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Expanding the Electricity Grid May Be a Mistake

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the big-systems-thinking-needed dept.

Power 412

Perhaps T. Boone Pickens was onto something. Al writes "An article in Technology Review argues that plans to string new high-voltage lines across the US to bring wind power from the midsection of the country to the coasts, could be an expensive mistake. What's needed instead are improved local and regional electricity transmission, the development of an efficient and adaptable smart grid, and the demonstration of technology such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could prove a cheaper way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than transmitting power from North Dakota to New York City."

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Yeah (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697185)

Yes, because we all know that every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity.

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Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697267)

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Re:Yeah (1, Informative)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697581)

It does when you beam the electricity to ground-stations from orbiting solar power satellites.

Re:Yeah (0)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698219)

Am I the only one who gets nervous with this concept?! If the beams are even slightly out you could be frying people rather than generating electricity.

And you just know the control systems will be conficker infected XP machines with direct access to the Internet :(

Re:Yeah (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697589)

Yes, because we all know that every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity.

Well, there is one extremely low carbon footprint technology [wikipedia.org] that we know works and scales well. Too bad the people who oppose it do so without offering any real alternative besides the "renewables" that we've been waiting decades for or the prospect of a lower standard of living.....

Re:Yeah (2, Informative)

Smoke2Joints (915787) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697767)

it all depends how much you want to spend, what your requirements are, and what resources are available to you. the options [ecoinnovation.co.nz] are [ecoinnovation.co.nz] out there [ecoinnovation.co.nz] . even for large scale applications [sandia.gov] .

but from the tone of your post, you dont seem to be the type of person willing to generate your own power.

The quarter wave problem (5, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697665)

every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity

You're absolutely right, and that's why we need either nuclear power or a large power transmission grid to lower CO2 emissions.

The problem with the large power grid is that power is generateed at a 60 Hz frequency. This corresponds to a 5000 km wavelength. A quarter wave line [google.com] has a length of 1250 km (about 780 miles for the unit-challenged).

A quarter wavelength line has the property that a short circuit at one end appears as an open circuit at the other end and an open circuit appears at a short. This makes it very difficult to transmit 60 Hz power over a line of approximately that length, the line must be "impedance matched", by putting capacitors and/or inductors at several points along the line. Worse still, the line impedance varies with load, because when a higher current runs through the wires they heat up and, by dilation, lengthen and rest at a lower position, thereby increasing the capacitance to ground, which means those capacitors and inductors must be variable.

One solution is to use direct current [google.com] , but that's as expensive or more than matching the impedance, although the grid becomes easier to stabilize when direct current is used.

All in all, any solution for making more electricity available is expensive. Conservation is the easiest and cheaper way to implement technically, but it seems, at least in the USA, very difficult for the people to accept.

Re:The quarter wave problem (0)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697901)

I'm not very familar with this sort of thing at all, but I thought the problem with DC in powerlines was you'd need absolutely massive lines to properly transmit power any sort of real distance.

Re:The quarter wave problem (4, Informative)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698051)

The problem with DC Power is that it cannot be stepped up/down in voltage as easily as AC by the use of transformers. The key to efficient transmission over the line is to use a fairly high voltage, much higher than the 120VAC you get to your house. So AC back in the day was the only practical option for being able to transmit in the kV range but deliver at a low voltage to the neighborhood. But power electronics technology have advanced quite a bit over the last 100 years or so and high power DC-DC converters are quite the reality, if still very expensive compared to the average transformer. But it is a solution worth putting in the bucket now.

Re:The quarter wave problem (4, Informative)

Dantu (840928) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698069)

I'm not very familar with this sort of thing at all, but I thought the problem with DC in powerlines was you'd need absolutely massive lines to properly transmit power any sort of real distance.

Actually, HVDC can carry about 40% more power over the same lines, compared to AC. The main drawback is that you need to convert to/from AC on either end. See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-voltage_direct_current#Advantages_of_HVDC_over_AC_transmission [wikipedia.org]

(I know, not that authoritative, but it cites lots of sources I can't be bothered to copy).

Re:The quarter wave problem (0, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697949)

", the line must be "impedance matched""

of dear lord, we could never do that~

We should be using Industrial Solar Thermal.

Re:The quarter wave problem (2, Interesting)

gonzonista (790137) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698087)

HVDC lines are cheaper to build than HVAC lines. They only need two lines for conductors and use smaller right of ways. The problem with using HVDC is that it is very expensive to interconnect. HVDC works best when you have a single source of generation nearby. The interconnection costs make it not feasible for the majority of renewable energy projects.

