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Computers Causing 2nd Hump In Peak Power Demand

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the that's-why-i-compute-with-the-monitor-off dept.

Power 375

Hugh Pickens writes "Traditional peak power hours — the time during the day when power demand shoots up — run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. when air conditioning begins to ramp up and people start heading for malls and home but utilities are now seeing another peak power problem evolve with a second surge that runs from about 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. when people head toward their big screen TVs and home computers. 'It is [not] so much a peak as it is a plateau,' says Andrew Tang, senior director of the smart energy web at Pacific Gas & Electric. '8 p.m. is kind of a recent phenomenon.' Providing power during the peak hours is already a costly proposition because approximately 10 percent of the existing generating capacity only gets used about 50 hours a year: Most of the time, that expensive capital equipment sits idle waiting for a crisis. Efforts to reduce demand are already underway with TV manufacturers working to reduce the power consumption in LCD and plasma while Intel and PC manufacturers are cranking down computer power consumption. 'Without a doubt, there's demand' for green PCs, says Rick Chernick, CEO of HP partner Connecting Point, adding that the need to be green is especially noticeable among medical industry enterprise customers."

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Simple solution. (5, Funny)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442359)

Just change the air time of American Idol to 6:00pm and turn politics to 8:00-9:00pm

Re:Simple solution. (2, Interesting)

jrp2 (458093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442719)

"Just change the air time of American Idol to 6:00pm and turn politics to 8:00-9:00pm"

LOL. Scary, but true.

That would not solve the problem, as it would just enhance the effect of the 4-7pm peak.

Move American Idol to 6am and you might actually spread power usage a bit.

Yeah, yeah, I know you were joking, just had to play along.

Seriously now, the solution is demand-based control. Move laundry and other big users of electricity to the middle of the night, and charge demand-based rates (cheaper rates at night when demand is lower). This has to be done as automatically as practical, with little user intervention.

We will not likely be able to affect things like TV and Internet usage times, but we can spread the load on high consumers like laundry, dish washers, car charging (when the comes along), etc. There might even be some hope for Air Conditioning, but that is a bit tougher to time.

Re:Simple solution. (4, Insightful)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442867)

this already happens if people try - where i live i opted for the time of use meter - where off peak power is extreamly cheap and on peak it is 2x or more normal price..

mix that with the fact that i have appliances with timers - we load the dish washer or washer or dryer and set it to run at 12-2am .. and go to bed..

in a 2 story house with 2 people the standard compliment of 3 comps and 2 laptops last month our power bill was 100$

if you try there is incentive to do it - you just have to be willing to make the effort

Re:Simple solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443059)

this already happens if people try - where i live i opted for the time of use meter - where off peak power is extreamly cheap and on peak it is 2x or more normal price..

mix that with the fact that i have appliances with timers - we load the dish washer or washer or dryer and set it to run at 12-2am .. and go to bed..

in a 2 story house with 2 people the standard compliment of 3 comps and 2 laptops last month our power bill was 100$

I don't know where you live, but where I live (Toronto, Canada), the cost of the time of use meter is much more than the cost of peak power. Of course, the government-owned monopoly is encouraging residential customers to pay for the time of use meters, without much success.

Incidentally, if I leave my clothes in the dryer overnight, they get wrinkled.

Re:Simple solution. (3, Interesting)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442935)

We will not likely be able to affect things like TV and Internet usage times,

How long can a TV run from a car/truck battery? If electricity prices varied by time of day and/or your connection's current power draw, it might actually be cost-effective for people to run some daytime things from batteries that they could recharge overnight.

Re:Simple solution. (3, Interesting)

Jumperalex (185007) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443051)

I was about to say the same thing ... so here I am doing it :) But seriously you are right. The first thing I thought of was, "hmmm a bigger UPS would certainly solve the problem." Although I'd need to size it even bigger for constant charge/discharge cycles or it will die a quick death, but still the point remains ... the market for On-site power storage would skyrocket which would also help that same market in its support for things like Wind and Solar. By increasing the market for local energy storage we are more likely to see an increase in investment for new-tech and a reduction in consumer cost as R&D/fixed-production costs can be amortized across more units.

Calculations of power use (5, Informative)

neapolitan (1100101) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443261)

Car battery capacity is usually between 40-60 amp-h. That is, if you wanted to use battery power for three hours of peak, you would get (generous estimation) of 20 amp-h per battery. Your battery gives 12 volts, and, again under ideal conditions you should get 12*20 = 240 W-h per battery for the peak time.

A standard light bulb is 100 watts. Your plasma TV may be 800-1200 watts.

Thus to run the TV for three hours you would need five batteries, and that assumes that you could run them to dry. Lead acid batteries can produce surge power pretty well, but it would likely be cost prohibitive unless you could get a lot of duty cycles out of them.

Looking at Sears -- a cheap car battery is around $50. Electricity costs $0.08 per kwh where I am. Thus to equal the cost of one battery you would need to produce 50/.08 = 625 KW-h of electricity before being spent. That is 625,000 W-h or 1,000 charge cycles.

I'm not sure if a battery can handle this before getting corroded and functioning badly. Of course, this is only the cost of the battery, and really what you care about is the delta cost from night and day electricity. Additionally, people could not use retail car batteries but could get cheaper lead-acid apparatuses.

