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Power Shortages And Tech Industry

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the no-dissassemble-johhny-five! dept.

News 356

TheGeneration writes: "Power shortages in San Francisco, and Silicon Valley have caused power providers to demand that Intel and other tech industry biggies to use less power. Things may get bad enough that rolling blackouts have been warned. The story is reported by the AP. "

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could be bad (2)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | more than 13 years ago | (#571903)

The fun thing is that a lot of high tech companies don't use UPSes or tape backups for a _lot_ of their systems. Especially lab/R&D type stuff. Rolling blackouts could cause some ugliness for a lot of companies if data gets lost because of this.

solution (1)

spood (256582) | more than 13 years ago | (#571905)

just put a few of those linux companies out of business. oh, and fp.

1 question (1)

cydorg_monkey (259983) | more than 13 years ago | (#571908)

did they back up their work?

that's hilarious. (3)

Bad_CRC (137146) | more than 13 years ago | (#571912)

shut down intel so that betty and goober can have 15,000 christmas lights on their house.

the problem isn't big companies, they aren't using more power than they usually do, and they are the ones who carry the brunt of the cost of running power plants.

penalize people who are wasting all the electricity on decorations before shutting down industry. People can find other less-wasteful ways to be creative for the holidays.


deregulation done wrong (2)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 13 years ago | (#571914)

It just goes to show that if you partially deregulate, things can get worse instead of better. They have politically slowed down the construction of new electrical generation capacity so much that blackouts became an inevitability.

They need to make it easier to add capacity to the system so higher prices will generate new entrants to the market.

Maybe those powerplug (GE labelled) generators are going to save the day but first they have to get through this year without stupid legislation rolling California fully back to a command and control system


karnak predicts... (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 13 years ago | (#571990)

a booming market in UPS for CA companies.


Vermont Power (1)

buck-yar (164658) | more than 13 years ago | (#571994)

Those of us in vermont are lucky. Our power companies signed a deal with Hydro-Quebec for "cheap power" (at the time). Their idea was to lock in a "cheap" rate, as prices looked as though they were going to skyrocket.

Unfortunately, power is significantly cheaper now and we're stuck paying rediculous rates.

California Deserves This (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#571998)

That's what you get when you tear out all your clean-energy dams, while at the same time refusing to build more nuclear/petroleum based power generators. Governer Davis is an idealist, not a leader.

No Moore for you (2)

stx23 (14942) | more than 13 years ago | (#572002)

Could't Intel argue they will be using 50% less power in 18 months or so?

So much for supply and demand. (2)

Kiss the Blade (238661) | more than 13 years ago | (#572006)

It seems clear that the power companies, who of course have a monopoloy, are not fulfilling their social duty to supply power to those who need it. Companies shouldn't need to build their own power stations to get power. It should be supplied as needed, and if there is not enough it should be imported. How can they demand these companies to reduce the usage the lifeblood of the ecocomy? This is very clearly wrong.

This is one of the few reasons I can be glad I live in a socialist country, I suppose. No one is going to cut off my electricity.

But every system has its drawbacks, I suppose.

KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

Blackouts wont work (1)

ZiGGyKAoS (86253) | more than 13 years ago | (#572008)

Well if they do rolling blackouts when the power comes back on the UPS's will just soak up the power that they would have used when the power is off.

Not enough power... (1)

scott1853 (194884) | more than 13 years ago | (#572012)

Hmmm, and there was an article [] just yesterday about how the rich guys in CA have put more computer equipment in there homes than medium sized companies have.

Anyways, what's the general ideas about Linux boxes vs. NT boxes on power consumption / performance ratios? Linux can obviously be run on lower end systems.

High-drain houses. (1)

mikej (84735) | more than 13 years ago | (#572016)

Maybe Ellison and Gates should shut down their houses for a while to help out.

Re:that's hilarious. (2)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 13 years ago | (#572018)

Actually, the problem is that plants are unexpectedly dropping off the grid, lowering capacity. The most recent 500MW plant to drop out powers a heck of a lot of christmas lights.

The problem, fundamentally, isn't extra load, it's the political system that doesn't let new powerplants pop up as needed. NIMBY is alive and well and it will probably take localized, quiet fuel cell generators to fix this problem. NIMBY doesn't care about what it doesn't notice.


Intel (1)

Aphelion (13231) | more than 13 years ago | (#572030)

The power companies are not "demading" that Intel uses less power. Intel and a lot of other companies (some in the tech industry, some not) voluntarily signed deals with the power companies that they would curb electricity use whenever asked, in return for huge rebates on costs. That's the only reason Intel is cooperating. Were you expecting something else?

Time To Get Off The Pot (1)

WillSeattle (239206) | more than 13 years ago | (#572036)

Look, up here in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington have built record numbers of wind generation systems, and natural gas turbines are being put in place. We can't make up for the idiotic rate-wheeling experiment that California decided to enter in - the California legislature has to take action yesterday and build environmentally-friendly power plants yesterday.

Don't ask, just do it. Buy up all the wind turbines you can and put them online - modern turbines run about 4.5 to 6.5 cents, only gas turbines are cheaper.

The other thing is - get rid of those WinNT and Win2K boxen! Switch to some decent boxen with good cycle usage like *nix.

Oh, and those air conditioners? Lose them. Buy a fan and deal with it. Ceiling fans are probably the best.

Almost there (2)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#572037)

Of course, it won't be much longer and we'll be able to tell the power companies to piss off. Remember this [] story from a while back? I'll be the first on my block to live "off the grid".

Own generators... (1)

moz25 (262020) | more than 13 years ago | (#572041)

So will Intel, et al set up their own power plants now or what? Generally though, I am expecting these companies (the bigger ones at least) to have their own Diesel generators or whatever on standby for just in case. Or am I mistaken here?

Re:Blackouts wont work (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#572043)

Yes, they will. Not everyone has a UPS. Also, when the blackouts are over, the demand will presumably be less, so this won't matter as much. Remember that rolling blackouts are only needed at peak utilization times, and when utilization is below peak, there's capacity available to meet this increased demand.

