don't last as long in space and clouds are more sparse up there too.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262933)

"Then think about how much it would cost to send to space the same area of solar panels you'd could put down here, "

Just the insane maintenance and upgrade costs would make putting the gear in space an idiotic choice. We also have enough junk up there without scattering tons of it deliberately.

Land is cheap and abundant, terrestrial systems can be easily inspected/upgraded/maintained/recycled, and we would not be trapped into the horridly long development and lifecycles of space gear. When you want rapid improvement, don't get saddled with primitive legacy systems (Space Shuttle...).

Because nights are dark... (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24263033)

You answered your own question, "nights don't last as long in space and clouds are more sparse up there too".

Funny coincidence, I had just finished re-reading this book [amazon.com] when I saw this article. The Nevada desert you mention is in the dark about half of the time, exactly when people in the US need electricity for their lights. And what about Europe? The Far East? OK, use the Sahara and the deserts in Asia, but you'd still need a lot of power transmission and storage capacity.

Remember, if we knew how to *store* electricity, we would have practical electric cars by now, and laptop computers would have more than a few hours battery capacity. There's a strong economical incentive to develop electricity storage systems, but it's still very far from being a practical reality, therefore solar power is necessarily just a supplement to other sources of energy.

I think Dr. O'Neill's mistake was to assume the time needed for development would be so short. However, if you read his book, you'll see it all makes sense from an engineering point of view. All the objections in the thread to which you replied have been answered in his book, it's not science fiction at all, just future technological development.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 6 years ago | (#24263177)

First, the area of desert directly affected by the atomic bomb test is peanuts.

Second, much of the American southwest desert is very fragile. Large stretches of constantly shaded ground will kill the native (scrubby as it may be) vegetation, either leading to dead soil (Sahara) or encroachment of non-native plants. Either of these situations will lead to the disruption of the ecosystem in an area much larger than that the panels themselves occupy.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

TastyCakes (917232) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262423)

Because it's probably the most outlandish, uneconomical and simply impractical method of electricity generation ever devised.

Re:Whatever happened to orbital solar panels (1)

aplusjimages (939458) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262993)

I blame the lobbyist for the Big Orbital Solar Panels Industry. They just aren't injecting themselves into the pockets of politicians as well as other industries.

Something to keep in mind (5, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261325)

While I am all in favor of more wind power, here's something to keep in mind: this spring the Texas control area (the organization that manages power flows in the Texas region) had an incident where the temperature stayed warm into the evening and the weather conditions were such that the wind died across the entire state. Of course the wind turbine power went to zero across the entire state as well, driving the system into yellow (risk of blackout/system collapse) and close to red before they could get enough backup gas turbines on-line.

As I said, wind is great but it needs to be backed up with hydro and probably nuclear to have a reliable system.

sPh

Re:Something to keep in mind (5, Interesting)

grizdog (1224414) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261371)

Or they could have radio controlled shutoff switches on more air conditioners. I have one on mine, and it's great. I pay less for my power, and it only gets shut off at a time like that - there is a contractual arrangement about how often it can be shut off, and it isn't often.

There are a lot of ways that the program could be expanded, not least making it a bigger difference in the amount one pays for power - more people would sign up, the ones who didn't would pick up the cost.

Re:Something to keep in mind (5, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261507)

The cost of power fluctuates a lot from minute to minute, but the consumer rarely sees this. I would love to see the current cost of electricity transmitted with the power and consumer-grade adaptors that would cut off power when it went above a certain cost. For example, I could run my washing machine or dishwasher only when power is cheapest.

Re:Something to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

LunaticTippy (872397) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261627)

I think most consumers would prefer to be isolated from energy price fluctuations. Just look at California and Texas to see what a deregulated energy market combined with smart energy traders can come up with.

It would be a lot more work than people are accustomed to. You couldn't just put your clothes in the dryer and press start. You'd have to put in accepted price range, otherwise if the price spiked to $100/kwh you would spend a fortune on that load. That means sometimes your clothes would be wet hours and hours later.

That said, there is a tiny minority, myself included, that would really enjoy having real-time pricing. I would love having power generation and storage at my house, buying low and selling high, only using high-demand applications at rock bottom prices, the whole thing controlled by computer and PLC.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

cgreentx (990146) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261755)

Gotta love it in TX when you get a bill at $.25/kwH suddenly when the previous month was $.17 and the month before that $.13. Deregulation in TX has hurt the consumer as much as helped it. At least when regulated the process of raising prices too months of approval and the State board limited how much they were allowed to increase prices. Going from a $300 bill to $600 bill in one month mostly due to a rate change is insane. That said, This transmission line project should be financed by the providers installing the wind farm. Why should every person in TX have a net increase of $8/mo to pay for something they don't use?

Re:Something to keep in mind (3, Informative)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261645)

In france, you get a discount on power cost when operating between 10.30pm and 6am or so.
All electrical based water heaters are set to draw power only during this time period (unless set on manual).

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261735)

I don't think that's exclusive to France, we have about the same stuff in Belgium. You can even opt for a third method, where the waterheater and the electric heating(convector) are put on a circuit that is turned on and off remotely, with an even lower cost.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262455)

I don't think that's exclusive to France, we have about the same stuff in Belgium. You can even opt for a third method, where the waterheater and the electric heating(convector) are put on a circuit that is turned on and off remotely, with an even lower cost.