At delta cost of $.05 per kw-h, then if you could get more than 1000 charge cycles from the battery, then anything above this is profit on the order of $.05 KWh * 1kW * 3h = $.15 = 15 cents per day for your plasma. Is it worth it?

The short answer is no. The long answer is probably not.

Re:Simple solution. (4, Insightful)

mc900ftjesus (671151) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443091)

offer cheaper power at off-peak times. Let me use my dryer cheaper at 11PM than 5PM and I'll gladly make an effort to do just that.

Keep charging me the same, and I'll continue to not care about peak power.

Problem solved: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442391)

Easiest way to fix these humps in power demand is to disable stanby/hibernation and leave computers on all day!!

Wow. (2, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442393)

The free market is actually coming up with solutions?

Re:Wow. (0)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442441)

The free market is actually coming up with solutions?

Hmmm... I think I'd rather have the USA's free market, even with its fiscal problems, then what's going on in North Korea....

A free market with a few bumps in the road is better than a non-free system and the attendant starvation.

Re:Wow. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442661)

.....Of all the countries that practice significant government intervention in markets, how on earth did you pick North Korea? It's like saying, "Hey tjstork, your computer is a bit laggy" "WELL AT LEAST ITS FASTER THAN THE P3 I INSTALLED VISTA ON, LOL"

Re:Wow. (1)

Broken scope (973885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442699)

I think he was talking about semi free vs a Command economy, not the middle road.

Re:Wow. (4, Funny)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442741)

I think I'd rather have the USA's free market, even with its fiscal problems, then what's going on in North Korea....

It's tree bark and it's good for you! And if you don't finish your supper, you'll go straight to your corner of the room without any seawater.

Re:Wow. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443047)

Hmmm... I think I'd rather have the USA's free market, even with its fiscal problems, then what's going on in North Korea....
A free market with a few bumps in the road is better than a non-free system and the attendant starvation.

Because really, those are the only two options. ::rolleyes::

Re:Wow. (1)

fastest fascist (1086001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442507)

Speaking of solutions, wouldn't homes with an ability to store some amount of power locally help this situation? If you had batteries or hydrogen cells or whatever the most reasonable form of power storage might be in homes, then those could be charged during off-peak hours from the grid, or if possible, even from solar panels or other sources the users run themselves. They could then be programmed to cut in at peak hours. Of course there are any number of issues, the bigger ones probably being finding suitable battery tech and making the idea of getting such a system attractive to the home user in the first place.

Re:Wow. (2, Interesting)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442821)

I read about some interesting tech on slashdot a few years ago... a refrigerator sized fuel cell unit that converts natural gas to electricity... enough to power an "average" household.

With all the loss in conversion and transportation of electricity, you'd think being generated locally would save a lot of electricity (since there's little to no loss in pumping that natural gas to the home).

Moreover, I think we should begin a slow conversion back to DC (either by having a "whole house" DC converter or generating the power locally). Electronics would be cheaper and lighter, people wouldn't need all those transformers plugged in (usually wasting electricity whether they are being used or not), think of how much is lost on the conversion and often needing fans to cool the power supplies!

I wonder how much power is lost using solar panel systems and windmill systems that convert their charge to AC only to have it converted back to DC by the appliance using it?

Re:Wow. (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443017)

if your using high quality coverters (which most don't have) you can get >90% eff on both sides.. (if run at the optimal load) so 100watt's *.9 to AC *.9 to DC again = 81 watts's.. so say 20% or more depending on the converters

#1 issue. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442881)

Cost.

If it made economic sense, power companies would be paying you (er..heavy users) to install batteries.

Re:Wow. (1, Redundant)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442951)

Batteries are too inefficient to cover the cost difference (which is what the average person cares about).

Solar panels won't get you much power during the 8 PM hump.

Installation is so expensive that you'll likely never recoup your losses over the life of the equipment.

If you're running your own generation scheme, you have to notify the power company so they can disconnect your house whenever they're working on the lines (or you could end up electrocuting a man on the pole). If any kind of home-generation were to become successful, it would have to be used by a lot of people, and thus, the power company would have a hell of a lot more work to do during outages / maintenance.

Your best bet is to work the system and get solar panels installed at a discount with government rebates, tax credits, rebates from the power company, etc., and hope you can sell back some of that electricity during the day.

You could also buy an exercise bike and retrofit it to feed back into the grid, so you can exercise and save a few bucks a month.

Re:Wow. (2, Interesting)

johnlcallaway (165670) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443085)

Be careful agreeing to those rebates from the power company. The ones I have read come with a small string ... the power company gets to use the carbon offsets associated with the solar cells/water heater for the life of the system.

Whether this is a good trade off or not I'm not sure. Makes some sense for them to receive some of the offsets, they helped pay for it. But I'm not willing to give up 100% of the offsets unless they are willing to pay 100% of the cost.

Putting in the solar cells and heater are a good thing, but I don't think I'm going to be asking the power company to help pay for it.

Re:Wow. (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443031)

Such systems cost money. It is probably more economical for the utility to install such systems, if they are worthwhile at all, than thousands of individual users. There are bound to be economies of scale.

Re:Wow. (4, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442663)

The free market is actually coming up with solutions?

No.

The fact this trend happening in consumer electronics is a boon to a straining power industry is an accident. (No, i'm not being sarcastic).