Threaten to move the factories out of the area (1)

1nt3lx (124618) | more than 13 years ago | (#572046)

If they were to threaten to move the very deep-pocketed tax-revenue out of the area then the local governments would do something about the power companies demands.

Personally, I wouldn't mind if one of Intel's factories or development offices moved into Massachusetts, but I think some of their employees in the effected areas may.

That would be like the Pittsburg steel factories asking Detroit to stop using so much steel. Detroit would find a source that won't complain.

Or they'll move to mexico.


Re:It's not Intel's fault... (1)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 13 years ago | (#572047)

Intel pays a lower rate, and in turn they agree to be among the first to cut power during an alert.

They're asking the wrong people. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#572049)

Why don't they ask the soccer moms to stop going on eBay and the moronic males to stop the fantasy football and JPEG downloads? Santa Clara needs its power to give us the products we need/want/lust after!

Re:that's hilarious. (1)

HiNote (238314) | more than 13 years ago | (#572059)

Although I do agree with you, from what I understand, the electric companies and some technical companies have signed contracts stating that the technical company will be willing to cut their electricy consumption in emergencies (like this one) in exchange for lower rates. Betty and Goober didn't sign such a contract.

Re:That's rediculous you don't need blackouts (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 13 years ago | (#572065)

1. here's the rub, building more powerplants is easy, when you don't have chanting demonstrators chaining themselves to your construction equipment.

2. adding generators to existing plants is possible up to a point, but I would guess that this has already been taken about as far as present technology can push it.

3. This is possible, but moving to a co-lo facility outside of CA is going to introduce network vulnerabilities that hit more often than power vulnerabilities have (to date at least).


FORBES article: BURN RATE (1)

ascheuch (30478) | more than 13 years ago | (#572067) ml

This article talks about how the power density of chips have increased exponentially... as speeds and numbers of transistors crammed on a chip have increased.

I found this article to be very informative about this whole energy crisis piece.


Southern CA (1)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | more than 13 years ago | (#572071)

Fun thing is that that huge energy sucking sh*thole called LA won't have to face any such rolling blackouts, only the folks in the north.

Same thing with water. Even though LA area, which is a desert, takes most of it's water from northern CA, it doesn't have to face any rationing of it's water until long after the folks up north already have been rationed for a long while.

As if Hollywood wasn't incentive enough to let the whole area dry up and blow away... ;)

This is ridiculous (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 13 years ago | (#572075)

Power shortages in San Francisco, and Silicon Valley have caused power providers to demand that Intel and other tech industry biggies to use less power.

One: It's The Silicon Valley. It's not a city.
Two: This is a story submission, please fix your grammar. " demand that Intel and other tech industry biggies to..." has one too many to's in it; That is, it has two. *cough*
Three: This is just ridiculous. This is just another example of government screwing over the capitalists that it claims to love. A city and/or state invites these companies in, happy about the jobs it will provide, and the money it will bring to the region. Then, they fail to provide power infrastructure. This is patently unfair. Also, I've been hearing that people are actually being asked to minimize the number of christmas lights that they put up this holiday season. California's inability to even provide a reasonable Christmas Holiday experience (American-Style) is simply pathetic. Is this what we call caring for the emotional welfare of our citizens?

Now, I'm of the mind that Christmas is a Hallmark holiday at this point anyway, and I don't mean that in a metaphorical sense. Christmas is more about spending money and keeping up with the Joneses than it is about Jesus, or even a reasonable family value like getting together and getting along. (Note: Jesus is just all right with me, as I don't care what they may say, and I don't care what they may do -- And the holiday was snatched from older "religions" anyway.)

The answer? More goddamn power plants. Solar, nuclear, tidal, I don't care, but put them in, put them in service. California, you must provide for the needs of industry in California, or it will go to Mexico. Jobs here will be lost, people there will be exploited, and it will all be for the simple want of Kilowatt-Hours.

Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

Aphelion (13231) | more than 13 years ago | (#572077)

It seems clear that the power companies, who of course have a monopoloy, are not fulfilling their social duty to supply power to those who need it.

There is no monopoly for power production in California, and that can be seen as part of the problem. Because of legislation promoting competition, the larger companies were required to sell off some of their plants to new competitors. Now, this shouldn't make a difference for anything but the cost of power. So what's to blame?

contracts (1)

Lord Omlette (124579) | more than 13 years ago | (#572079)

my friend goes to Harvey Mudd College... He tells me that because of a contract the school has with the power company, the campus is brown-outed from 5-6pm to 7-9pm every night. talk about suckage...

btw, in global history course, i was taught that water usage is something like 10% residential, 20% agricultural, and 70% industrial. is that similar to electrical usage?
Lord Omlette
ICQ# 77863057

Did you read the article???? (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 13 years ago | (#572080)

Electricity is not as monoplized as it once was. That is why this whole thing is so curious...

NY has some power "alternitives" and they cost about the same (little cheaper). California has the most open power market and the prices are going up fast.

"The phased-in deregulation of California's $20 billion electrical power industry was supposed to lower prices by creating greater competition. But demand for electricity has outstripped supply because of a growing population, a booming high-tech economy, and less power available from neighboring states that haven't deregulated. "

Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

Kiss the Blade (238661) | more than 13 years ago | (#572087)

Each week is two percent of their profits. That's why this action is so bad.

Anyway, I'm not here to start a socialism v Capitalism flamewar, that would just be *so* tiresome. Both systems have their weaknesses.

Companies cannot operate under the threat of power failure. Above all, they need stability.

KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

igjeff (15314) | more than 13 years ago | (#572095) do realize, of course, that they are being demanded to do this because they signed contracts saying that they would reduce their power consumption in emergencies in order to get cheaper prices on their electric bills.

In other words...the power companies didn't just decide on their own to go and demand that these companies reduce their power usage...these companies opened themselves up to this possibility by signing these contracts.