Here in the "land of the free" we're much too paranoid to let the utilities / government have that much control of our laundry. You have to be able to wash those sheets or crank up the heat any time. If they controlled your washing machine now, think of what's next - the toaster, the television. . .

Oh, wait.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262065)

The cost of power fluctuates a lot from minute to minute

Only in the incredibly artificial electricity market that made the Californian electricity system the total international laughing stock that it was a few years ago. The reality is that costs are spread over the decades that a plant runs for. The charges vary by up to the minute depending on what it is assumed the consumer will put up with - that is very different to the costs to run things.

Re:Something to keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262253)

Actually... No. Coal power, nuclear power, hydro power, wind power are pretty cheap. But, wind you cannot change, and can change when you don't want it to. Coal and nuclear take a while to ramp up, so they are usually run at full capacity. Hydro, if you ramp it up, can cause flash floods, so it is usually kept at a more constant rate.

Gas-turbine electricity is a lot more expensive. But, you can fire them up pretty quickly. So, when demand in electricity increases above the base load, gas-turbine plants are used. Hence, electricity becomes MUCH more expensive to produce in times of high demand.

Why stop with just the air conditioner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261569)

Why stop at just air conditioners? Why shouldn't your TV be hooked up to an emergency shutoff switch that can be toggled just in case? Surely that would be OK. Or maybe even your lights - they could be shut off in the daytime to little ill effect, right? There's no need to even limit this proactive sort of 3rd party power management to just emergencies. You probably waste a lot of power on unnecessary things. Why not just let someone else decide what appliances you are allowed to run and when you're allowed to run them. It should be OK, so long as you've got a contract of some sort, right? Hell, I'll bet we could switch over to 100% alternative power then, without even any need for carbon using backups. If a clean, environmentally friendly energy source should happen to become unavailable in a region, central power command could just turn off everyones AC, TV's, computers, lights, etc. until the situation is under control. With proper power rationing we could go green easily. What are we waiting for? Sure, it might be a bit intrusive and inconvenient, but that's certainly a better future than one in which we burn fossil fuels to ensure that we always have as much energy as we want and that we're able to use it as we please, right?

Re:Why stop with just the air conditioner? (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261659)

one in which we burn fossil fuels to ensure that we always have as much energy as

until gas/coal/oil runs out ?

Re:Why stop with just the air conditioner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261719)

There's a *hell* of a lot of coal. Enough to last hundreds of years. Ignoring that, we could also use nuclear. That would last much, much longer than the coal. There's no need for us to ration our power and live without enough energy to meet our needs. There's no need for it, but there are people telling us to do that very thing regardless. I see no reason to listen to them. Let *them* do without if that's what they want. We have the technology and resources to generate more than enough power to meet our needs - all we have to do it use it.

Re:Why stop with just the air conditioner? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261699)

"Sure, it might be a bit intrusive"

A "bit"? Just a "bit".

This kind of intrusiveness puts to shame the worst, most paranoid fantasies of the crowd afraid the government is listening to phone calls and/or reading my emails.

"Why not just let someone else decide..."

Because it's MY decision and if I want to do laundry in the middle of the day, I will.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261635)

Assuming you're in the US, what state are you from? I'm guessing CA.

For those of us who would like to look into that program.

This Is How Liberty Dies; With Thunderous Applause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261859)

Or they could have radio controlled shutoff switches on more air conditioners. I have one on mine, and it's great. I pay less for my power, and it only gets shut off at a time like that - there is a contractual arrangement about how often it can be shut off, and it isn't often.

There are a lot of ways that the program could be expanded, not least making it a bigger difference in the amount one pays for power - more people would sign up, the ones who didn't would pick up the cost.

Only on Slashdot could sombebody advocate government and/or corporate remote-control of one's home via tele-something and be modded +5 Informative.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262205)

If you want one that's fine. I am willing to pay for power and I expect said power to be provided to me. If I want to keep my house at 72F that is my business, not that of the power company or government. Using punitive prices to coerce people into these mechanisms is nothing short of bullshit. People who sign up will already save money because their thermostat will change. Everyone should pay the same rate.

That being said, it is bordering on criminal that we haven't switched over from coal to nuclear for the bulk of our energy production.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262373)

So if I put together your post with the parent of that post, I'm getting the impression the air conditioners would all shut off at the peak of a heat wave. That would be wild.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262695)

Or they could have radio controlled shutoff switches on more air conditioners. I have one on mine, and it's great. I pay less for my power, and it only gets shut off at a time like that

The "time like that" being warm temperatures into the evening -- exactly when you want your air conditioner most.

Re:Something to keep in mind (5, Interesting)

pvjr (184849) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261409)

While I am all in favor of more wind power, here's something to keep in mind: this spring the Texas control area (the organization that manages power flows in the Texas region) had an incident where the temperature stayed warm into the evening and the weather conditions were such that the wind died across the entire state. Of course the wind turbine power went to zero across the entire state as well, driving the system into yellow (risk of blackout/system collapse) and close to red before they could get enough backup gas turbines on-line.

As I said, wind is great but it needs to be backed up with hydro and probably nuclear to have a reliable system.

sPh

That's probably where the transmission line truly manifested itself. I live in West Texas, and see no less than at least three wind ranches between my house and work.