These companies have other, more important reasons for developing higher performance per watt.

The trend in computing is increasingly toward notebook ownership. Notebook battery life is increased by lower power consumption.

LCD displays also eat a lot of computer battery power.

It is in the best interest of the panel makers (whose panels end up in both TVs AND Computers) to increase the energy efficiency of their panels.

Flat panel tv's also benefit from this lower power consumption, which also serves as an excellent marketing angle for "those thrifty tree huggers".

Re:Wow. (5, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442851)

So, in other words, the consumers are demanding certain kinds of products, and the companies that make them are creating them.

Sounds remarkably a lot like the free market working.

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442959)

Mod this man up insightful!

Re:Wow. (3, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442991)

So, in other words, the consumers are demanding certain kinds of products, and the companies that make them are creating them.

Sounds remarkably a lot like the free market working.

Yes, but not for the power companies.

There are plenty of incidences of interactions between 2 parties providing benefit to a third by mere coincidence, but that does not mean the third party influenced them.

I'll let you know when the free market caters to my demand for affordable healthcare coverage so I can have more than 8 hours awake per day.

Let me know when the free market

Re:Wow. (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443057)

I'll let you know when the free market caters to my demand for affordable healthcare coverage so I can have more than 8 hours awake per day.

Instacare facilities cost a fraction of what a normal doctor's visit does and handles most of the things that people go to the doctor for.

Re:Wow. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443205)

I'll let you know when the free market caters to my demand for affordable healthcare coverage so I can have more than 8 hours awake per day.

Instacare facilities cost a fraction of what a normal doctor's visit does and handles most of the things that people go to the doctor for.

Because crohns disease is a transitory illness.

Let me make this clear before you start making accusations of parasite: My family can afford the insurance, but every company wants us to pay for a year before they'll cover us.

That's fine and good and all, but I'm debilitated NOW.

I don't mind paying double premiums for the first year, but I need testing and proper medication which I am not receiving. It is preventing me from moving to full employment following college, and the time spent merely scraping together the money for loan payments is damaging future job prospects.

The "free market" has failed me, and is continuing to do so, the same way it did the rural populations before the government intervened with power and water.

posting anonymously because this conversation is drifting off topic.

Re:Wow. (1)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442883)

Power is getting more expensive for the end user. I'm not sure about the large TVs, but the next time I build a computer (which will likely be a media PC) I will aim for power efficient components as I intend to leave it on for a fair amount of time.

In Europe we have the power efficiency stickers on a lot of things, and whilst it's not likely to be the primary factor in my purchasing decisions, it will certainly be what makes me choose between two comparable products. I'd likely pay a sensible amount more (determined by the reduced running cost and my expected usage etc. of the product) for a more efficient one.

I think the increasing awareness, and increasing cost of energy will prompt people to choose products for efficiency, and hence it becomes a good idea for manufacturers to cater to that.

One of the more amusing locations for these stickers btw. is on aeroplanes. It was right by the door, and I don't recall them telling you the efficiency at any other point, so it's a bit late really. I would like to have seen someone turn round in disgust and refuse to board the plane because it wasn't efficient enough though...

Mod Parent +0 Confused (1)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442979)

For saying that this isn't free market you sure did a great job explaining the OP's case for him.

Re:Mod Parent +0 Confused (4, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443035)

For saying that this isn't free market you sure did a great job explaining the OP's case for him.

This guy said this is an example of a free market "working"

free markets work on supply and demand.

These companies are not responding to power companies' complaints. The power company is not benefiting from a free market, just a fortuitous but unrelated chain of events.

If the customers of laptops demanded obscene brightness, more screen real estate, and high performance short bursts of computing power, they'd put 17 CPU's and 4 panels on laptops and they'd suck the grid dry.

Problem Solved (0, Redundant)

malignant_minded (884324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442397)

I just leave mine on all day!

Stupid Question (1)

ewhac (5844) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442451)

I thought one of the great advantages of LCD and plasma displays was their power efficiency over good old-fashioned CRTs. Was that a fib?

What, in fact, is the typical power consumption of various displays (CRT, plasma, LCD direct-view, LCD projector, white light-source DLP, LED-source DLP, etc.)? Which gadgets should I most concern myself with turning off first?

Schwab

Re:Stupid Question (3, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442499)

I think that the problem is that very few people have 13 to 17 inch LCD TVs anymore.
They are more power efficient but bigger. THe back light is the real killer.

Re:Stupid Question (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442859)

This is because they are all wide screen instead of 4x3, so the diagonal measurements used on these new screens exaggerate their size. 42" plasma screens roughly equate to a 27" normal CRT.

(never mind the fact most broadcasts are still 4x3 and get "squished" because most of these TV's are pieces of *explative deleted*)

Re:Stupid Question (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443169)

Not really. I had a 27" CRT television that I wanted to replace with an LCD of the same screen height, so I got a 32" widescreen. I don't know where you got your 42" figure from, that would have the same height as a 35" 4:3 screen.

There's more electronics. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442537)

As prices fall, folks are bigger and more electronics, thereby nullifying any power savings. And when you consider that everything these days being developed needs to be plugged in, it's only going to get worse. I don't buy much, if any electronics, but the folks who need the latest blinky power hungry electronic gadget outnumber people like me.