Re:could be bad (2)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#572097)

Most FAB's DO have backup power. The servers are on UPS's. Factory PC's are on UPS's. Office PC's are not. All recent stuff has been saved to a server, so only the latest e-mail or doc revision might not get saved, but it is easly recreated when the lights come back on. Many of the manufacturing tools will shut down in an outage. The backup power is not large enough to handle all the chillers and such the tools need so fabs will go into an organized shutdown. Many tools have a local UPS and will finish the current job so nothing gets stuck in the oven so to speak, then will not start any new jobs before tempratures etc. go out of tolorance. This prevents wafer loss everytime there is a power glitch. However due to the nature of required air handlers to maintain a cleanroom environment, backup power is a requirement to support a FAB. Otherwise DECON after an outage takes too much time and damages too much product. I don't know if this is true for all chip manufactures but it is where I work.

America resumes amazing me. (3)

Apuleius (6901) | more than 13 years ago | (#572103)

When I moved to America I was astonished to notice that it takes a tornado to cut the power in this country. Recently, the US of A changed to being a little bit underwhelming, but this turns things around.

You guys actually warn people about the chance of rolling blackouts? In Tel Aviv, no warnings unless it was known that there was going to be a rolling blackout. And even then, not much notice, and only in the form of a few notices pasted on light poles.

Not to mention the rolling blackouts that happened without any warning at all...

Alternative Power Sources (4)

joshuaos (243047) | more than 13 years ago | (#572105)

This sounds to me like a clear indication of the need to put serious effort and research into alternative power sources. Solarhost [] is managing to do pretty well, and that Cambodian village [] is now on the internet with solar and satelite dishes. There are lots of examples of people applying alternative power technologies, and many possible technologies [] , some with potential that need some serious research efforts. I hope that this incident will help spark on those kinds of efforts.


Terradot []

Deregulation (2)

Haplo (6441) | more than 13 years ago | (#572107)

In theory, the power companies don't have a monopoly any more. The idea was that by deregulating and opening up the lines, you'd be able to buy power from your favorite provider, instead of having to use the state-sanctioned monopoly. This (once again, in theory) would lead to more efficient providers, lower prices, better service, etc., etc.

The question is, if the providers don't have the capacity to supply the power for everybody that wants it, who would you rather have not enough power for: the companies or people in their homes?

Personally, I'd rather have companies have to reduce their power slightly, and have people in their homes still be able to cook, depend on a refrigerator, etc.

As for a socialist country not running out of power, are you serious? Just because you belong to a certain type of society doesn't mean that your country won't exceed it's power supply.

Just my $.02 or 2-pence, or what-have-you

Not a Power Shortage (1)

Thornton (600) | more than 13 years ago | (#572109)

There is no power shortage. California doesn't have power shortages in winter. Most homes are heated by natural gas. We have power shortages in summer when the air conditioners run all day long.

The problem is that the power companies are trying to increase rates and the government doesn't want them to. A number of plants "mysteriously" shut down over the last few weeks and are still down.

When will these idiots learn? (2)

DrLlama (213075) | more than 13 years ago | (#572111)

I live in the Silicon Valley area. This has been in the news for the last couple of days, going from a "Stage 1 Power Emergency" to a "Stage 2".

An interesting side note is that the California Public Utilities Commision is investigating why approx. 25 percent of the power generation capacity in California is off-line. There is speculation that Pacific Gas and Electric is attempting to justify their request for a significant rate increase on the basis that power capacity in the state is inadequate and they need to increase rates to afford buying power on the wholesale market.

At the same time though there is significant Not-In-My-Backyard going on. A proposal to build a new plant just south of San Jose has been bogged down and may not get off the ground.

When will everyone figure out that in order to keep having affordable power new generation facilities need to be built?

James P. Hogan wrote an essay a few years ago called "Know Nukes" where he discusses why well-built nuclear generation is not only more efficient but in fact far safer than building any other form of generator. I just hope we figure it out before we discover that we can't maintain the current status quo. Of course whether the US nuclear power industry can build a "safe, well-built" generation plant is a whole 'nother question. (CANDU! CANDU!)

FYI: For the record, I'm not affiliated in any way shape or form with anyone in the power generation business.

Re:deregulation done wrong (4)

Dr.Dubious DDQ (11968) | more than 13 years ago | (#572123)

To make things worse, I'm under the impression that if we wanted to help out by generating our own power and putting our surplus on "the grid" for others to use, we either have to pay excessive amounts of money to jump through various procedural hoops, or are completely forbidden to do it.

"Home Power" magazine [] (they also put their current issues online in .pdf format) has a series of "guerilla solar" articles about people "sneaking" power they've produced onto the grid, which I find pretty amusing. Maybe enough people "sneaking" "illegal" power back onto the grid might help (and reduce reliance on ponderous corporations and governmental regulations to keep us powered.)

My god, did I just mix "Green"-style "Renewable Energy" and "Down with Giant Corporations" rhetoric with "Libertarian"-style "I should be able to get [power] wherever and want and sell it to whoever wants it" and "If I want to be self-sufficient it's my business"? Shouldn't "Green" and "Libertarian" rhetoric cancel each other out in a giant explosion or something?...

A vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for Evil.

Re:Almost there (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 13 years ago | (#572125)

> I'll be the first on my block to live "off the grid".

It seems like you could put a motor between /dev/null and ground, hook up the motor to a generator, and then start downloading porn and piping it directly to /dev/null. All the "1" bits in the pix are stored as small charges of static electricity, so put 'em to work.

If your mom catches you, you can tell her that you're just trying to help with the electric bill.