I've seen almost half an entire field of the generators shut down when the wind is blowing.

Better transmission would avoid the risk of brownouts, because, believe me, there's enough power to be made out here:)

Re:Something to keep in mind (2, Interesting)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261739)

Of course the wind turbine power went to zero across the entire state as well, driving the system into yellow (risk of blackout/system collapse) and close to red before they could get enough backup gas turbines on-line.

As I said, wind is great but it needs to be backed up with hydro and probably nuclear to have a reliable system.

A good gas turbine can be spun up to almost-full-power in about 2 minutes. If a sudden dip in available power is anticipated, they can also be placed on 'standby' to reduce the startup time to a matter of seconds.

Sounds to me like the turbines are what were having problems here.

Also, like others mentioned, remote-control kill switches could help reduce suerfluous loads.

Re:Something to keep in mind (5, Interesting)

JavaManJim (946878) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261779)

I live in Dallas TX. On 07/06/2008 the Dallas Morning News had a great article on "Debate Flares Over Wind Power" by Elizabeth Souder. The text edition. The critical part is wind in Texas is always fickle. The incident referred to by the original poster occurred in February 2008. Lets look at the DMN chart. 3:15AM wind blows strong; lowest demand for the day, price per megawatt 41.96. Then during the hottest time of the day 3:15PM; wind generates the least amount for the day, price per megawatt 109.80.

Below is quoted from the DMN article.

WHERE THE POWER COMES FROM IN TEXAS

1. WIND Wind turbines almost always go [online] first. While operating the turbines can be costly, the wind is free and operators bid low to ensure they can sell as much electricity as possible.

2. NUCLEAR Nuclear plants are the second cheapest source of power and tend to operate constantly throughout the year.

3. COAL Coals plants to third and also tend to operate constantly. Nuclear and coal plants are known as BASE LOAD GENERATORS.

4. HYDRO/OTHER/DC ties. Texas has a tiny amount of hydro-generated power. Some of the state's power comes from other types of plants such as solar panels. And some power comes through so-called DC ties, or power lines that bring electricity from outside the ERCOT territory.

5. NATURAL GAS The remaining supply is filled in by natural gas plants. That can drive up electricity prices because natural gas is costly. The newest, most efficient plants turn on first followed by older plants that are much more costly to operate. Some of these plants, called peaker plants only operate a few hours each year to fill in supply when demand surges.

6. MARKET RATE. THE LAST PLANT TO TURN ON SETS THE PRICE FOR THE ENTIRE MARKET. SO EVEN IF A WIND OPERATOR BIDS LOW, THAT OPERATOR'S PRICE RISES THROUGHOUT THE DAY AS PLANTS WITH HIGHER PRICED BIDS TURN ON.

Registration may be required.
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/industries/energy/stories/DN-wind_06bus.ART0.State.Edition1.4e033eb.html [dallasnews.com]

Thanks,
Jim

Re:Something to keep in mind (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261917)

This is precisely why "wind power" is as big a scam as "biofuels".

Wind power doesn't work in a grid system. The inclusion of "wind farms" in the grid translates to the increased use of fossil fuels (investigate "spinning reserve" to understand why). The only reason anyone is attempting this is to get (steal?) U.S. tax dollars. The first person to jump on "wind farms" was... Ken Lay, of Enron fame.

Re:Something to keep in mind (4, Informative)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262437)

The "spinning reserve" relates to keeping some plants available to produce power within 10 minutes to deal with unexpected loads or other generators failing.

While a plant is in this state, it's generally burning far less fuel than if it were actually operating at capacity.

So imagine an oil plant.

Maybe it burns 1000 gallons / hour at max output.
But maybe it only burns 300 gallons/hour at it's spinning-reserve rate.

So if you replaced the power that plant burned by wind, but still had to operate the oil plant in it's spinning-reserve mode in case the wind died, you'd replace 700 gallons/hour.

Re:Something to keep in mind (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262009)

As I've often said here - anybody pushing a single energy source to the exclusion of all else is either selling something or deluded. Those implementing this will hopefully be neither so you will have a mix of energy sources. Things like the gas turbines mentioned above are relatively cheap in terms of capital cost but fairly expensive to run all of the time. Two of the ones I've seen are actually retired fighter jet engines that can be run up to full capacity very quickly but you wouldn't want to run them all the time even on natural gas (mostly propane).

Nuclear often comes up but the very long contruction lead time and very high capital cost renders new nuclear capacity irrelevant until the economy picks up. Large coal fired plants take almost as long.

Wind in contrast can be handled in smaller, cheaper chunks which will not give you the economy of scale of large thermal plants but it will give you the electricity this decade.

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262055)

=== Nuclear often comes up but the very long contruction lead time and very high capital cost renders new nuclear capacity irrelevant until the economy picks up. Large coal fired plants take almost as long. ===

Actually South Texas Project, a wholesale generator in Texas, have initiated the process of building 2 additional nuclear units. I don't think they have filed all the documents with the NRC yet but when they do it will be the first submission for a new permit since 1980.

sPh

Re:Something to keep in mind (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262987)

"Two of the ones I've seen are actually retired fighter jet engines that can be run up to full capacity very quickly but you wouldn't want to run them all the time even on natural gas (mostly propane)."