Re:Stupid Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442545)

I think it's a matter of scale.

there's a million times more computers now (made up number) than there were when CRT's were all the rage.

Re:Stupid Question (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442841)

Yeah, but the advantage they pranced about was supposed to be an order of magnitude.

The truth is that typical LCD power usage now exceeds that of a typical CRT of the same size.

Add the increased numbers to that, and you've got a problem.

Re:Stupid Question (5, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442607)

CRTs are power hogs, but your laser printer is the biggest power hog of your computer system. The fuser gets up to 2k F to melt the toner on the paper.

Plasma displays use less than CRT, LED uses less than plasma.

A space heater uses more juice than just about anything in your house save your AC or (if it's electric) your water heater. Your toaster comes in a good second (while it's actually toasting, which isn't long) followed by your microwave.

If a device's primary purpose is to heat something, it uses a shitload of electricity.

All your electric appliances/gizmos are rated in watts. Just RTFM, it's usually listed on the back page. If you have no FM it usually says on the back of the appliance how many watts it consumes.

Re:Stupid Question (3, Informative)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442829)

If a device's primary purpose is to heat something, it uses a shitload of electricity.

The big power spikes in the UK are at the start of the ad breaks in soaps, when millions of people get up to turn on the kettle and make a cup of tea.

Re:Stupid Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443179)

...it usually says on the back of the appliance how many watts it consumes.

It says what its peak rated power is, not what energy it consumes in ordinary use. In the case of your laser printer, it probably is smart enough to lay low most of the time.

Re:Stupid Question (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442637)

I thought one of the great advantages of LCD and plasma displays was their power efficiency over good old-fashioned CRTs. Was that a fib?

I bet a 56 inch CRT would dim the lights of a few homes...

Re:Stupid Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442705)

You should probably restrict yourself to turning off the gadgets that you're not using

LED-source DLP FTW (4, Informative)

raygundan (16760) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442999)

You won't find a more efficient design on the market right now. Samsung's 67" LED DLP set draws about 120 watts.

A quick google finds these:

65" Panasonic Plasma at 800W.
65" Olevia LCD (probably CFL backlit) at 540W.
55" Samsung LED-backlit LCD at 250W (note that this set is smaller than the rest)

Y'all live in Texas? (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442473)

Traditional peak power hours -- the time during the day when power demand shoots up -- run from 4 pm to 7 pm when air conditioning begins to ramp up

But what about those of us who DON'T live in Texas? I only use my air conditioning 3-4 months a year, and not consistantly then. I haven't had it on for weeks; I ran the (gas) furnace this morning.

And most people I know (granted, most of tem aren't nerds) turn the TV on as soon as they get home. How did they come to the conclusion that computers are causeing the spike?

Maybe folks are eating dinner later and it's that George Foreman electric grill and 750 watt microwave nuking dinner that's causing it?

Sorry, I didn't read the linked blagh. Were there some useful stats garnered from real research, or was it a slanted piece like it seemed from its URL?

Re:Y'all live in Texas? (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442623)

Traditional peak power hours -- the time during the day when power demand shoots up -- run from 4 pm to 7 pm when air conditioning begins to ramp up

But what about those of us who DON'T live in Texas? I only use my air conditioning 3-4 months a year, and not consistantly then. I haven't had it on for weeks; I ran the (gas) furnace this morning.

Gee... I read that and thought "They must NOT live in Texas. In the summer, my AC runs all day and all night... And 85 degree low means no AC surge at all!

As to "Green Computing" it is mostly just marketing. When it comes down to it, people still buy on performance and price. Green only makes a difference if it is free...

Re:Y'all live in Texas? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442813)

750 W? That's some weak ass microwave.
You didn't have to RTFA, you just had to RTFS.

Then you would have understood that they're talking about LCDs - TVs and computer monitors - plasmas, and computers.

Re:Y'all live in Texas? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442985)

TFS was talking about peak power draw. I'm far from convinced that computers have much if anything to do with it.

what about.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442491)

the other 90%?

"Providing power during the peak hours is already a costly proposition because approximately 10 percent of the existing generating capacity only gets used about 50 hours a year: Most of the time, that expensive capital equipment sits idle waiting for a crisis."

And to further confuse things, would most of the time when things are idle apply to those 50 hours that it's at 10%?

Re:what about.. (2, Informative)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442777)

The other 90% is your standard generation.
he 10% is a buffer for high-demand hours, for leeway in routing, minimizing outages during maintenance, and emergencies.

It's (mostly) separate hardware that kicks in only when needed.

They're saying that the power usage throughout the day has developed a second high point that often requires the extra hardware to kick in. They mention this period being a plateau, meaning it lasts a long time. Running extra hardware is expensive, running it for a long time is more expensive.

Most of the time when those things are idle does NOT apply to the 50 hours when it's at 10%. (I believe you meant to ask if the time when it's at only 10% (and thus idle 90%) applies to the 50 hours when it's idle).

They're either on of off, in large groups. They're expensive to start and stop. So the answer to your question is mu. T he extra hardware doesn't run at 10% like a CPU. The extra hardware runs at 100% and adds to the capacity of the grid.

Taking the whole grid into account, you could classify banks of extra hardware, and at any given time find the % of which are on and off, but the only thing that matters is when they're on in your area. You par for generation and delivery separately, remember.