I can just imagine . . . (1)

enjar (249223) | more than 13 years ago | (#572127)

What someone wanting to build a new power plant in Califonia would have to do:
1. I want to generate power using coal.
Reply: Coal's too dirty, you can't use that.
2. I want to generatr power using natural gas
Reply: Natural gas ia a fossil fuel and we can't use that.
3. I want to create a nuclear plant
Reply: NO WAY!
4. I want to generate power using hydroelectric power.
Reply: No, you will hurt the fishes
5. I want to use wind (or solar) power
Reply: You will destroy the beautiful view
6. I want to use geothermal power
Reply: That's too expensive, hurts the earth
7. I want to use hamsters on treadmills
Reply: Oh, the poor hamsters!
An interesting footnote is that some of the capacity is lacking beacuse they have exceeded the pollution limit. Seems like it might be time to throw the switch and power up those (assumption) viable plants that are just sitting there, not doing a thing.
Of course, there can always be ways to save power (I power off the monitor at night, turn off lights when I leave the room, wear a sweater at home instead of turning up the heat, walk or ride a bike when possible, drive a fuel-efficient car, buy items with less packaging, etc), but it seems that if the power supply is so finite then there needs to be some new capacity built.

Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 13 years ago | (#572129)

The problem is that both power stations and transmission lines go through political processes. The scare mongering over ELF has caused an upsurge in resistance to new transmission lines and the green movement has been very successful in reducing power generation capacity (blowing up dams) and preventing new generation from being added (NIMBY slowdowns in the zoning and permit process).

And nobody is going to cut off your electricity? Before Thatcher came and pulled away from the socialist dystopia that the UK was becoming it nearly did happen in the '70s with Arthur Scargill's coal mining strikes bringing down the Heath government. AFAIK the UK at the time was mostly using coal burners for both electricity and heat. Had things turned out a bit differently, the UK would have been both in the dark, and frozen stiff (and people say American's know no history or international affairs).

One point which you seem to be overlooking is that these companies accepted under market rate cheap electricity in exchange for being cut off in time of shortage.

The number of plants down for maintenance has eliminated all safety margin and the shortages have arrived. Political resistance that has been rising for over a decade has gelded the ability to rapidly introduce new capacity or even increase the amount of importable electricity using "wheeling" (the practice of CA buying from faraway places like Quebec and Quebec shipping to intermediate places while the intermediate places actually ship their electricity to CA) to cut down on transmission losses.


Re:Vermont Power (1)

handybundler (232934) | more than 13 years ago | (#572131)

How right you are. We are now stuck helping pay for the three bankruptcies that GMP claimed in the last four or five years to pay for that raw deal thet got from Hydro Q.

I watched my rates jump 170% last year alone.

Bastards. And they are going to sell Yankee Power, too? Whatever!

Cali Always Outta Something... (2)

bahtama (252146) | more than 13 years ago | (#572134)

What's the deal? California is always low on something. Water, Gasoline, Electricity, when will it end? Why can't California use all that dot-com tax revenue to get the critical things they need. More importantly, when will we start raising babies for food, thereby providing for population control [] . :)

"Do you hear the Slashdotters sing,

This is California we're talking about (2)

Cardinal (311) | more than 13 years ago | (#572135)

Insert obligatory "Oregon doesn't like California" remark here.

Look, up here in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon and Washington have built record numbers of wind generation systems, and natural gas turbines are being put in place.

Out of curiousity, where are these record numbers of wind turbines located?

the California legislature has to take action yesterday and build environmentally-friendly power plants yesterday.

This is California we're talking about. Environmental concerns aren't exactly a high priority.

Sim city (2)

British (51765) | more than 13 years ago | (#572138)

Anyone got a map of Sim City for Silicon Valley? Maybe they can solve the problem through a simulation.

Re:Intel (2)

handorf (29768) | more than 13 years ago | (#572139)

This is fairly common, actually. I know several hospitals in my area that have similar deals. They'll bring their generators on-line at peak times and, in exchange, pay MUCH less.

Works well for everyone. They have to have the generating capacity sitting there for emergencies anyway, so they get some use out of it during the summer (around here)

Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

acecccp (102351) | more than 13 years ago | (#572149)

I believe that in the U.S. the power companies are to some extent regulated by the government because there isn't much competition there, so I don't think they can legally deny service.

Another problem I have with this is why do they want their customers to use less power? I'd think they would want to increase the amount of energy they harvest and instead encourage the industries to buy as much electricity from them as they want... am I missing something? Please do let me know.

Sorry, No... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#572152)

Those fuel cells rely on natural gas IIRC, and the price on that stuff has gone way up this year. It may be cheaper to pull power off the grid.

Now if you could set up a nuclear reactor in your garage or something...

Re:Almost there (1)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 13 years ago | (#572153)

Not quite. These fuel cells run on natural gas, and that too is in short supply in California. The price on my last SDG&E gas bill was above $1/therm, and everybody expects it to go much higher.

Re:Common sense limitations (1)

cloquewerk (65583) | more than 13 years ago | (#572155)

You're implying that most companies don't waste huge amounts of energy too, that all corporations conserve lots of energy. How many companies leave all of their monitors on, all night, regardless of the fact that no one is using them. I'm one of the only ones at my company of 200+ people who shuts off his monitor at night. How many companies leave their computers on all the time just because it takes too long to boot them up in the morning (a couple minutes)? Many companies waste tonnes of energy, and all year 'round, too, not just at Christmas.

what does intel have to do with power shortage? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 13 years ago | (#572157)

intel != the-world-of-computing.

most large companies have back-end servers and many of them are NON-intel.

all computing equipment needs good A/C. this is non-intel.

monitors take quite a bit of current to run. all monitors are non-intel.

most of my co-workers use cdplayers and stereos in their cubes. these are also non-intel.

(so what's the deal with power grid weaknesses and intel? NOTHING!. this is just another lame-assed slashdot story that has no place being here.)

the computer industry is on a race for higher and higher MHz. more mhz almost always means more BTUs (heat). more A/C to cool it, more fans spinning, more heat in the CPU core. this is reality - and intel trying to grab some headlines won't change ONE BIT of the current market trend.

you want to fix the broken power grid in the silicon valley? intel has NOTHING to do with this - our power grid is way under what it should be and the only solution is to build more and make what we currently have more efficient.