Conservation works very well but is limited in scope. When electric cars become more mainstream, their energy use will swamp any conservation efforts. At some point, it is necessary to build new generation. Whether it is renewable, nuclear or fossil fuel depends on the economics and regulations. No single type of energy will meet our future energy needs. It will take a combination of resources to have a reliable, low cost electrical system.

Re:Yeah (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697781)

Yes, because we all know that every locale has magic electricity faeries just waiting to produce low-carbon-footprint electricity. Depends on how big the "locales" are. For instance, the article says importing electricity from the midwest to the coasts may be a mistake, since they're closer to offshore wind. So, the article agrees we need to build a smart grid. It's just questioning how far the rollout should go. I'm not sure there are any serious plans for a truly national power grid, so it's something of a strawman.

Still, living in New Mexico, I pay good money to get rid of all the excess energy that falls out of the sky on to my home almost every day, so the idea of being able to sell that solar power instead is enticing.

Re:Yeah (3, Interesting)

tunapez (1161697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697877)

That's T Boone, the Electric Faerie! All you have to do is build them thar local transmission lines with tax payer money or else he'll drop it to focus on his water monopoly already in place!

Haven't seen any wind turbines on Fl-Ebay yet, but when they do I'm gonna "Buy It Now"!

Re:Yeah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28698075)

As an Electrical Engineer who deals with power systems, I can tell you that this entire story is ridiculous. You don't transfer power across an entire country- the power gets messed up along the way. Let the experts make the decisions, please.

I would liken this article to non-IT people trying to sound smart about computers even though they mess up all the basic theory.

I'm not trying to troll, but this type of conjecture is insanely ridiculous.

Problem with wind and solar? (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697191)

All this talk about solar and wind energy being "free" and building these giant wind farms and turbines has had me wondering about something that I never see addressed. Has anyone considered the meteorological effects of removing all that energy from the atmosphere? I mean wind and solar energy serve a FUNCTION, they move our weather systems around, melt our snow, power our rivers, etc. You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

No energy is truly "free," after all. But environmentalists keep talking about wind and solar as if there's NO downside whatsoever. It seems to me that there might be a pretty big one.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (5, Funny)

ByTor-2112 (313205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697243)

Hopefully the drag from all those windmills will slow the earth's rotation enough to eliminate those damnable leap years.

Be careful what you wish for (3, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697621)

The slowing of the Earth's rotation is already the cause of those damnable leap seconds [wikipedia.org] . You want more?

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (4, Funny)

Theolojin (102108) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697801)

Hopefully the drag from all those windmills will slow the earth's rotation enough to eliminate those damnable leap years.

Pff...what if they're facing the other way? Hmm? Wouldn't that speed up the earth?

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (3, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697349)

yeah, like building 1 billion houses has no impact. or demolishing 10 billion trees.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (2, Interesting)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697723)

If you're being serious here, then yes that's rather the point. ANYTHING you do on a large scale has an impact. Nothing is free. Scaling up wind and solar could produce just as many unintended consequences as any other form of power generation. But everyone's so infatuated with them right now that no one seems to even be CONSIDERING the potential problems (all I've heard are a few grumblings about birds getting hit by the turbine blades and the environmental costs of producing solar panels).

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698097)

you can always build an adobe mud house

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (3, Insightful)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697369)

Considering the size of the earth relative to the size of any windmill farms, I seriously doubt we could ever extract a significant amount of the available energy.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (2, Insightful)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697633)

I happen to agree with you but the devil's advocate in me replies that they said the same thing about the Buffalo.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (2, Informative)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697799)

...and hydroelectric power, a power generation method once considered quite "green," which turned out to cause some unexpected problems [wikipedia.org] as well.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (3, Insightful)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697727)

I'm pretty sure they said the same thing about pumping pollution into the air, too. The volume of pollution pumped out of factories vs the volume of the atmosphere, it'd never be significant. What do you know - as more people started jumping on the bandwagon, new technology found new ways to pump out pollution. If we invest heavily in wind farms, new technology will come along to extract more energy in less land footprint.