Re:what about.. (2, Informative)

AlecC (512609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443115)

The 90%, or a large slice of it, is nuclear and large coal fired power stations that are hard to turn on and off. These are the baseload stations, and they run 24/7. Then there are lighter-weight stations that can be turned on and off in an hour or two, which run during the day. Then you have some very lightweight stations using technologies such as gas turbines, which can spin up in seconds. These are turned on just at the peaks, and constitute the t10% which is rarely used.

Re:what about.. (2, Informative)

Orne (144925) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443183)

Well, most of the time, the plants sit locked up and offline. About a week before the projected peak, the regional entities will issue hot weather alerts indicating if it is projected that those "peakers" would be needed. On the bulk power level, electricity cannot be stored, it can only be produced in near-equal amounts to the energy being consumed by residential, commercial, and industrial demand sources. It does noone any good to have a powerplant on standby if its energy is not needed.

In normal operations, you have a class of cheap-fuel plants (aka base load) running on Coal and Nuclear that pretty much run flat-out full output all 365 days of the year. Somewhere in there you also have your Wind, Solar and Hydro plants, no fuel cost but less predictability & control of their output. Next, you have your marginal Combined Cycle plants running on Oil and Natural Gas, which have the capability to control and maintain their output between minimum and maximum.

At the top of the heap are those Combustion Turbine (jet engines strapped to the ground) and Diesel, very expensive but very very quick response -- these are the resources that run 50 hours a year. But that's ok, because 360/365 days of the year you don't need that amount of generation to be produced.

3 steps (4, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442511)

1. Offer to sell electricity at a fixed rate by the hour
2. Broadcast the price through the outlet
3. Let appliances display the current (ahah) hourly rate

Re:3 steps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442535)

1. Offer to sell electricity at a fixed rate by the hour
2. Broadcast the price through the outlet
3. Let appliances display the current (ahah) hourly rate

1. Offer to sell electricity at a fixed rate by the hour
2. Broadcast the price through the outlet
3. ???
4. Profit

A variation on that theme (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442831)

I have long suggested that appliances should be smart, and I should be able to set a monthly power budget and let my appliances figure out together how to optimally function to meet that budget.

You don't even need to broadcast the price through the outlet to do this. Each device should be able to measure its own power consumption and if I have budgeted X number of kilowatts for the month they should collectively figure out how to achieve that.

Re:A variation on that theme (1)

SleepyHappyDoc (813919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442981)

So, if I've reached my X number plateau for the month on the 29th, I can't nuke my burrito? No thanks.

Re:3 steps (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443037)

You can already buy power on a "demand rate": your monthly bill is X times the peak power you draw at any time during the month. The more level your demand, the less you pay per kilowatt-hour. The peak power draw has to exist for 15 continuous minutes or more before it counts, so you don't get nailed for spikes.

There are home controllers available that let you control your bill by selective load shedding. You set the max load you want, and priorities for the various circuits; the unit will cut off as many circuits as it takes, in priority order, to keep you below that setting.

rj

I got news for them (1)

SupremoMan (912191) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442547)

PC can run on hand crank or hair grease and it still will be far from Green.

I may be just a tad bitter about technology, because I expected flying cars, limitless energy, and cure for cancer. But the only thing we seem to be getting over the last couple of years is new gadgets and "better" TVs.

Re:I got news for them (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442887)

You're young and naive; things don't move that fast. I'm 56 and the stuff that was science fiction when I was a kid has mostly already happened.

Look at Star Trek (it's dead, Jim). Self-opening doors? Yep, in every grocery store. Communucators? Yep, only we call them cell phones. Flat screen voice activated talking computers on a desk? Yep. When Star Trek came out the average computer wasn't much more powerful than today's scientific calculator and took a whole building to house, and cost millions of dollars. Say "Mom" into your Razr and it will dial your mother.

Some other things we didn't have included digital clocks, the internet, CDs, DVDs, VCRs, microwave ovens, motion sensors, crack cocaine (some things alas should never be invented), antiviral drugs, antidepressant drugs, LEDs, LCDs, air bags in cars, fuel injectors in cars, or global warming.

In Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan McCoy couldn't cure Kirk's age-related farsightedness. But Dr. Yeh cured mine!

In 2003 the FDA approved the CrystaLens eye implant. It was a life changing [slashdot.org] technology for me; as the linked journal says, I was very nearsighted all my life, and in middle age I became farsighted as well, using contact lenses AND reading glasses. I wear no corrective lenses at all now.

They invented the flying car in 1903, it's called an "airplane". There is more energy than I can use coming from the wall sockets in my home, is that not "limitless" for all practical purposes? And they can in fact cure many cancers these days provided it is caught soon enough.

To this geezerly nerd, I'm living in a science fiction world. You might be interested to read Growing up with computers [kuro5hin.org] . I think you are likely to see as much progress in your life by the time you reach my age as I have. Unless I croak soon I expect to see even more technological miracles.

Re:I got news for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443013)

Excellent post. We live surrounded by things that someone a century-and-a-half or two centuries ago would regard as miraculous yet we take them for granted.

Re:I got news for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443107)

That's all fantastic, and true. Sometimes we younger people just have to slow down and look at all we have. Its pretty fantastic what tech we've over the last 30 years or so, even more fantastic when you look back 50 years. And the curve keeps getting steeper; the progress keeps on getting faster. Who knows what'll happen by the time I'm 56? (I'm 22 now).