("intel" ... sigh.)


What you may not know (4)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 13 years ago | (#572160)

Fully one-third of California's power-generating capacity is off-line right now. The excuses being given are maintenance, malfunction, having reached the maximum allowable days under air-quality laws, etc. Regulators are attempting to visit the off-line plants to check on the validity of these claims, but under deregulation, the plants aren't obligated to tell them squat, so several of the plants have told them to take a hike. The suspicion grows that much of the capacity is off-line in order to jack up the rates. It's been reported that a power transmission line that would bring in power from Arizona was shut down for several days, reason unstated. A new power transmission line is being built to California, where it will pass thru and end up in ... Mexico! Couple all this with the fact that California hasn't built a new generating facility in ten years, while demand has been steadily growing, and you get the present situation. And now we're being asked to conserve because of the incompetence (and I dare say corruption) of our politicians and power-generation companies. Well, screw that. I'm turning on what I want to turn on. Perhaps some rolling blackouts are what it will take to wake up the public and get it to put some pressure in the right places. Nothing like no soap operas or traffic lights to get their attention.

By the way, futures contracts for power delivered in California are going as high as 25 cents per kilowatthour. Last May we were getting it for around 4. If you think power is expensive now, just wait till next summer. And you in the rest of the nation, your turn is coming. California-style 'deregulation' is being pushed in many states. If they succeed, get ready to see your rates quadruple.

private power... (1)

tewwetruggur (253319) | more than 13 years ago | (#572162)

not that I'm all that familiar with the regulations that would rule over such a concept, but it would almost seem to be in a huge tech area for the tech companies to invest in their own power grid.

yes, yes, I know that such a venture would be huge, in terms of capital and time, but might it be worth it? perhaps the con's of having your own power station overwhelm the benefits?

Just a crazy idea from some crazy people...

Re:California Deserves This (2)

dirtyboot (158648) | more than 13 years ago | (#572165)

Yeah, dams are great, except they destroy the ecosystem up and down stream.

As for Governor Davis, the words "Governor Davis" and "idealism" don't belong in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. I think the words you're looking for are "spineless," "middle-of-the-road," and "Republican in Democrats' clothing."

One way around it... (1)

rodgerd (402) | more than 13 years ago | (#572168)

Is to follow the example of this UK ISP/DR company [] who are building their own 24MW generator for one of their facilities. Nifty.

The real problem is PG&E (3)

owenomalley (103963) | more than 13 years ago | (#572169)

This actually isn't a problem with the high tech companies in silicon valley, although the ever increasing cpu ranches at companies like don't help. The problem is that PG&E has shutdown 17 power plants in california because they have reached their air polution limits for the year. This is a completely artificial "shortage". I almost laugh when they tell the customers to not turn on their christmas lights until 7:30pm. My house has 2 strands of little lights. That works out to 2 normal 40 watt light bulbs. *sigh*

Wow (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#572170)

Seems like God hates California almost as much as He hates Florida. And rightfully so. Hopefully both states will sink into the ocean any day now...

Re:Own generators... (1)

sacremon (244448) | more than 13 years ago | (#572172)

I imagine it depends on the company and how much forethought they've put into it.

I work at a data center for a large telco. We have both telco switches and Internet global hosting facilities in the building. Our feed from the local power company is four 4000A lines. There exists an agreement with the power company that should ask, we will take overselves off the grid and run off the 7MW of diesel generators that we have on hand. With something like 60,000 gallons of fuel in tanks, we could last about 3 weeks at our present load (we're nowhere near the capacity of the lines coming in, yet).

Any company that depends on having power at all times would be negligent not to have a similar arragement.

Don't blame deregulation, its the greens.. (2)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 13 years ago | (#572174)

Don't blame deregulation. Deregulation can't work if there isn't enough power to distribute.

The issue in California is that they can't build powerplants to provide for the growing use of the state.

why? Because every damn one of them gets shot down by some green organization.

Sorry, if your state's growth stagnates because lack of resources they ain't going to have the cash to help the environment either.

Someone please explain how applying regulation is going to fix it? It won't, because you cannot regulate what DOESN'T EXIST.

Re:deregulation done wrong (1)

Phil Karn (14620) | more than 13 years ago | (#572176)

The Home Power "guerilla solar" stuff is just plain silly. By reinforcing the image of alternative energy folks as lawbreaking extremists, it can only work against the growth of distributed generation. In California and many other states, the utilities are required to let you net meter. And the only "hoop" I had to jump through with SDG&E was to place a labeled disconnect switch for my PV system inverter near my breaker panel. Big deal.

Re:I beg a pardon, but (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 13 years ago | (#572177)

Have you seen the number of new FABS Intel has built in the last 5 years? Sure an existing fab can't grow and use more power, but when chip demand is high, the production ramps up and new fabs are built. New Mexico, Oregon, Colorado and other places all have new fabs. I know of only one fab that was shut down due to age.

Re:Sorry, No... (2)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#572179)

It doesn't have to be those *specific* fuel cells, but fuel cells in general. You could also use LP (propane). I currently have a very clean industrial duty standby generator at my house. I can run it off of NG or LP, but it costs about 2x as much as if I use the power companies power.

Yes, NG, or even LP is expensive today, but we also have alternative fuel vehicles emerging. This *should* help to bring the cost of NG down, due to supply and demand and all that.

The most important thing to note, however, is that we are developing realistic alternatives to some of the monopolistic providers.

Re:Time To Get Off The Pot (2)

StandardDeviant (122674) | more than 13 years ago | (#572181)

>Oh, and those air conditioners? Lose them. Buy a fan and deal with it. Ceiling fans are probably the best.

Heh. You wanna come spend a week at my place here in Austin or my parents' places in Houston next summer? I think a good 5-7 days of the Texas summertime will change your tune. The fastest land animal is not the cheetah, its a no-ac-cuz-it-harms-the-poor-widdle-animals eco-friend running to turn the AC back on...