Got more info on those? I'd heard of J79s being used that way (they are tough and plentiful) but I'm curious about how they do the power takeoff to the generator.

pah! (1)

nih (411096) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261333)

new fangles airy fairy ideas!

Perfect timing (0, Troll)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261353)

hopefully they will get it online by the time Bush retires to Crawford. He can power the whole state!

Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (4, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261355)

Sounds like a great initiative, but I can't help feeling there is some bizarre logic that says we need to be running all those air conditioners on a hot day. How much insulation could 4.3bn dollars buy? Maybe Texas is way, way hotter than Australia, and it already builds its homes as effectively as possible for thermal efficiency, but here in Oz, the situation is crazy. Building codes do not force proper levels of insulation, and even orientation with respect to the sun is frequently disregarded or misunderstood. The average Aussie home is ridiculously poorly insulated and as a result they boil in summer and freeze in winter. Solution? For many people, it's to rush out and buy a multi-thousand dollar reverse-cycle air conditioner (which are constantly being pushed on TV ads, etc) which costs a great deal to run. Already the government is planning to build more power stations to meet the *summer* time demand for A/C and the lack of progress on sustainable sources means that nuclear is back on the agenda.

There really needs to be a big campaign to wise people up to the idiocy of A/C and to incentivise retrofitting of insulation and to dramatically improve building codes. Working on greater supply of clean energy is an excellent thing, but unless it's balanced by moves to reduce demand for power that for the most part is pissed away warming up the *exterior* of houses, then it's effort and money unwisely spent.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (0)

kaos07 (1113443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261431)

Very insightful post, but you must be new here.

What you're going to get in response to this are a bunch of posts saying that "If this money was invested in nuclear fusion, within 50 years we could have unlimited power!!!!!".

Unlimited Power... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261683)

But unlimited power corrupts... wait a second...

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261439)

I think the building code in the US is pretty good regarding insulation and most folks that are building tend to up the R factor on their own. Additional, there is pretty good cognizance regarding how the house faces in terms of sunlight. Just my experience, I'm sure others have had different.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (2, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261687)

Heh....West Virginia didn't have building codes until a couple years ago and we also don't have zoning statewide. The building codes we do have are so weak it is laughable. That issue aside...

From TFS:

State citizens will be paying slightly more to help cover the cost, though the project is expected to eventually lower the cost to consumers.

What a load of horseshit. I defy anyone to point me to an occasion anywhere where a utility has decreased prices to consumers once they got the increase they wanted from the PSC. Hell, I defy anyone to show where any of this renewable powerplant technology has had the effect of lowering the cost to end consumers. If anything it has increased the price on end users needlessly.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (3, Informative)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262029)

I defy anyone to point me to an occasion anywhere where a utility has decreased prices to consumers once they got the increase they wanted from the PSC. Hell, I defy anyone to show where any of this renewable powerplant technology has had the effect of lowering the cost to end consumers.

In Texas, consumers choose their electricity generator. A portion of the bill is paid to the incumbent that provides transmission and delivery. The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) runs a website that summarizes all of the offers:

http://www.powertochoose.org/ [powertochoose.org]

Cutting to the chase: there's a webpage that shows all the generators offering service for your ZIP code. Enter a ZIP code in one of the big metro areas, and you'll see lots of choices that can be sorted by various factors:

  • Average Price/kilowatt hour
  • Rate Type (fixed, variable)
  • Renewable energy content
  • Term (in months)

You can also filter on any or all of these factors. I just committed to another year, choosing a plan that was 100% renewable energy content. The generation company offers otherwise equivalent plans with renewable and non-renewable content, and the 100% renewable content is exactly 0.2 cents/kWh more than non-renewable.

The renewable energy is indeed more expensive, but only a bit more than 1%. But in Texas, the problem is transmission: we are on our own grid (separate from western and eastern US grid), with limited interconnection to the others. So, renewable energy must come from within the state, and there's a limited amount of it.

BTW, The Texas PUC no longer sets electric rates, except for the "Provider of Last Resort": the electricity generator that is automatically chosen for a customer if their current generator is unable to provide service.

Superinsulation (4, Informative)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261743)

Few US homes, even new ones, reach superinsulation levels of construction. for one, look at the walls, they just aren't thick enough, don't have enough space for all the insulation needed. You'll need at least, raw minimum, six-nine inches in the walls and at least a foot in the ceilings, something like that. I used to always say R55 all around, that's more or less what we used to shoot for, the linked article says now they call it R40 walls and R60 ceiling, close enough. We don't have exact legally defined codes to qualify it yet (AFAIK), but it isn't 2.5 inches that fits inside of a normal stud wall like is more common. In order to achieve really good levels of insulation you have to have planned air in and planned air out, this is actual ducting and fans and air filters, because all cracks are sealed, and there are a lot of them, and it is done in stages as the different layers of the house are built. You need an active heat exchanger for this planned air intake and exhaust. Your windows are multipane and gas filled and are not cheap, and should be smallish, and usually you would have an insulated tight fitting interior cover for the windows for real cold or hot spells. And so on. A house that achieves really good superinsulation levels can get by most of the time without much in the way of planned heating, even in the winter, as just heat from the humans in there, cooking, running lights and appliances, hot water use, etc is usually sufficient to maintain a decent enough comfort level. Anyway, there's some good engineering to it, I've worked on some, it really does work, the drop in use of air conditioning and heating is just *phenomenal*, strikingly so, I mean they just don't come on that much, you should be able to go a day or days with no activation where before your heating or cooling might be coming on several times a day, that's the difference.. Here is the wikipedia writeup on it, Superinsulation [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Superinsulation (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262819)

Your writeup has touched on some of the biggest problems with superinsulation. #1 is cost, but beyond that, the small windows you require are generally not what people (particularly people who can afford it) want. Sealing the house that well is going to make it feel stuffy, even with your planned air intake. And it's likely to result in mold/mildew problems in humid areas. Maintenance is going to be an issue as well; thermal expansion and contraction of the home's exterior will tend to re-open those cracks you painstakingly sealed.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261531)

Windmills do not work that way!