There are many credible ways to solve this (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442565)

I hope that the 'market' comes up with many of the ones that I can think of.

Battery UPS in your PC case... stores power for power outages and uses the battery during startup cycles, thus spreading the draw from the grid to less used times.

EU just made incandescent lights illegal.

Green design homes

Light timer switches with built-in motion sensors and other such devices.

More efficient solar energy. Windows with solar collectors built-in as well as LED lighting so that daylight can continue unabated.

The list goes on. Anything that prevents a 250 watt drain on the grid during peak times will reduce the problem dramatically if millions of homes participated. Say 2 million homes used 250W/hr less at peak times for any given grid supply area: 500MegaWatt hour savings. That's a lot of savings.

Re:There are many credible ways to solve this (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442779)

EU just made incandescent lights illegal. Wasn't there an article on here last year about GE inventing a more effecient incandescent and California's ban effectively killing that technology?

Re:There are many credible ways to solve this (3, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442953)

The list goes on. Anything that prevents a 250 watt drain on the grid during peak times will reduce the problem dramatically if millions of homes participated. Say 2 million homes used 250W/hr less at peak times for any given grid supply area: 500MegaWatt hour savings. That's a lot of savings.

And if every home saves 250W/hour for five hours a day, then each of them will see about $4 per month savings on their electric bill.

Which is so trivial that noone will bother with the effort required to make the savings.

You won't sell a conservation measure on the notion "the country will save oodles of money", you have to sell it on "YOU will save oodles of money". Which is, frankly, pretty hard to do these days - unless you happen to live in an uninsulated house, with a 30 year old AC/Heater, there's not really a whole lot you can do to significantly (key word here is significantly) affect your monthly bill.

Re:There are many credible ways to solve this (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443053)

You are perhaps right, though the statement: "If every home uses 250 watts/hr less during peak times, we can put off building a 14 billion dollar nuclear power plant for another 17 years" is an easy way to sell the idea that if everyone contributes, it does pay off handsomely for everyone.

Re:There are many credible ways to solve this (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443081)

How about:
-Making cheap ACs with low SEER ratings illegal.
-force the market to develop new STANDARD battery size formats for electric hand tools and Garden tools.
-force 0-watt power usage while on "standby" for most electronics (eg:
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/zero-watt-fujitsu-siemens-computer-monitor-idle.php [treehugger.com] )

Re:There are many credible ways to solve this (1)

JaWiB (963739) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443141)

"Windows with solar collectors built-in"

Windows are solar collectors. Build enough of them in the right configuration and you can save a lot on your heating. Plant some deciduous trees or have a low overhang to block light during warmer months, and you can keep cool as well.

Re:There are many credible ways to solve this (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443147)

EU just made incandescent lights illegal.

wow, then I should go and buy a lot of lamps before they disappear from the stores. I don't really care about lamp efficiency (yes, I would save ~30W if I used a CF lamp instead of that 40W incandescent, but my PCs use >1kW so those 30W wouldn't be a lot) and I like incandescent light better (yellow instead of white).

Battery UPS in your PC case...

And who is going to pay for that? Me? Why? I already have a big UPS for power outages.

More efficient solar energy.

If it is going to be cheaper on a small scale (up to 15MWh/year for me) than what I get from the grid (~0.1EUR/kWh) then I am all for it.

...if millions of homes participated.

And why would they participate? Would they get cheaper electricity if they do?

I am all for cheaper electricity. Solar power is too expensive, so I am using power from the grid. But If I find out that coal or whatever is cheaper then I do not really care about the environment. (I think that using coal/gas for electricity would be cheaper than power from the grid, but only if I used it in winter and used the waste heat to heat my house).

I understood everything... (1)

thered2001 (1257950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442597)

Except the last portion of the last sentence. What do "medical enterprise customers" have to do with anything else in that article?

Re:I understood everything... (1)

johkir (716957) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442801)

"medical enterprise customers" need to have a lot of electrical equipment on and ready at a moments notice. Everything from computers and displays for simple billing and address info, to high-def displays for medical images from maybe a digital x-ray, to a MRI or CT units. Not to mention all the hallway and room lights. I'm not suggesting a 'green' MRI, but there are still a lot of displays, lights, and monitors that could be 'green.'

Re:I understood everything... (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443095)

in addition, non-residential electrical customers typically have two factors that play into their utility costs: 1)Usage and 2)Peak Draw. They will actually pay more for not load-leveling their power usage. Doing things like shifting laundry services to the night shift, shifting non-critical high-load procedures (elective MRI) to lower peak times, overnight thermal energy storage for building thermal buffers, sometimes even shifting a load that results in more usage, but brings the daily peak draw down, all can drop the power bill significantly. Many similar things can be done in the home if you're on a metering plan with hourly variable pricing. The problem is how to unobtrusively get the instant price across to the home user. I saw something about a soft lighitng system that changes from green to yellow to red as the price goes up. Can't remember the name of it though.

I call bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442609)

Has the penetration rate of computers and TVs gone up recently? I doubt it.

If fact, I bet the effciency is the only thing going up. The flatscreen that replaced my tube TV uses LESS power. And the core 2 uses LESS power than the PIV it replaced.