And who says what "significant" is? Maybe the amount of energy available is barely over the cusp of self-sustainability, and extracting a couple hundred MW* completely ruins the jet stream, plunging us into droughts and famines the likes we've never seen? Or maybe the extraction of minor amounts of energy destabilises the jet stream such that it causes hurricanes in places that would never otherwise see them? Who knows? How can we know? Of course, maybe we have to be taking out huge amounts of energy to make that difference - we don't know that, either. (It's probably somewhere around 1.21 jiggawatts...) The question to me isn't whether we should or not (we should), it's what do we do to fix it if we do take too much out? If you think pumping out too much CO2 is bad, this has potential for much worse. Then again, it might be nothing. Can't tell.

* yes, W, not J. The sun is replenishing the energy in our atmosphere, so I'm assuming here that you have to take out energy above and beyond the energy added to the ecosystem by the sun on a continual basis to effect any change.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

jackchance (947926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697887)

You are correct that we can't extract a significant amount of the wind energy. But wind flow is pretty tricky, and even if farms wouldn't affect flow in the upper atmosphere, they could affect flow where we care about it. at the earth's surface.

I would say that this is still an open question.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697939)

But look at the size of the windmill farms if they were to generate ALL of our power.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697403)

That's the beauty of it when winter comes the gorillas freeze!

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697417)

I read about it somewhere. Said it actually raised temps 2-3ÂF while in operation.

You Gotta Be Joking (4, Informative)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697641)

You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

No. The wind is surface wind, so imagine how much wind is actually in the atmosphere. The wind pushing your clouds is a bit higher up. With sunlight, the energy is either heating your tiles, or charging them. It is a preference, not a robbery of some sort. And we find charge has more uses than hot tiles.

Free, though, it is not, and you are correct about there being a downside. It is in the form of cost, infrastructure, and energy efficiency, among others.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697657)

Oh, please! you're not serious? am I just not getting the joke?

Windmills changing weather patterns? does nobody ever pick up a science book!

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697919)

We've never done this kind of generation on even a tiny fraction of the scale it would take to generate the our worldwide power needs (which, I might add, are ever increasing). You laugh it off too casually.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (4, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698115)

Human energy utilization is on the order of 15 terawatts. The sun hits an earth size disc at the earth's orbit with more than 100 petawatts (I would guess that at least 30 or 50 petawatts actually make it to the ground).

There is some chance that it will cause problems, but we don't have the capacity to build up fast, so we are going to have quite some time where we are harnessing 1/10,000 of the Sun's energy. We can use that experience to decide if 1/1,000 of it poses some risk to the environmental conditions that we like to live in.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

SkyDude (919251) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697997)

Oh, please! you're not serious? am I just not getting the joke?

Windmills changing weather patterns? does nobody ever pick up a science book!

Yes, but it's hard to read them through the tinfoil hats.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697691)

Melting ice caps will redistribute water to the equator due to angular momentum. But because energy is conserved, the earth will spin slower (think of when you extend and retract limbs as you spin in an office chair). The rough calculation I saw said we could expect our days to be a few microseconds longer if all the ice melted.

So what's worse?

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697699)

All this talk about solar and wind energy being "free" and building these giant wind farms and turbines has had me wondering about something that I never see addressed.

Yeah it's only brought up in every single /. discussion about wind power.

You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes

Yes but what makes you think wind power could ever take a 'significant' chunk of energy out of the atmosphere? A windmill only takes a tiny fraction of the energy out of the wind that moves through the area described by its rotation. The wind passing through that area is a tiny, tiny fraction of the atmosphere energy that passes over the windmill. You could cover the earth with wind farms, and you'd be taking a tiny, tiny fraction of the atmosphere's energy. And up to a certain, very large, point it isn't even clear we'd be removing more energy than the trees that existed before industrial logging and agriculture cut them down.

Could it affect the climate? Yes. Is it a reason to worry? No.

No energy is truly "free," after all. But environmentalists keep talking about wind and solar as if there's NO downside whatsoever.

Seriously, compared to what it is replacing, it is so close to zero impact as to be indistinguishable. When every fossil fuel plant has been shut down, and when we're contemplating blanketing whole continents with wind/solar farms, that's when the impact of these technologies will be significant. Then maybe we'll have to find a better solution, but hey thanks to getting rid of all the coal plants we should have plenty of time to do so.

I don't think any environmentalist would claim that they have literally NO impact, outside of this relative comparison where it is only hyperbole of the smallest order. Yes, wind isn't "truly free". No, that's not a reason to stop building wind farms as fast as possible, because "not free" isn't within orders of magnitude of "as costly as current power sources". This concern is so far out there that it just reeks of grasping at straws. The fact is that for today and the foreseeable future, the environmental benefit of wind farms is unequivocal and enormous.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697965)

Yeah it's only brought up in every single /. discussion about wind power.