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (5, Interesting)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261533)

Insulation?

Well, I wasn't able to come up with the number of "Houses" in Texas, but in 2006 they had a population of 23.5 Million people. So lets say there's 8M Houses. That would 612$ per house for insulation. Assuming that's the issue to begin with. But it's not.

Texas has a history of being an energy exporter, mainly oil. If you read the article, you'll see that the problem isn't generating power to meet their needs. It's getting power to where it needs to go. That would include selling it to other states in the US that have been dragging their feet on allowing businesses to build their own wind farms.

Texas may not be prime real estate when it comes to wind power generation, but they sure have a lot of it. Having the Government build up the infrastructure to those places will have the power companies leaping to put up wind farms there.

Using Government power to help create business. Instead of taxing, regulating, and feeing them to death. There's a reason Texas tends to have the highest job growth in the US.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (5, Insightful)

griffjon (14945) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261703)

Also, having grown up near Houston - Texas is hot. I've not yet been to Australia, but summer in Texas regularly is 100-115 or so (~38-46C), with humidity, at least in the heavily populated parts of the state (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio) at 90-100%. That's MISERABLE. I lived in the tropics for almost 3 years and it was much more pleasant there than Texas in the dog days of summer.

That being said -- there's a LOT that could be done architecturally (Dallas, looking at you) to reduce this. Tract housing has this tendency to hack down all the (shade)trees and built nigh-yardless McMansions. Plants are great at absorbing heat, and trees provide shade -- a well placed shadetree over your southwestern exposure can really help cool your house down.

Basically I just want to weigh in -- AC is not an option in Texas; but that doesn't mean we can't reduce the energy draw from it.

Texas is way, way hotter than Australia (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261621)

At least, Texas in the summer is way way hotter than the parts of Australia where most people live. Most of the Australian population is between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Dividing Range. Most of the population of Texas is out of reach of coastal winds. Houston is a few degrees closer to the equator than Sydney, where I grew up, but Dallas is about the same latitude as Sydney and not any cooler... the distance from the coast and the lack of mountains to keep the continental heat at bay makes all the difference.

turn it up! (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261769)

Once again, we are being asked to "sacrifice". I'll bet you all these empty suits that are telling us to cut back, have their thermostats set to 68 degrees, have every light on in the house etc. I love some of the ideas of having a remote control on your AC, and when the all-knowing-all-powerful government thinks we are using too much AC, they will just cuts us off. Who is to blame for this lack of power problem? You can blame the not-in-my-back-yard crowd, along with the (extreme) environmentalist.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261995)

...some bizarre logic that says we need to be running all those air conditioners...How much insulation could 4.3bn dollars buy

You are assuming the only relevant heat generation is from the exterior of the building. Our bodies generate both heat and humidity constantly. The A/C not only keeps the people cool but mitigates their normal biological output.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262019)

You have a good point. Earthships manage to maintain a fairly livable temperature year-round thanks to the thermal mass of dirt. If we built homes where 3 walls were dug into the earth, you could probably get by with a fan instead of a/c. As far as cost of construction? Same as conventional.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262211)

Why do you even need AC? Most of the state, where it is dry, you could get away with a swamp cooler. Let physics do the hard work for you. I imagine that most of Oz would be the same way. Take a bit of water, turn it into a fine mist, let it evaporate and bam, cold air.

I forget where I read it, but archeologists found 5000 year old water jars in the Middle East that would let water leak through. It was at a very very slow rate, but what would happen was the entire jar would seep water the water would evaporate and the entire jar would cool.

The biggest problem I've read with more insulation is that you never get fresh air. Old houses would leak enough air that you would constantly get fresh air through some leak. People in newer houses would get sick because they were constantly breathing stale air.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (1)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262907)

Most of the state, where it is dry, is basically unpopulated. El Paso is the only "major" city in the desert areas of the state. Houston, Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, and San Antonio all run humidity levels far too high for swamp coolers to work. Believe me, you find swap coolers in the places where they work. Contrary to what old westerns might have you believe, though, the state is not all desert.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (2, Interesting)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262229)

Building codes do not force proper levels of insulation

There's some reason behind that - sometimes you want to lose heat. I live in a house with no insulation at all and use no heating and cooling. It works because the place was designed in the 1920s to lose heat as quickly as possible through the thin wooden walls so that it would not stay hot all night in summer. High ceilings use the air as the insulation and having the living area two metres above the ground uses shaded circulating air as insulation below. It works well in summer just as the Greek idea of very thick white painted walls made of pumice works there for the opposite extreme. Winter is a bit of a pain but it is the subtropics.