I Thought (0)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442625)

LCDs were supposed to SAVE power, compared to CRTs.
Looks like those claims were bullshit.

(Yeah, it's a known fact that LCD power usage has done nothing but skyrocket as displays have gotten better. I just like bringing it up because it was one of the big advantages the manufacturers touted over CRTs.)

Re:I Thought (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442765)

They do, inch-for-inch. You find me a 67" CRT and I'll find you a CRT that takes five times the power of a 67" LCD. When you replace your old 22" tube with a 50" LCD, you have to spew media across more than four times the surface area. They're more efficient, but not that much more efficient.

Re:I Thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442773)

They do save power compared to CRTs.

I used to use a 19" CRT monitor. Can't recall how big my old TV was.

I'm currently sitting in front of a 30" widescreen monitor, and I've got a 46" HDTV sitting out in my living room.

You can't really compare a 30" monitor and a 46" TV to old school CRTs and TVs.

Re:I Thought (2, Informative)

Chirs (87576) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442807)

LCDs _do_ save power compared to equivalently-sized CRTs. Quite significantly, in fact. My 24" LCD monitor uses half as much power as my older 21" CRT.

However, I suspect that when they moved to LCDs many people also upgraded to physically larger TVs.

The other thing to consider is that many people have plasma displays, which consume significantly more power than LCDs.

Re:I Thought (1)

boethius78 (1002975) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442879)

It is a big advantage of LCD over CRT. That, and the fact that a 40" CRT weighs about 140 kilos. A quick search will tell you that a 15" LCD screen will use between 25-50W, whilst a comparable CRT will use 60-80W. I guess this difference would become far more significant as the area increases.

Re:I Thought (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442897)

Yeah, my new vehicle was suppose to get better gas mileage than a 57 Chevy. But my new Volvo semi only gets 8 miles to the gallon. What bullshit. Technology is a scam people. Wake up!

Re:I Thought (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442987)

Well, the issue is people are buying larger TVs and monitors. Back in the day my biggest CRT was 25". Now my biggest LCD is 65". The power consumption is similar between the 25" CRT and the 65" LCD.

Re:I Thought (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443175)

I had a cold room in the basement until I put in a 32" LCD TV.
Now I have to keep the door open or I'll puke.
Size of the room? 12'x20' !

Story is confusing two different ideas... (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442639)

In California, for instance, plug-in hybrid cars would allow PG&E to better deploy energy from wind farms. Wind blows at night here often. If demand doesn't exist, it gets dumped. If thousands or even millions of drivers had their cars plugged in, they could refuel on cheap power in the wee hours.

This is not the same as having cars feeding power back into the grid, which is what most of the rest of the article is about. Seems like the reporter is confusing the two concepts.

Re:Story is confusing two different ideas... (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443131)

a reporter? confusing a technology story? say it ain't so!!

one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442643)

only one real solution here

more power

Re:one (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443263)

No, I disagree.

the grid system is inefficient, storage isn't generally available, too much old and inefficient electrical equipment is in use, and the power generating infrastructure isn't well-adapted to demand stats

I see that as 4 tangentially related problems subject to different solutions.

There are good arguments being made for a HV DC power grid to allow easier synchronisation of unpredictable renewables power generation resources to the existing stable network (this is a b*tch to achieve right now as frequency of a fluctuating AC supply can go up and down as well as current and voltage)

Surplus electrical power can be stored - either as heat to run a turbine, water in a pump-store, turned to hydrogen or anhydrous ammonia to run a generator-set, or even potentially in a large flywheel for short periods.

Advertising and tax breaks can give people good economic and ethical reasons to replace their consumer electronics with modern, less power-hungry kit...

Nonsense (5, Insightful)

gearloos (816828) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442647)

As far as I can see this is just a bs sensationalizing fluff story. I work for a multi state power utility as an engineer and we have no such issues.

creators' newclear power served up for free.. (-1, Offtopic)

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Article blows (4, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442739)

If air-conditioning is the peak demand, which it is in the South, then no reductions to such "secondary peaks" like evening TV-watching (etc.) will help, because the utilities must maintain the generating capacity to meet the highest peak.

Only when air-conditioning demand is brought below the next-highest peak will there be any benefit at all from these secondary reductions.

That said, computers and TVs do contribute to the air-conditioning peak, and so it helps to make them more efficient... but that wasn't the point of the article.

The air-conditioning peak can only be brought down by difficult measures: upgrading the windows and insulation of older homes, upgrading older air-conditioning systems to newer models, keeping the house hotter inside, overhauling older duct systems to fix leaks and the like. Those are expensive and/or painful measures, and more importantly, those measures fail to tell us that "it is virtuous to buy a new computer or entertainment system". We very much like to be told that it is virtuous to do what we already wanted to do.

Article costs. (2, Insightful)

Ostracus (1354233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442973)

"Those are expensive and/or painful measures, and more importantly, those measures fail to tell us that "it is virtuous to buy a new computer or entertainment system"."

How much would we save if all computers hibernated during non usage? Or had smart UPSes that turned everything off and on instead of running 24/7?

bandwidth (4, Interesting)

drakyri (727902) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442795)

This is a little off-topic, but there's an analogous jump for bandwidth.