I've never seen this specific consideration raised or addressed before.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (2, Insightful)

jeffliott (1558799) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697719)

Solar is free in the sense that you describe. All the electricity it generates that is spent will eventually heat up some load somewhere, and unspent energy will just heat up the surface, just like if it were a tar covered roof. Nothing is lost, since the energy removed still enters the system in the same quantity, just somewhere else, hopefully nearby.

Re: has anyone...? (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697809)

Yes, anyone has indeed considered it, at least considered the possibility, which is more than one can apparently say for some of the experts producing reports and studies like the last one about giant wind farms here on /. in the last week or two. They seem to have rather optimistic tunnel vision, which seems to be a common affliction with too many people who become too emotionally attached to ideas. They want so much to "make it so" (to mimic Jean-Luc Picard) that they become a bit delusional in the process.

What you suggested as a consequence is something that should be addressed and investigated in depth to rule it out. Trying to mention such issues is sometimes like being a protester trying to stare down a steamroller with its clutch released.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

jackchance (947926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697825)

I have the same concerns about wind energy. There is some evidence [geocities.com] that it can effect local ecology.

Solar energy on the other hand, isn't used very efficiently. In fact, in much of the world shade structures that converted solar energy to electricity would provide a double service: cool via shading while using unwanted radiative energy.

The only way that using solar could effect climate is if we significantly changed the albedo [wikipedia.org] by placing dark solar panels in a place that was very reflective. However, other than the polar ice caps most of the earth's surface absorbs the solar energy, so we really would not affect climate by "taking out" the solar energy.

I think we should actually launch solar concentrators into orbit. Basically huge inflatable lenses that float in space and beam concentrated solar power down to heat some salt to drive a turbine [sandia.gov] . We'd just have to make sure that planes didn't fly through the beam.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697871)

I remember reading in some science book that the average hurricane consumes ~100 of the original atomic bomb in energy every minute. I wouldn't think wind farms would cut much into the total wind power.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (5, Interesting)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697917)

You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

Yes you could. However, building the number of windmills required to satisfy all of our energy needs wouldn't make a noticeable dent in the climate AT ALL. Just to give a sense of scale, consider the following: wind power is primarily the result of solar input. At Earth distance sunlight delivers 1360 watts per (projected) square meter; that's about 10 megawatts per football field (or, if you prefer, soccer pitch.) Over the lit surface of the Earth, that's an energy input of 173,000 terawatts.

The current energy consumption of mankind? 16.

Note that this is just solar input (of which some percentage goes into wind power). This doesn't even touch on the potential of tapping into ocean tides, which is driven by gravitational forces. And of course the supernova remnant fuel storage device known as nuclear fission. Compared to the impact of releasing long-sequestered carbon from beneath the ground back into the atmosphere, stealing power from the wind is chicken feed.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698041)

This doesn't even touch on the potential of tapping into ocean tides,

You should be aware that there are serious concerns about "tapping into tides", since extraction of such energy is a localized event and can cause serious localized damage.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (5, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697971)

Has anyone considered the meteorological effects of removing all that energy from the atmosphere?

Yes, and it's insignificant.

According to the NOAA [noaa.gov] , an average hurricane releases roughly 14 Terawatt-hours of energy per day. According to the EIA [doe.gov] , annual global electrical production comes to about 20 Terawatt-hours.

To summarize, one single hurricane can power the entire world (with room to grow) for an entire year if captured for two days.

Now consider how many hurricanes and typhoons there are in a year, how long they each last, and do the math. And don't forget about lesser weather phenomenon like thunderstorms (An average thunderstorm releases about 10 gigawatt-hours) and wind in general, which also release a non-trivial amount of energy.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697977)

All this talk about solar and wind energy being "free" and building these giant wind farms and turbines has had me wondering about something that I never see addressed. Has anyone considered the meteorological effects of removing all that energy from the atmosphere? I mean wind and solar energy serve a FUNCTION, they move our weather systems around, melt our snow, power our rivers, etc. You start taking a significant chunk of that energy out of the atmosphere, couldn't you end up with climate changes that could be even more devestating than the global warming you're trying to avoid?

No energy is truly "free," after all. But environmentalists keep talking about wind and solar as if there's NO downside whatsoever. It seems to me that there might be a pretty big one.