Nuclear was on the agenda in Australia as a political distraction to try to split one party instead of a serious proposal. We dig the stuff up but don't have the infrastructure of China, the USA or Russia to go any furthur without a great deal of expense. The proposal to build a very large number of plants was to try to get value for money out of the required infrastructure - and it was expolited for the NIMBY value of making everyone think a plant wuld be in their backyard.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262377)

What I don't get is why apartment complexes have individual AC units.

I have a friend that lives in a 15 story building with around 20 units per floor. Every single apartment has its own AC unit. I'm sure this is done for billing reasons, you only pay for what you use. But in 15 story hospitals or other buildings you don't see each room with an individual AC unit.

With all the computing technology around I don't see why there can't be one massive AC unit and each apartment can set their own temperature and bill accordingly. Or if you make it cheap enough through efficiency just divide the cost up between apartments, everyone will pay the same amount and it'll be less than what you're currently paying.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (1)

UserChrisCanter4 (464072) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262841)

You do occasionally see that in TX, but I could only name two complexes where I've run into it. One is operated by a university as a fancier dorm, so I imagine it's an "all bills paid" type place anyway, which eliminates the need to individually bill.

Also, keep in mind that apartment builders are obviously looking for the cheapest build option possible. Efficiency after the fact is not in their interest, because they aren't paying the bill. It's quite possible that the cheapest individual A/C units are cheaper overall than the system required to meter to individual units.

Re:Wind Energy for Air Conditioners? (2, Informative)

ricegf (1059658) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262805)

Four years ago we bought an older 5500 sq ft ranch house in Texas. When I looked in the attic after my first electric bill, I found virtually no insulation (lots of wallboard visible, with clumps of fiberglass strewn about). How the previous owner paid for a/c and heat is beyond me.

We bought recycled newspaper-based insulation from Home Depot, and laid it in 18-20" deep for about $800. This reduced summer cooling costs by at least $400. We helped a friend blow recycled clothing-based fiber insulation into his attic - looked like snow, simply beautiful, even easier to install and fewer settling problems.

Add attic insulation to at lease R39. It's readily available, cheap, easy to install yourself, and reduces energy use significantly.

Number crunching (2, Funny)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261481)

The lines can handle 18,500 megawatts of power, enough for 3.7 million homes on a hot day when air-conditioners are running.

As we're talking about Texas here, can somebody convert that into a unit its governors will understand — i.e., number of electric chair activations?

Re:Number crunching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261685)

Texas hasn't used the electric chair to execute prisoners in many years.

Re:Number crunching (1)

Palpitations (1092597) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261705)

Assuming the numbers I found for electric chairs is correct (2,000-2,220 volts, 7-12 amps), and I didn't botch my back of the envelope math here (quite likely, I've been up for about 24 hours, and drinking for the past 8): it's enough to handle somewhere between 681,818 and 1,285,714 chairs running nonstop. That should almost be enough to meet their demands.

Re:Number crunching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262013)

As we're talking about Texas here, can somebody convert that into a unit its governors will understand i.e., number of electric chair activations?

You know that Texas hasn't used an electric chair since 1977, right?

Re:Number crunching (1)

ettlz (639203) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262239)

You know that Texas hasn't used an electric chair since 1977, right?

Yeah, but then the gag kinda loses its edge somewhat.

Re:Number crunching (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262333)

Mea culpa.

Much needed preparation for ... (1)

krkhan (1071096) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261523)

... the next version of Windows. I heard the user-rights' protection is so 1337 one would need at least a 32-core CPU to play back Supremely-High-Ultra-Definition stuff.

Texas thinks too small (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261603)

At 18.5 gigawatts, that's not even enough to send 16 Deloreans back in time at once.

And Texas just thinks it's got big ideas. Come on people. Stopping before you get to sweet sixteen? Think bigger.

wow (1)

metalpres (1075199) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261725)

18.5 gigawatts! thats enough to power like 15 DeLoreans. That is ofcourse if you can afford the gas to even get the car up to 88mph.

Or, build energy efficient wind cooled houses. (1)

cabazorro (601004) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261797)

Once you build a house made out of wood-sheet-rock and 1ft insulation with itti-bitty windows you expect the central AC to do the rest; right? We are indeed like a virus. Our modern needs require more and more consumption of resources. A family of 3 consumes 10 times the energy that the same family consumed in the 1920.

Re:Or, build energy efficient wind cooled houses. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 6 years ago | (#24263077)

"A family of 3 consumes 10 times the energy that the same family consumed in the 1920."

They also were much less comfortable, and were exposed to massive particulate pollution from their fireplaces and kerosene lanterns. Shotgun houses (far more common than nicer bungalows or craftsman houses with large porches) offered some ventilation, but were still horrible in humid climes.

Cape Wind (4, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261855)

This is a bit OT, but I thought I would bring it up any way.

I am in the middle of reading Cape Wind, BBS, 2007 [amazon.com] which is about trying to put a wind farm in Nantucket Sound. The location is perfect for a wind farm, and the need in NE for clean cheap power is high. But when all the backyards are owned by millionaires, it makes for an extreme NIMBY makeover.

I am finding the book to be a fascinating but horrifying read as to the lengths people will go to subvert the political process to protect what they believe is their right to quietly enjoy a public owned location. A typical example was adding a last minute rider to an Iraq war finance bill specifically aimed at blocking this one project. I'm not pro-war, but even I found tactics like this to be underhanded.