I used to work at a fairly large university, and you could watch the bandwidth charts and see what was happening:

9 am - people arrive at work, bandwidth climbs
1 pm - bandwidth plateaus - people are eating lunch / students waking up or getting back from early classes
5 pm - bandwidth halves as workers go home
7 pm - bandwidth climbs again due to student usage
9 pm - plateaus
2 am - begins to decline
6 am - minimal usage

Sounds like a solution not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25442817)

If the 10% of capital equipment was previously only being used during peak hours and we extend peak hours in a plateau we will increase capital utilization and be able to reduce the cost of energy. This isn't a joke. That is actually what will happen if what the post says is true. Filling in the valleys in capacity utilization will result in a more efficient energy infrastructure. That is why hybrid cars are so efficient.

Article makes no sense (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442923)

Providing power during the peak hours is already a costly proposition because approximately 10 percent of the existing generating capacity only gets used about 50 hours a year: Most of the time, that expensive capital equipment sits idle waiting for a crisis.

So when customers buy more energy (actually the proper term) but spread it out over a longer period of time, this is bad how, exactly? It would seem that spreading the peak out is a good thing, from the capital investment point of view. It was a good thing when everyone proposed plug in hybrids that could charge off peak.

What they really seem to be bitching about is energy, not power. Energy == fuel (and CO2, in many cases) so this is a legitimate beef. But the power company folks should be happy when we stay up later watching p0rn.

possibly.... (1)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443119)

.. peak power availability occurs in daylight, when conventional generation can be topped-up using solar. if peak consumption is moving towards the late evening and nighttime hours, this represents a future issue.

PHEV charging demand was seen as a good thing as the night was seen as a low-demand time. Maybe thats not going to be the case soon....

Peak useage my ass. (1)

floorpirate (696768) | more than 5 years ago | (#25442965)

The power companies should stop complaining and upgrade their equipment. Can't buy enough power from your current providers? Build wind farms, invest in alternative energy sources.

They're in business to make money. If people bought more "green" devices and started using less power, the power companies would make less money, and they would increase their rates to compensate.

I can confirm this (4, Interesting)

CdBee (742846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443071)

My employers make and sell consumer television sets.

One of the large power companies pays the proportionate costs of our advertising for all the TVs we sell which consumes less than x watts (Sorry - can't reveal the figure).

They do this because its in their interests to get lower-consumption TVs out there, and paying our advertising is easier than paying for additional capacity.

Going green is retarding -- literally (2, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443099)

Welcome to retarded. Going green used to be about garbage and pollution -- which at least had air-quality in mind. But reducing power usage -- especially electrical power usage -- is such a bad idea I'm calling it a super-bad idea (or should that be a sub-bad idea?).

First-off, Intel and AMD aren't reducing power to be green. They are reducing power as a part of miniturization -- smaller circuits can't use more power without shorting. Server farms of thousands of computers care about power only on the bottom line, it's not about being green.

So what's going to happen in ten years when the next power surge is everyone plugging in their cars at night? And what happens when they charge in minutes instead of hours?

Going green is not the way humans in a capitalist business society solve problems. If you're asking 500 million people to use less electricity, you'll maybe get 50 million using 5% less. Congratulations. And with each passing year, you have Africa using 999999% more. What will you do in fifty years when the global first-world is thirty times larger?

In our societies, you solve problems by finding new business opportunities that decrease requirements by orders of magnitude across the entire population -- not 5% on a per-human basis.

And in order to present those new business ideas with contrast, you use MORE of the offending substance. Not less. More. You use MORE gasoline as a society, and then it becomes MORE worthwhile for a new business to replace that gasoline with something else -- telecommute, hybrid, fuel cell, electricity. If our gasoline requirements were double what they are now -- ehem, when they are double what they are now (in terms of volume and price together), electric cars will save you more money, and there'll be a reason to start replacing gas stations with charging stations. You'll have turn-key telecommuting solution, and video conferencing solutions will become more plentiful. Right now? Right now you have "eh, for that much, I'll just fly them in and forget the teleconference".

You want more efficient solar panels? Something more than the 20% you get today, and the 30% the lab gets today? Use twice as much electricity, and someone will spend the money to develop better solar cells. Right now? It's still more expensive -- and more polluting -- than gasoline. Which is why no one uses them.

So, in summary:
          1. asking people to use less means very few people use very little less.
          2. using less means less of a problem means no point in solving the problem.
          3. using the problem means more of the problem means greater benefit to solving the problem.
          4. solving the problem in the correct place means an order-of-magnitude benefit to the entire society (now most of the world).

Drink up.

Simple solutions (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443113)

In Abraham Lincoln's time this wasn't a problem. Moving back to that level of industrialization and population will eliminate this situation. It will also eliminate global warming/climate change, most forms of pollution and most resource consumption issues.

It is a little difficult to build a DVD player using 1850's technology, but heck Mr. Lincoln didn't have anywhere near the carbon footprint of someone living today either. True sustainability means living within the natural limits of the planet and not consuming resources at a faster pace than natural replenishment. You want sustainable? Then this is the only available route.

problem solved (4, Funny)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 5 years ago | (#25443145)

Ive seen a TV program where these people on an island were powering a radio and washing their clothes using a bicycle and a couple of coconuts, so why do we have an energy problem?

Quad SLI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25443257)

So, having a ridiculous number of video cards in my rig is noticeable to the power company? Is that what all those letters have been about?

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