..... I am sorry but do you actually make a clam that some how wind blowing on a big fan ... somehow degrades the whether?

I suppose also sucking in all the sun will make us to all frezz right ?

wind is free and so is sun ... it dose not take away anthing for us to use it ...

now mind you if we mad a reverse dyson's sphere on earth made of solo panels ... then ...

oh nvm this is juat getting silly

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697995)

I'm not so worried about that as I am about the very real dangers of the pollution solar voltaic energy causes. We're all rushing headlong into this without considering what we're going to do with the waste.

Re:Problem with wind and solar? (0, Flamebait)

otterpopjunkie (1558913) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698145)

I could see this having small localized effects when massive hillsides are covered in these things (beyond all the dead birds lying around), but if you can grasp the massive amount of kinetic and potential energy of the earth's weather systems - and the sun beating down on the planet, then suddenly even a few hundred windmills seem insignificant.

This is the FAILURE of science education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28698217)

It's ALL from the Sun. ALL OF IT. Fossil fuels? Where did that energy come from? THE MOTHERFUCKING SUN.

There are three sources of energy that are not directly or indirectly solar - nuclear, hydro and geothermal. If you want to be pedantic, you could conceivably include lunar tidal effects in the latter. Otherwise, between gravity and the Sun, ALL of that energy was at one point, Solar. Those Cheetos you're eating right now? Solar. That gas you put in your car this morning? Solar. Solar, solar, solar.

The human use of energy is so miniscule compared to the total amount of solar energy hitting the Earth, it's a total non-factor. In fact, you're using LESS energy by taking it directly from they sky because the energy doesn't have to go through several state changes before we harness that shit as electricity. Any time you change energy from one form to another, you lose efficiency. This notion that we are using hydrocarbons for energy, after letting organic matter cook for several million years, is absolutely absurd. That stuff is not only inefficient, it's DIRTY.

As for wind. Simple thought experiment. What is the mechanism by which a wind turbine takes energy from the air? Air pushing in the blades. Only the surface area of the blade can take energy from the sky.

Now, think about the volume of air. All of it. The A T M O S P E R E. Take your fan blade. Look at it. What's it's surface area. Now look up. See the sun there? Slap yourself in the face.

Really, I weep at the failure of basic science education. This is stuff that should be learned in 9th grade by every child. Yet, here we are.

Made a quick template for you (4, Funny)

basementman (1475159) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697221)

Made a quick template for you, could come handy for future posts. "What's needed instead is $buzzword1 and $buzzword2, the development of $buzzword 3 and the demonstration of technology such as $buzzword4, which could provide a cheaper way to reduce $buzzword5."

Re:Made a quick template for you (4, Funny)

BabyDuckHat (1503839) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697545)

What's needed instead is security and streaming, the development of nano-technology and the demonstration of technology such as cloud computing, which could provide a cheaper way to reduce health care costs.

Yep, seems to work.

More Information (-1, Troll)

FutureDomain (1073116) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697225)

A video with more information about this can be found here [youtube.com]

rickroll (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697259)

'nuff said.

(the only possible reason for the link to youtube showing 'visited' for me :P)

local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (5, Informative)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697245)

I spell carbon capture "c o a l s u b s i d y".

It's not going to work, it's just another way to subsidize coal companies, as if letting them blow the tops off of mountains wasn't enough.

Installing renewables local to where the power is needed is, of course, a great idea.

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (1)

mr i want to go home (610257) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697293)

With so many global warming skeptics about, you'd think they'd be at least as suspicious of carbon sequestration. Has anyone actually looked at the proposals being put forward? It's a complete joke.

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697297)

just how the fuck do you propose to do that? This is article is nothing more then trying to grab money and move it to the northeast v.s. the midwest. This has nothing to do with the environment. By the way, how many fucking wind turbines you think we need to put in NYC? I'll give you a hint, it won't work.

It makes perfect fucking sense to put wind farms where the *gasp* wind is.

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697381)

It makes perfect sense to put wind farms where the *gasp* wind is.

Sure, but if the wind is so far away that a huge portion of power is lost in transmission, you may want to look for more local sources of power (wind or otherwise).

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (2, Informative)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697471)

It makes perfect sense to put wind farms where the *gasp* wind is.

Sure, but if the wind is so far away that a huge portion of power is lost in transmission, you may want to look for more local sources of power (wind or otherwise).