I have been getting interested in wind power from an engineering perspective, but reading this book has been a real eye opener as to how the political process is probably more important than the actual mechanics and cost/benefit/profit analysis. I'd recommend it to anyone as a good read, and while I don't understand the "anti" viewpoint all that well, this book gives some interesting lessons.

BTW I linked to Aaazon, but screw them - I got my copy from my local library!

plug-in hybrids and EV's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24261951)

a car containing a battery plugged into someone's home or office ads something that has been heretofore missing on the grid -- storage. your car's battery could be charged using inexpensive off peak energy and then when demand is up the electricity could be sold back to the power company at peak-rates. not only could the consumer actually make money doing this, but it would smooth out the intraday cost fluctuations.

Pickens vs Solar Local Area Power Network (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24261981)

The lines can handle 18,500 megawatts of power, enough for 3.7 million homes on a hot day when air-conditioners are running.

That's 5KW per home. If each (or many) of those homes also covered their roofs with solar panels, which protect the home from converting the Sun's rays into heat that must be cooled, and instead convert the rays into power to cool the house that doesn't need long distance transmission, those homes would need closer to 1-2KW max.

A fat "wide area network" for power is better than one too bottlenecked to be reliable. But just like only building too many roads only guarantees congestion everywhere at greater scale, instead of making neighborhoods with local access and easy walking/biking, creating only a fatter grid will just escalate everyone's power consumption by removing inhibitions.

Some of that $4.93B should be spent on local generation that offloads from the grid, as well as a better grid to distribute loads away from hotpoints.

If I were a rich oilman desperate to invest my $billions in something to make sense and not just many more dollars (like T. Boone Pickens), I'd offer free solar roofs to everyone, and split the income from the excess power pushed back into the grid. If I got everyone in Texas (through their taxes) to spend the $4-5B on that grid to make my distributed power corp work, I'd make back the investment in 5-10 years, and then rake in $billions more.

But that would require competing with easy oil and natural gas profits, even with all their problems, so maybe that's why I'm not T. Boone Pickens.

Re:Pickens vs Solar Local Area Power Network (2, Interesting)

texas neuron (710330) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262241)

Actually, solar PV panels would do little to reduce peak power demands. The peak power use of electricity extends beyond the sunlight hours IMHO, high temperature solar thermal, with its ability to store the heat energy through the peak power requirements has more potential.

Re:Pickens vs Solar Local Area Power Network (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262771)

Even if the peak use of electricity extends beyond the sunlight hours, the PV still does more than "little" to reduce the demands.

For one, as I mentioned, the PV is a better insulator (reflector/absorber) of solar power that makes the heat that air conditioners must cool. That is the peak of the peak, with "double" (or something like it) the effect of just the extra shade, because the shade amount is partly used to power extra cooling. Also, since the standard time zones see the actual solar peak (solar noon) moving within them, the solar supply / power demand peak shifts away from the synchronized office hours, further offloading from the peak time.

For another, solar PV generates more power than is necessary to cool what remains to heat a building. PV, especially in places like Texas (sunny, subtropical) can get something like 20% of the 1KW that strikes each square meter at "solar noon", through nearly the entire year. That's something like 200W:m^2. An insulated building (including UV-shielded windows) doesn't require 200W to cool each m^2, especially in the average low-storey buildings in Texas. And of course lots of buildings don't need cooling while people aren't in them (either the home or the office), but both are generating power for nearby consumption. The extra can be consumed elsewhere in the neighborhood, or stored for later.

That's way more than "little" to reduce peak power demands.

But that doesn't mean that solar thermal doesn't also have its place. In fact, its place is probably higher than the lowest priority grid buildouts, though lower than solar rooftops. If we're going for maximum returns (in money, energy and sustainability), we should do them all, in proper proportion.

My Diabolical Plan (3, Funny)

strelitsa (724743) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262449)

1. Become T. Boone Pickens.

2. Purchase controlling interest in the companies that build and service windmill generators.

3. Persuade government to foot the bill for installing thousands of said expensive windmill generators in open areas of Texas.

4. Snicker behind my hand as I realize that Texas gets every bit as many tornadoes as the so-called "Tornado Alley".

5. ???

6. PROFIT!

Re:My Diabolical Plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24263071)

Its an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

Re:My Diabolical Plan (1)

Captain Nitpick (16515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24263235)

Snicker behind my hand as I realize that Texas gets every bit as many tornadoes as the so-called "Tornado Alley".

"Having a bunch of tornadoes" is basically the definition of Tornado Alley. Accordingly, it is understood as including a significant fraction of Texas.

If you want to really engage in diabolical planning, you should do your homework first.

My Changed Tune (5, Insightful)

Hangtime (19526) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262459)

As a former resident of Texas and once a proponent of electric deregulation, I can say that the last five years have been an eye opener. While at the beginning many including myself talked about the possibilities from a theoretical standpoint, the actual execution of deregulation has been a disaster. The WSJ just did a piece on Texas deregulation this past week which you can find here.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121625744742160575.html?mod=googlenews_wsj [wsj.com]

I do believe modernized transmission would go a long way to helping the state like the article talks about, but I also believe Texas should fully embrace the national power grid. Since Texas is not connected in any major way to any other state's grid, ERCOT runs the show and FERC rules need not apply. This gets the double whammy of double set of rules for those who would choose to do business in the state and disallows any load balancing from other grids.