(Note that I am a liberal and an environmentalist, but let's face facts, summertime sucks hardcore in the south. ;-) )


Mable intel can save power by (1)

acomj (20611) | more than 13 years ago | (#572182)

heating there buildings by giving employees those ultra power efficient pentium 4 space heaters.... I mean computers..

Re:This is ridiculous (1)

rodgerd (402) | more than 13 years ago | (#572183)

So did you bother learning anything about the by looking at the background before spouting off? The companies whining signed a contract with the power companies to get cheap power in return for being first against the wall when capacity runs low. They made their bed, now they get to lie in it.

And California has a deregulated power infrastructure. Why the fuck is it the role of the government to provide power? Should the magic of free market capitalism make all the problems go away?

Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

raju1kabir (251972) | more than 13 years ago | (#572184)

"wheeling" (the practice of CA buying from faraway places like Quebec and Quebec shipping to intermediate places while the intermediate places actually ship their electricity to CA) to cut down on transmission losses

Maybe a dumb question, but why does that cut transmission loss? If the electricity is sent 1500 miles from Montreal to Cheyenne, and then "different" electricity is sent 1500 miles from Cheyenne to Los Angeles, there is still 3000 miles of wire resistance.

Problem solved (1)

KevinMS (209602) | more than 13 years ago | (#572185)

here []


Yup, check your contracts. (1)

Muck (2022) | more than 13 years ago | (#572186)

All those who colocate, in various datacenters (globalcenter here), be wary, of what your contracts say. If you have interruptable power supplies, you may get pulled. GlobalCenter is currently pulling all those who don't have massive power supply contracts... Buyer beware! :) Google is fucked. They have 2000+ 1U boxes in their cage across from us. GlobalCenter keeps yelling at them to redistribute some of their boxes.. They haven't fast enough. If google slows down today.. thats why :) (PS.. their heat planning was so spectacular, that in a fit of panic, they stuck 15 giant home depot style, flood drying fans on top of their cages, to help disipate the heat (disipate it INTO our cage mind you..) *grumble grumble grumble*

A little misleading... (3)

The Good Reverend (84440) | more than 13 years ago | (#572187)

First off, the article is a little misleading:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Caught in a power crunch even before winter has begun, California ordered some major commercial users to cut back on electricity Thursday...

California doesn't have power crunches in the winter - most of the state is mild enough. Summer is when we typically have our "power crunch"; everyone and their mother using their AC.

Second, this just seems created to me. Local news going crazy (as they typically do) about the crisis, and how we all better turn off our Christmas displays... it's making old ladies think thier one string of blinking lights is going to take out the state's power grid. Yet we aren't being asked to not cook, iron, or use hot water - all things that will use considerably more electricity than even a large display of holiday lights. There's news in this, but I don't know if there's an actual story in there anywhere.

The Good Reverend

Hmm. . . Wind Power in DC and Tallahassee ??? (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 13 years ago | (#572188)

With all the lawyers and politicians flapping their jaws, wind power seems to be a natural choice for Washington, DC, and more recently, Tallhassee, Florida. . (g)

But seriously, not all areas are suitable for wind power. What about Solar Power Satellites [] ????
Yes, it would require a significant upfront investment, but as the Slashdot thread on Asteroid Mining [] from a week or two ago showed, the long-term payback is huge. . .

So, does this mean.... (2)

SirPoopsalot (111075) | more than 13 years ago | (#572189)

Does this mean that I might get a little time off work?

I work in Campbell, CA (just a tad south of San Jose), and the power grid here sucks a big one anyway. In the summer, all of the AC units in the valley get turned on and...


... the lights go out in Campbell, the generator comes on at work, and my UPS starts screaming at me to hurry up and stop whatever the hell I thought I was going to get done that day.


To send me an email, remove the SPAM's and replace the -at- with @.

Re:deregulation done wrong (2)

dbrutus (71639) | more than 13 years ago | (#572190)

Well, your mileage may vary due to what country you are posting from but I believe that the US has by federal law mandated that the power companies have to accept locally generated power and have set minimum floor prices for it. If you live in a jurisdiction where this is illegal, you could always pump your excess into a Tesla coil for fun...

Personally, I don't see a green ethic inconsistent with libertarianism as long as the green's don't wish to use the power of the state to compel me to use fewer computers (I'm currently using three).


Harness the joggers! (3)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 13 years ago | (#572191)

How many of these silicon valley people go out jogging at lunch? Or hit the stationary bikes in the exercise room? LOTS!

Why not set them up on some power generating treadmills and bikes and let their exercise do something useful... like a bunch of little high-tech gerbils.


Way off base (5)

cprael (215426) | more than 13 years ago | (#572192)

Most of the comments posted so far has been pretty far off base. There are actually several reasons stated for the stage 3 alert called yesterday:

  • A large number of generators have been running flat out since this summer, and need maintenance. Most of the generators in CA have pretty much been running non-stop since early this summer, and need necessary maintenance work. The result is that ~11,000 MW of capacity was offline yesterday. Given that the (potential) shortfall was ~500 MW, that's a big hit.
  • Prices in CA aren't competitive, driving a lot of power out of state. Most CA power distributors (remember, generators and distributors are generally separated now) buy their power under short-term agreements (nobody had the foresight to sign long-term deals, locking in prices). The CA rate top-end is around $250/MW, which is significantly below the rates available out of state. The result? A lot of power gets exported at the same time there's a shortage in CA.
  • Older generators and rampant NIMBYism. Most generators in CA are older plants (20+ years). There's been a widespread attack of NIMBYism since then, preventing construction of new plants. San Jose, for example, just gave the finger to a new ~650MW plant next to the new Cisco campus. Similarly, there's a town on the central coast whose name completely escapes me who is vigorously fighting a plan by the local PP owner to remove the existing (BIG) plant, and replace it with a smaller,lower-profile plant. The locals have decided they want it replaced with a bare lot. Another 500MW of capacity lost.
  • Server farms are bigger power consumers. A given office space converted to server farm space will consume ~4x as much power.
Now, if you think this is bad, wait until next week. There's a cold front due in.