I suggest the Northeastern Corridor bring their Power Grid up to 2009 [instead of the 1940s] with redundant regional zones and smart grid management with the focus on optimum distribution before it shoots it's own mouth off and attempts to destroy intelligent power sourcing from the Midwest. The Pacific Northwest will be supporting the Midwest and so will the Southwest, you can count on it.

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697493)

"Sure, but if the wind is so far away that a huge portion of power is lost in transmission, you may want to look for more local sources of power (wind or otherwise)."

Well, for the people in the central states of the US, this would be local sources of power. So, what's the beef against it? The world doesn't revolve around those living in the NE of the USA.

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697923)

First off. the loss is 8% up to 4000 miles, so it's not a huge loss.

Re:local power - yes, carbon capture - no ? (1)

astar (203020) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697829)

The extra electrical transmission capability is so the speculators who jacked up the electrical cost not too long ago can continue to operate and do it again more effectively.

carbon capture = how long can you hold your breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697985)

How soon before you have a Lake Nios effect?

There's another advantage (3, Interesting)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697249)

Decentralized generation seems likely to offer more jobs at the local level, both for construction of smaller, more numerous generating facilities and for on-going staffing and maintenance.

Re:There's another advantage (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697399)

That's an advantage? It sounds like a disadvantage to me. It's electricity. We don't use electricity as an end in and of itself, we use it to achieve other valuable goals. If it takes more work to get it this way, that's inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and wasteful - and a drag on every other sector of the economy that uses electricity.

There's an old story about the Communists in China digging a dam, and an observer asks why they're using shovels instead of excavators. "To create more jobs", they say. "Oh, I thought you were building a dam. If it's jobs you want, take away their shovels and give them spoons."

Re:There's another advantage (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697499)

It's complicated, but you're trying to balance the location of the generation with the location of the use with the needs of the electrical grid with the ability to put hardware there to do the previous steps.

You're trying to balance it so that you've maximized the output and efficiency while minimizing the cost and environmental impact. It's not easy to do by any stretch of the imagination. That's why you're wanting to decentralize it, but you're having to also bear in mind that transmission lines and extra workers do add to inefficiencies inherent in the system.

On top of that, you've got to be aware of regions like the west coast, south and new England which are all subject to their own geographic oddities and risks. So that you can minimize the consequences of a hurricane, earthquake or eruption.

Re:There's another advantage (1)

PeanutButterBreath (1224570) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697541)

So its either maximize efficiency or maximize jobs? Go stand over there with the Commies and the Captains of Capital. Noses to the corner, please.

Re:There's another advantage (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697713)

"That's an advantage? It sounds like a disadvantage to me"

I think you're missing the real advantage: Brownouts don't effect huge populations because power is local, just imagine if the entire internet could be taken down by a single router. While something may technically be "ecnomically inefficient", it's relative to costs and benefits of redundancy and independent power networks.

Economic efficiency does not exist in a vacuum and often times is very vacuous concept - i.e. locked down platforms for chips and software that waste a tonne of effort re-inventing the wheel.

Re:There's another advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697419)

In other words, less efficient and more expensive to maintain.

Re:There's another advantage (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697817)

Decentralized generation seems likely to offer more jobs at the local level, both for construction of smaller, more numerous generating facilities and for on-going staffing and maintenance.

In other words, small, inefficient and wasteful.

You build your hydro plant on the Niagara River because you can generate massive amounts of power from facilities which will last more than 100 years - with maintaince and rehab on a 25 year cyle.

It's not a make-work project - it is a power project.

Carbon sequestering is all fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697289)

But the last time I checked, energy cannot be created or destroyed - it can only change form. It all ends up as thermal (see heat death of the universe), so surely it'd be a better idea to convert it from renewable sources (wind, solar, etc.) than adding to it from chemical sources. Yes, IAAP (physicist).

Re:Carbon sequestering is all fine (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697461)

that's the first intelligent post here.

Re:Carbon sequestering is all fine (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697693)

If I understand this, it's a really interesting perspective. In citing the heat death of the universe, you seem to worry more about our generating heat than particulate pollution.

You imply we'd postpone our demise longest by postponing the conversion of our stored energy into heat. Or even better, converting ambient heat into other forms of energy.

Such technology exists, and as a bonus it doesn't involve pulling carbon from deep in the earth and shooting it into the sky. Stirling Engines [wikipedia.org] and Geothermal Power [wikipedia.org] FTW.