For a state that went from one of the cheapest electric rates to one of the most expensive (I live in NYC now and its only slightly cheaper then Texas), combine this with the folly that was California its a crushing blow against the idea of electricity deregulation. While the WSJ article talks about soaring natural gas prices (most of the state still gets its electricity from natural gas) and congested transmission as being culprits, I think you have to look at the volatility in pricing. Electricity is the most volatile commodity man has created. Unfortunately, no business, market, or participant structure can sustain 10,000s percent moves in intra-day pricing.

As a libertarian leaning thinker I believe in the free economy and as little market regulation as possible, but I am also scientifically-minded individual meaning I will examine the evidence from both sides. Given what we have seen in the markets that have been deregulated, the data and evidence conclude that electric deregulation just does not work.

Re:My Changed Tune (1)

stabiesoft (733417) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262927)

Fortunately I live in austin, which opted out of dereg power. As a result, we have nearly the cheapest power rates in the state. I think dallas is 50% higher because they opted for the "cheaper" dereg approach. Even with austin's low rates, the utility/city offers some of the best rebates on hi-eff A/C, insulation rebates, solar PV and some water conserving rebates. My personal experience is a 50% reduction or more by adding some solar panels and a hi-eff A/C (16 SEER instead of the old 12 SEER unit). Dereg was a disaster for the rest of texas.
While I support the idea of adding more wind power to the state, I have mixed feelings about giving a handout to pickens for his wind-farm. I'd be ok with it if after he died, inheritance taxes took 99.9% of his assets and left the heirs with .1%, with no trusts hiding stuff. Then society would get back what he took with interest.

Thinking through power issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262529)

When I think aboot power issues, and what to use to generate it, here are the components I reason about:

1) What is used to generate the power?
2) What is used to store the power?
3) How will fluxations in demand be met or adjusted too?

For solar and wind and currents in the ocean here is some of what I conclude:

1) (Generation) Wind and Ocean currents drive turbine. For Solar, panels generate electricity or Sun's energy is used to heat water.

2) (Storage) None. To differentiate with coal, natural gas, other fuels, and hydroelectric, there is no storage implicit in the system. With coal I can store the energy by just storing the coal - coal acts as its own "battery". Wind, solar and the like do not: you must add batteries to store the generated energy, there is no storing before generation.

3) With coal and the like, I can stock pile the fuel for use later, and adjust the amount I burn to demand. With wind and the like, there is no on damand generation: you deal with what you can get at that moment: there is no predictability beyond the variability of the natural process you are using.

Energy generation is really energy transfer: we are moving energy from one form (chemical, mechanical, photo) to another. Each translation (chemical -> heat, photo -> electric) involves loss. This is measured in the effeciency of the process. Storing energy after is has been generated is a step that adds to the loss of effeciency: you must transfer the energy to the batter (storage), then back to the grid.

In my experience, these elements are some of the keys to reasoning about the costs and practicality, and usefullness, of the different energy production means. Solar, wind and the like cannot easily be compared to coal, natural gas and the like, becuase they do not have the same features: namely they do not act as their own "battery" so you must factor into the cost (enviromental cost as well as others) the fact that storage may need to be created, or some means will be required that is different to handle variances in demand and availablity of the generation reasource.

Re:Thinking through power issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24262549)

So how's the weather up there in Canada?

T. Boone Pickens (3, Informative)

JumboMessiah (316083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262639)

T. Boone Pickens is the guy funding a lot of this. He's a retired oil tycoon (who now runs some hedge funds). Even if you can't agree with his past and his wealth, you can't disagree with the fact that this guy is stepping up and attempting to _do someting_ about the problem. And he's willing to use his wealth to try and make it happen. They are currently constructing the largest wind farm in the world in western Texas.

Check it out for yourself [pickensplan.com] and make your own judgements...

Re:T. Boone Pickens (2, Interesting)

bobwoodard (92257) | more than 6 years ago | (#24262817)

Hmmm... someone who's investing huge amounts of money in windfarms is trying to convince us to get our electricity from windfarms?

Re:T. Boone Pickens (1)

JumboMessiah (316083) | more than 6 years ago | (#24263097)

Like i said, make your own judgements (due to his past). But he has ponied up the $58 million required to build the current farm under construction. And he also seems to not want to get into partisan squabbles over any of it (he only agreed to talk to McCain and Obama if they agree to meet together, not separately). So far his forums are very open, and he's taking his approach to both the media and washington.

Building wind facilities in the corridor that stretches from the Texas panhandle to North Dakota could produce 20% of the electricity for the United States at a cost of $1 trillion. It would take another $200 billion to build the capacity to transmit that energy to cities and towns.

        That's a lot of money, but it's a one-time cost. And compared to the $700 billion we spend on foreign oil every year, it's a bargain.

Profit or not profit, $700 billion (and rising), is flowing right out of the country. Now,
  of course he expects some return on his investment, but he knows he'll be long dead before it turns a dime of any real profit.

My view is, I'm still skeptical, but it is reassuring that someone it attempting to tackle it (and Pickens is a man that the conservatives might listen to) and is using his resources and influence to put boots on the ground _right now_ instead of bickering about it in congress.

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