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Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the on-the-fly dept.

Power 442

mdsolar writes Physicist and energy expert Amory Lovins, chief scientist at The Rocky Mountain Institute, recently released a video in which he claims that renewable energy can meet all of our energy needs without the need for a fossil fuel or nuclear baseload generation. There's nothing unusual about that — many people have made that claim — but he also suggests that this can be done without a lot of grid-level storage. Instead, Lovins describes a "choreography" between supply and demand, using predictive computer models models to anticipate production and consumption, and intelligent routing to deliver power where it's needed. This "energy dance," combined with advances in energy efficiency, will allow us to meet all of our energy needs without sacrificing reliability.

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Expert?? (4, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690169)

This guy is clearly no energy expert. He should have consulted an electrical engineer familiar with grid behavior and transmission & distribution engineering before creating this over-simplified explanation. He completely ignores the importance of local load differences, and seems to assume there is a loss-less, instantaneous transfer of energy across the national grid, both transmission and distribution channels, with no limitations.

He also doesn't get that even at a local level things like AC compressors are already averaged out and that delaying the timing of starts really makes almost no difference at the neighborhood level, much less a town level.

Its nice to completely ignore realities like overall cost. Its nice to not realize that industrial areas have a significantly different profile than urban areas, and that rural areas are vastly different. Its nice to call yourself and energy expert and get submitted to slashdot by those that believe you just because they want to, or because you fall in line with their agenda.

Credible experts are people who understand what they know, and what they don't know.

Re:Expert?? (5, Funny)

Culture20 (968837) | about a month ago | (#47690177)

He's a physicist. He was just imagining the electrical grid as a perfect sphere on an infinite frictionless plane.

Re:Expert?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690667)

Engineering is merely the slow younger brother of physics.

Re:Expert?? (3, Informative)

Rhywden (1940872) | about a month ago | (#47690223)

Well said. He also forgets that we already have problems with failover and unexpected losses of transmission lines which lead to blackouts.

I mean, one could probably design a system which works as he proposes - however, this would almost certainly mean a complete revamp of the existing electrical grid.

At which point investing in storage technology and facilities will be the cheaper and more reliable solution.

Re:Expert?? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a month ago | (#47690441)

I mean, one could probably design a system which works as he proposes - however, this would almost certainly mean a complete revamp of the existing electrical grid.

At which point investing in storage technology and facilities will be the cheaper and more reliable solution.

Exactly this. It would require smart 'everything' (and one hell of a lot of aluminum foil from this crowd). Centralization of a bunch of info. Revamping the transmission grid. Rewiring the cities, towns and hinterlands.

Certainly technically doable. Certainly a political non starter.

Keep saving those AA's. Your gonna need them.

Cheap grid storage (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about a month ago | (#47690569)

Keep saving those AA's. Your gonna need them.

Heh, I laughed at this because one of my ideas is to use old but still viable EV batteries as grid storage devices, and the Model S, with the biggest batteries, uses the Lithium-Ion equivalent of a AA.

If you figure that the battery is retired from the car at 70% capacity and kept as a grid device until it's around 40% capacity this would give you massive storage capacity if only 10% of people drive a Tesla type car.

Of course, this would be a 30 year solution - 5-10 years for the batteries to degrade to the point they're no longer useful in a car, plus 20 years for EVs to actually penetrate the market enough to provide enough batteries.

Re:Expert?? (0)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690681)

Actually, he has that covered. His preferred system is a bit overbuilt to cut reliance on transmission. You'd enjoy his book "Reinventing Fire" available through most libraries. http://www.rmi.org/ [rmi.org]

Re:Expert?? (3, Interesting)

Rhywden (1940872) | about a month ago | (#47690829)

Yeah, I just read that rubbish. Numbers which appear from thin air, false causal relations and shoddy reasoning. I didn't enjoy that at all.