Carbon capture and sequestration (2, Insightful)

overshoot (39700) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697291)

Every time someone suggests that we should continue burning carbon and just store the CO2, I can't help but think of Mars Attacks [imdb.com] .

Re:Carbon capture and sequestration (4, Funny)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697459)

I agree - mod parent up.

You know what we should do? We should go ahead and continue to extract carbon from the bowels of the earth, pulverize it and shoot it into the atmosphere. That just makes economic sense. But then - you're going to like this - we go chase down all the carbon in the sky, catch it, and put it under the rug.

Central Generation (4, Interesting)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697347)

The CBI in the UK has been railing against our governments focus on wind power as well [bbc.co.uk] .

They were also keen on carbon-capture and also nuclear.

It's funny how big corporate interests are not so keen on projects where any little group of people could afford their own small-scale generation capacity. Although I could be talking through my tinfoil hat.

Re:Central Generation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697961)

You're not suggesting lobbyist and T-boone Pickens are behind restructuring the power grid are you? Which makes more sense, building windmills in the center of the country and connecting it to the coast by 1,500 miles of wire or building offshore windmills 15 miles from where most of the power is needed? The bulk of the power is used along the coast so we're talking massive line loss. This is strictly about keeping the power centralized. Land based power requires large amounts of leased land. Hundreds of smaller companies could put up smaller wind farms off the coast if the government made it easier to get leases and approval investment groups would flock to coastal power. Put them far enough off the coast and few birds are killed, no eyesore issues and the wind is stronger and steadier. It's nothing but pluses. Some one will always be unhappy but unless people agree to reduce the population to around a billion people and go back to living on 15th century rural farms we're going to have to compromise. Until lobbyist stop running the country nothing will ever get fixed.

Ok, so I'm supposed to believe... (2, Interesting)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697435)

Ok, so I'm supposed to believe that Alfred P. Sloan, someone that made a VAST FORTUNE off of technology that burns oil, is going to like us NOT burning oil? Who would have ever thought that...

http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Alfred_P._Sloan,_Jr. [newworldencyclopedia.org]

Two Words (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697495)

Nuclear Power.

Nuclear! (3, Insightful)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697515)

Just about anything but nuclear [blogspot.com] is a mistake.

Re:Nuclear! (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697733)

As long as you include fusion as a part of nuclear, I agree with you 100%.

Smart Grid (2, Interesting)

MC2000 (1246222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697517)

Smart Grid technology is actually just around the corner. I was just listening to the CEO of Cisco talk about how they're trying to make a big push into this industry, a quick search turned up this; http://www.cisco.com/web/strategy/energy/smart_grid_solutions.html [cisco.com]

Re:Smart Grid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697687)

They're johny-come-latelys to this sector. These guys [silverspringnet.com] are leading the way.

Galvin Electricity Initiative (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697689)

Not to mention the Galvin Electricity Initiative [galvinpower.org] , from the family that founded Motorola.

Re:Smart Grid (1)

MC2000 (1246222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697805)

Cool, I had never even heard of anything like this before the last week.

Re:Smart Grid (1)

MC2000 (1246222) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697821)

I guess I meant to reply to one of the other replies to my post and not my own, oops.

With to days grid all it takes is a homer Simpson (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697563)

With to days grid all it takes is a homer Simpson to mess it up.

There was that time he spilled food all over his control board and took out new york.

Penny wise $billions foolish (2, Insightful)

raydias (898043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697681)

We keep going after the same model over and over again. Search Finster's Law: A closed mouth gathers no feet. Big conglomerates produce and consumers buy. They get to set the rates and raise prices when they can come up with an excuse (weather, maintenance, etc) and commodities traders can bet on the spot prices. It's an old and broken model that benefits corporations while sapping money from consumers. With all the billions they keep mentioning wouldn't it be nice if someone had a clue and said: "if we give people a big enough incentive to use renewable sources at their business, home, government offices, etc we would not need more expensive transmission lines" Instead of wasting OUR tax dollars on supporting a broken model let's support a self sufficient model. We give tax incentives to homeowners, landlords, apartment owners, builders, etc to incorporate solar, wind, geothermal, etc into the actual buildings. Schools and local governments can get grants to become producers of energy (solar, wind, geothermal, etc) and sell excess to the business next door or the house down the street. With schools being closed during peek hours of daylight, there is a lot of potential. Government buildings can be retrofitted to be energy neutral or even produce excess (considering they work 9-5 there is a lot of potential to produce excess energy after hours in the southern sunny states) for the local community. In high demand hours a local message to clean energy buildings can ask them to reduce their own usage to increase output to the grid. The smart grid that is needed is updating local utilities to buy excess from anyone who provides clean energy. not what some utilities do, offset your own usage but anything extra they get for free. Germany started a solar revolution by allowing anyone that wanted to install solar to get a set price for 20 years. after the 20 year period imagine what their energy costs will be, from the highest in the region to possibly the lowest. Farmers are installing solar arrays and getting additional income, banks are financing the installations, over a million jobs created from the solar industry. Other countries are starting to see the long term potential of getting off this energy roller coaster. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2009/04/solar-incentives-could-ontario-be-the-next-germany [renewableenergyworld.com] It's OUR tax dollars they are using so let's put it to use in the right location, our local towns, schools, grocery stores, government buildings, libraries etc and not to support antiquated models fo they produce and we consume.