OBTW-- For those who think the Christmas lights are the big villain - think again. The alert was called at 5:15PM, before the lights went on.

Re:Wait for the ice caps to melt (1)

dirtyboot (158648) | more than 13 years ago | (#572193)

Arizona Bay, baby!

Re:Time To Get Off The Pot (2)

Smitty825 (114634) | more than 13 years ago | (#572194)

Don't ask, just do it. Buy up all the wind turbines you can and put them online - modern turbines run about 4.5 to 6.5 cents, only gas turbines are cheaper

Have you ever been to California? There aren't as many areas that get winds consistantly strong enough to power wind generators. There are areas that have wind turbines (such as Techapie (sp?--it's at the southern tip of the Sierra Nevada Mountains by Mojave)), but the wind we get off the ocean isn't as strong or consistant as the wind the Pacific Northwest gets (note, I'm saying this as a San Diegan who lived in Tacoma for a few years)

The other thing is - get rid of those WinNT and Win2K boxen! Switch to some decent boxen with good cycle usage like *nix.

Good point

Re:There is that... (2)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#572195)

A large portion of the population with their own power generation capabilities might be a good way to offset the ever-increasing load on the public utilities, as well.

I agree, you could set it up so that this "power sharing" was linked to small geographic areas like subdivisions or cities. That way if your genset can't cope with an instantaneous load (AC kicking on, for example) you could take up some slack from the neighbors gennie.

Re:Time To Get Off The Pot (1)

dbc (135354) | more than 13 years ago | (#572196)

Wind turbines environmentally friendly? ROTFL! Assuming you like to eat ground eagle and ground buzzard meat for dinner. Windmills kill birds. Dams kill salmon. Next suggestion?

Re:what does intel have to do with power shortage? (2)

Puk (80503) | more than 13 years ago | (#572197)

You're missing the point. Intel has to do with the power shortage because intel has a _large_ facility housing 6500 researchers using lots of equipment and lighting, and therefore -- power.

Intel is not the only one using a lot of power, and I strongly suspect they're not the only company cutting their power usage, probably due to money-saving agreements with the power company (as pointed out by someone's earlier post).

This has nothing to do with what Intel does for a business, or how much power their chips use. It has to do with the big facility Intel has there.


Re:it's "cold", turn the furnace up full-blast (2)

atrowe (209484) | more than 13 years ago | (#572198)

Um, actually "cold" is considered to be quite good for computer equipment. At the company where I work, we have an additional air conditioning unit on the roof *just* for the server closet.

Obviously they have not played.... (2)

StarTux (230379) | more than 13 years ago | (#572199)

Simcity! If they had played with Simcity then they would have known far more about making sure that they provide enough power for there City. Also, they could learn about the importance of keeping the city clean so it does not smell like an Urinal, like SF does in a lot of parts...

Shouldn't this be under the Transmeta logo? (2)

Breace (33955) | more than 13 years ago | (#572200)

This really is a Transmeta plug, again.

/. is shamelessly pluging TM and the subliminal message in this article is the pinnacle of them all!

Sure if Intel CPUs would use 1 Watt less, the SF bay-area alone would need about a GigaWatt less power, but think about how great global warming is for people in Iceland!

Uh huh (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 13 years ago | (#572201)

Companies shouldn't need to build their own power stations to get power. It should be supplied as needed, and if there is not enough it should be imported.

Yeah, right. Just try to get a new power plant approved in the Worker's Paradise of California. Or a power transmission line. The enviros kick up such a fuss that no politician or judge will allow it. The only thing that's going to fix this is when the public starts getting inconvenienced, or industry departs the state, threatening to decrease the flow of tax dollars to our free-spending legislature.

NOT the high tech industry (3)

jafac (1449) | more than 13 years ago | (#572202)

Let's not forget that GE controls a huge chunk of media companies. let's not forget that GE makes things like: jet engines, electronic components in nuclear warheads, toasters, electric power generation components.

So it's no wonder that the stories we read in the media point the finger in any direction but at the ones responsible. Is it the California legislation's fault? Is it Intel's fault? Is it Santa Claus' fault? Is it a severe case of NIMBY? (I don't know about y'all, but I have a nuclear plant AND a gas plant with big ugly smokestacks within 20 miles of my house).

California's supply of power is low, because the industry has been fighting tooth and nail with lobbyists to become privatized and deregulated (so they can bill whatever the fuck they want). The people have been fighting it. (through the California legistlature). And though it would be illegal to bill more for power, it's not illegal for them to drag their feet on construction of new plants, and upkeep of old plants. So, as it has been said, old plants have mysteriously dropped off the grid for maintenance reasons, new plants are not coming on line to meet demand. This is in a PARTIALLY deregulated system.

In other words, the power companies are trying to build their case for rate-raising, by artificially constraining supply, in an attempt to increase demand (gee, where have we seen THAT movie before? Oh yeah, that old TV series, "RIAA's Angels".)

Edison's I-6 Plan (1)

b0r1s (170449) | more than 13 years ago | (#572203)

Southern california Edison employs the same plan [] , I believe, as their Northern california counterpart, where they allow large companies and schools to pay lower rates if they agree to shut down power IF the reserves ever run low. The fact that this is the first time for Intel surprises me, since its the 17th time for those of us in southern california. []

Re:Almost there (2)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#572204)

Yeah, it "seems like it", but you can't. Feel free to re-join reality at any time.

This is what happens... (1)

01000111 (248418) | more than 13 years ago | (#572205)

when you have a state with a political system so weak that it buckles to the whims of a vocal environmental wacko minority who have convinced them that 'any' additional source of energy, clean or otherwise, is bad. It has been more than 8 years since any new source of energy has been allowed to be built. Just wait until they start scheduling brown or blackouts in residential areas during high usage periods. We'll see how soon the electricity dependant people tell the vocal environmental left where they can stick their fancy ideas.