Re: Expert?? (1)

Redbehrend (3654433) | about a month ago | (#47690741)

The only problems with fail over is that the power companies are cheap and cut corners lol... At least that's the case here in cali. The last several day blackout was because they ran the failover through the same system to save money... Only problem was when the main line and boxes blew the fail over did too... Cheap punks, what's the point of a fail over if it's running through the same system? Lol

Re:Expert?? (3, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | about a month ago | (#47690231)

I would suspect many people don't understand what it takes to get power from the power plant to your house. It's not just a case of power lines. It is a delicate balancing act between all manner of components that require constant monitoring and adjustment to prevent imbalances that can result in grid failures.

Adding supplies that are unreliable/unpredictable would be quite some dance...like dancing on a 2x4...on edge, 100ft above the ground.

Re:Expert?? (2, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690265)

I would suspect many people don't understand what it takes to get power from the power plant to your house

They don't, and we shouldn't expect them to. That's why these irresponsible articles tick me off, because they play to that ignorance. Even so called knowledgeable people consistently seem to not realize that the distribution part of the grid cannot handle the power transfers that the transmission portion can, and that power flow & management across the grid has a cost.

Re:Expert?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690753)

Makes it sound as if said grid should have gotten distributed storage sooner rather than later to deal with those imbalances locally rather than centrally.

Re:Expert?? (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | about a month ago | (#47690405)

He also doesn't get that even at a local level things like AC compressors are already averaged out and that delaying the timing of starts really makes almost no difference at the neighborhood level, much less a town level.

Averaged-out appliances are what you want with baseload generation. With fluctuating renewables, you want to be able to delay a significant fraction of appliances at the same time, for short periods when the generation is low, and start a significant fraction of appliances at the same time when generation is high. To do this, the appliances have to somehow receive a signal of when to start and when not to start, such as a price signal or a direct control signal from a utility. Users would still be able to have control, but could save money by sacrificing some control.

Re:Expert?? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690439)

But, the point is, even if you try to move their starts, they still average out. Not only that, but if you then decide to start a bunch when the peak is gone, you still have to stagger them over a period that could be longer than the valley to avoid being hit by a huge inrush peak. Inrush current is seen at motor start and is 7 times normal operating current.

Averaged appliances (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about a month ago | (#47690627)

I'd argue that staggering appliances as described would be a form of storage anyways. For the most part we're talking about thermal storage here - hot water heaters, house temperature, etc...

It's quite possible to build a house that will remain comfortable with minimal power expenditure in most areas, but this is extremely expensive in terms of money and resources. A halfway point would be to use construction techniques involving having lots of mass inside the insulation to help maintain temperatures even while the HVAC system is offline. But at that point you're putting thermal storage systems into all the homes, even if it's dual purpose.

Re:Expert?? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a month ago | (#47690747)

The simplist way would be to encode it onto the mains signal - either as a slight frequency variation (It already gets slower under load) or as a digital signal. All it needs to do is give a number from, say -8 to +8 telling appliances how precious energy is at that exact moment. Older appliances simply ignore it, new ones can have a dirt-cheap (So cheap manufacturers wouldn't mind adding it) decoder chip and slightly adjust their settings and cycles according to that. Just make sure that the signal averages out at 0 over a long enough period.

It's a very simple system, yes. But it's also the cheapest for the appliance end - no new expensive communications hardware, no wireless or internet connectivity. Just a very cheap decoder part consisting of an isolation/stepdown transformer an a single chip, and some of the time it can share a transformer with the microcontroller power suppply.

Re:Expert?? (2, Informative)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a month ago | (#47690435)

He completely ignores the importance of local load differences, and seems to assume there is a loss-less, instantaneous transfer of energy across the national grid, both transmission and distribution channels, with no limitations.

Does he? His only claim here is that both supply and demand can be predicted, and that these can be choreographed to optimize utilization. He mentions that current power generation technologies are not available 100% of the time and proposes that the predictable variability of renewable power would be functionally no different. Nowhere does his proposal require loss-less, instantaneous, unlimited transmission of power.

He also doesn't get that even at a local level things like AC compressors are already averaged out and that delaying the timing of starts really makes almost no difference at the neighborhood level, much less a town level.