NIF would require this (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697729)

Being overly optimistic (I know), but once the fusion (NIF or similar facility) research succeeds and the fusion energy is tamed we would actually need such a hight voltage grid in place. Of course it will probably not happen in our lifetimes.

Wireless transmission? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28697785)

Would it work?
Microwaves to send it wirelessly across the air? To a floating blimp? To space and back again?
LASER?

How efficient would it be?

If it could work well enough, it would be a much better idea than digging out miles of ground just to place some wires down.

district energy (1)

robinesque (977170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697851)

I agree. District energy is the future! It's wasteful to push electrons down miles of wire, and if the owners are local then they have a vested interest in making sure the district energy system is efficient and nice to live around.

Both (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697855)

We need to do both, and sequestering with current technologies will not last long term.

We need to be using solar thermal and not wind.

just another bunch of Big Coal shills (4, Interesting)

alizard (107678) | more than 5 years ago | (#28697873)

this is what the author really wants to sell us as an alternative to moving to renewable energy.

and the demonstration of technology such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could prove a cheaper way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions

Capturing CO2 simply requires running smokestack emissions through a chilled ammonia bath at the cost of 25% input power... i.e. we get to pay for a 125% increase in the amount of coal burned.

How do we move all these gigatons of CO2 to disposal sites and store it forever?

Big, high pressure pipelines. Odd that nobody talking up a "clean" coal future ever talks about the comparative costs of a national pipeline network vs a smartgrid.

We have massive unused heavy manufacturing capability in terms of both idle car factories and a trained labor force that can be converted to building renewable generation capability. The question of replacing coal with wind/concentrated thermal solar is a question of political will, not technological capability.

small nuclear powerplants (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698025)

make em small, enough to power a city and indestructible, tamper-proof, very low maintenance, who said power plants have to be HUGE monoliths, just think a nuclear power plant about the size of two shipping containers could manage an entire city or burrough, wind and solar is great but is not practical for everything...

Re:small nuclear powerplants (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698137)

make em small, enough to power a city and indestructible, tamper-proof, very low maintenance,

Don't forget free. Preferably they should use nuclear waste rather than producing it. The reactors should be shaped like large robots which would kill terrorists. Also they should dispense herbal pills that enlarge your genitals.

Actually, I wish they WOULD delay it (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698081)

It would be better to focus on doing the local network while pushing research on Superconductor. Once we have superconducting wire, then it becomes much easier to move electricity around.

Changing technology (2, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | more than 5 years ago | (#28698125)

He makes one interesting point: it would take a long time to build transmission lines that could carry large amounts of power all the way from the midwest to the northeast. In that time, technology could improve in a way that could make the project pointless.

On the other hand, improving the existing grid from 1940's tech to modern tech is guaranteed to be worth doing. (Is he correct that a major chunk of our existing grid is 1940's tech?)

On the subject of clean and decentralized power, how much longer before we get those solar roofing tiles that can contribute a useful amount of power? Even if we didn't wait for the improved tiles, would today's solar tiles provide a useful increment of electricity to feed into the current grid?

He quotes a price of $60 billion to build the new transmission lines. What would be the effect of using $60 billion to subsidize people to put solar tiles on top of existing buildings? How about $60 billion worth of pebble-bed or similarly safe small reactors, each one in a piece of the grid?

I'm not an expert on any of this stuff, but I'm inclined to agree that this project sounds like a way to put a whole bunch of eggs into a single basket. If we're going to do something big, let's try to make our electricity grid more decentralized, instead of adding one more frakking huge centralized source (however eco-clean).

steveha

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