And in other news... (1)

Deffexor (230167) | more than 13 years ago | (#572206)

The sales of UPS's have shot up 200% in response to the blackouts. Stocks APC and Tripplite were each up ~25% on this news.


b0r1s (170449) | more than 13 years ago | (#572207)

this isn't really new, its been going on since summer in southern california. ( Shutoff history for southern california [] ) My school is on the same plan (it was not forced on intel, companies are given the option to save money by going on the plan in case of emergencies), and we've been blacked out about 15 times since school started in August. Lately its gotten so bad that the school has choosen to pay the $7.50/kwh fee to keep power ON so students can prepare for finals.

Re:could be bad (1)

moz25 (262020) | more than 13 years ago | (#572208)

Uhm... if they don't have backups, then how do they stay in business? I mean, the chance of disaster striking during a large time period is pretty high. If you lose data because you don't keep good backups, then you pretty much deserve to get into a little trouble IMO...

Interruptible power (3)

jesser (77961) | more than 13 years ago | (#572209)

My school is on interruptible power. This means that when the supply is low, we are told to shut off our power during part of the evening (which is when power consumption is highest); in return, we get substantially lower electricity rates.

In a stage two emergency, they tell one or more blocks [] to shut off power during some part of the evening. (The evening is when power consumption is highest [] .) If we don't shut off our power, we get charged about 90 times as we normally do (from our lowered rate). This has happened about 10 times this semester (which is much higher than any other semester during the last 10 years).

Since finals are next week, the school decided to leave power on for the dorms during the outages, but only leave emergency lights on in academics. This is costing a lot of money, so most students try to turn off their computers when they find out that our block is supposed to be interrupted.

Btw, CA was at stage 3 for a while yesterday (pdf link [] ), but I don't know if they actually started involuntary rolling blackouts.


Re:So much for supply and demand. (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 13 years ago | (#572210)

the larger companies were required to sell off some of their plants to new competitors. Now, this shouldn't make a difference for anything but the cost of power. So what's to blame?

The means by which the industry was 'deregulated' is to blame. The present system requires that power be sold at the highest price being offered by any generator, no matter how inefficient or badly-run. If A is offering power at 10 cents per KWH and B is offering it at 25 cents per KWH, both A and B are paid 25 cents per KWH. It's an insane way to ave 'competition'. And the companies knew that the new system would result in incredible profits, as witnessed by the much-higher-than-expected prices that were gotten when the generating plants were sold off. Not to mention that California hasn't built any new generating plants in ten years.

Nuclear power is dead in the US. (2)

brad.hill (21936) | more than 13 years ago | (#572211)

There have been no new orders for nuclear power plants in the US since 1977.

The reason is not primarily environmental protests, but economics. Nuclear power plants have not been profitable to operate. The extreme complexity of the systems makes them difficult and expensive to maintain, and they are often offline as a result. Also, the cost of constantly upgrading safety systems to the latest standards was economically ruinous.

Many existing nuclear plants are being shut down before their life span is out. In fact, one of the main reasons why electrical companies are pushing so hard for deregulation is that they're losing big time on their nuclear plants but aren't allowed to pass those costs on to consumers or shut down the plants, they have to keep operating them at a loss.

Also, the federal government has been, for decades, refusing to honor their promise made to the nuclear power industry to provide a national long term nuclear waste storage facility, so most plants are keeping all their wastes on-site. This is another expense and most plants are running out of space. They can't operate without somewhere to put spent fuel.

Effectively, there isn't a US nuclear power industry anymore, and nobody in the power generation business wants one.

Re:California Deserves This (2)

Quikah (14419) | more than 13 years ago | (#572212)

Dams are not very clean. They can cause HUGE amounts of environmental damage.

The real problem with CA is deregulation, not a good idea for power. Now the power companies are trying to maximize profits by cutting costs. That means goodbye to any unnesseccary pollution reduction measure.

It's deregulation, too (2)

swb (14022) | more than 13 years ago | (#572213)

The degregulation of the power industry is part of the problem. One of the things that offset NIMBY and environmental regulation was that generally once you built a power plant you were a monopoly provider and could cost your power to make money.

Deregulation made everyone move into the middle-man position. Nobody wanted to get stuck owning a 20 year old nuclear power plant or an even older coal plant. Plants are considered a liability, they just want a few computers and the ability to "broker" power. Since everyone moved into this position and nobody wanted to own a plant, no new plants are being built.

It's somewhat similar to the deregulation of the telecomms industry. Nobody wants to get stuck running fiber to each and every house, but they'll sue the asses off the exiting LEC to get into their wire centers to use the existing last mile. Why invest in expensive infrastructure when you can just buy access in bulk and resell it at a premium?

You morons... (1)

clink (148395) | more than 13 years ago | (#572214)

You keep falling for this guys trolls. Yeesh.

Re:Shouldn't this be under the Transmeta logo? (2)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#572215)

It's not referring to Intel's *chips*, it's referring to Intel's factories.
Try this [] for a breath of fresh air.

There is that... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#572216)

A large portion of the population with their own power generation capabilities might be a good way to offset the ever-increasing load on the public utilities, as well. There are already provisions for people with their own power generation equipment to sell the power they generate back to the public utilities. It'd probably make grid maintenance a little more tricky, though.

Re:karnak predicts...and more ! (1)

pruneau (208454) | more than 13 years ago | (#572218)

Yes, you are right, but let me push that farther from the experience we had during the January 1998 ice storm :

the price of any kind of device able to product electricity is going to reach the stars

if you ever manage to afford one of these, you'd better sleep on it and shoot at first sight : because stealing them will become a national sport.

For those who can burn it, wood is suddenly going to be very, very hard to fine, and of course, expensive.

The worse : you'll notice that when a cd-rom drive is shut and there is no power to open it, an hammer is the next solution.

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