How are, for example, all of the AC units in a particular neighborhood "averaged out"? That makes no sense. There is no communication between these units. It's also not a matter of delaying the start times, it's a matter of remotely disabling them entirely - across entire neighborhoods - to shave peak demands.

Its nice to completely ignore realities like overall cost.

So what ARE those costs, versus the cost of business as usual? Just because the article doesn't go into that kind of depth does not mean it hasn't been considered at all.

Its nice to not realize that industrial areas have a significantly different profile than urban areas, and that rural areas are vastly different.

Largely Irrelevant here; Of course different regions are going to have different characteristics, but you can still model and predict the behaviors of each region and the system as a whole. Other countries manage to do it, and there's no reason the US can't do it as well.

Its nice to call yourself and energy expert and get submitted to slashdot by those that believe you just because they want to, or because you fall in line with their agenda.

It's also nice to rant about things you don't agree with while not providing any of the expertise you criticize others for claiming.

Credible experts are people who understand what they know, and what they don't know.

Unlike, say, Slashdot users who of course are experts in everything...
=Smidge=

Re:Expert?? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690491)

RE: load averaging: Unless you are ready to cut AC off for hours on a hot day, this will not work, hence the HVAC will have to run during that time and as the author proposed a simple matter of shifting would be enough to handle the situation, because somewhere far away, there would be energy (predictable, in his words) that would be available. But you can't just get that power flow to happen the way he describes, as the grid isn't close to being built in a way to handle power that way. So, once of the costs would be complete rebuilding of the entire power transmission system, not a simple task, and would require significant imminent domain land confiscation in addition to the basic material and construction costs. Just to name a few.

I don't expect you to believe me, and I really don't care if you do. If you trust this guy and believe him without skepticism, then fine as well. If you want to process my points, and his, and decide for yourself, that would be the wise choice. Maybe find a friend or someone that works in the transmission/distribution area, a power engineer, or similar, to help you make a more informed choice.

Re:Expert?? (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a month ago | (#47690615)

First, please realize that right now we as a country are in the process of rebuilding the entire power transmission system. That's happening no matter what, and it needs to happen no matter what.

In terms of the HVAC thing, which was just an example but one that seems to have stuck with you disproportionally so whatever... you would need to reduce the duty cycle to reduce power consumption, agreed? You would not have to turn it off for hours at a time - the entire concept here is that you could spread that reduction across a large population so that no single group bears the entire burden. We could, in theory, reduce electrical loads from AC units by 33% by disabling one in three units each for twenty minutes per hour.

As for "getting that power to flow the way he describes" - what is it you're imagining is happening NOW? You have power plants dotted all over the place, each with varying output, and power flows in any particular direction at any time. Nobody is proposing we instantaneously divert megawatts halfway across the country on a moment's notice - such a thing would be entirely unnecessary. However, diverting megawatts - even gigawatts - between substations and across counties and states is something that happens routinely right now, planned and unplanned. Nothing that can't be handled.
=Smidge=

Re:Expert?? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690671)

Nobody is proposing we instantaneously divert megawatts halfway across the country on a moment's notice

Actually, from what he presented, that is pretty much what would be required. Also, large power stations are located along strategically designed/placed transmission corridors and still generally only serve a regional load based on years of growth and demand. And don't confuse the marketing of power with the actual transmission. Market is a total sum game and the buyers and sellers don't really control where the power comes from or goes, they just ensure enough is available regionally. The power generated closest to the user is what is used, even if it is credited for sale in a different area.

Re:Expert?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690713)

Um yeah about
"we as a country are in the process of rebuilding the entire power transmission system"

We as a country are just starting to talk about planning on funding a way to study how to rebuild the power transmission system

Heck, even getting the funding to start a system to tie the two existing grids together is just limping along two years behind schedule:
http://www.pntonline.com/2014/02/02/tres-amigas-project-75-percent-financed/

The thing is that us dumbass slashdot users have the ability to do a google search and directly counter most of the bs that floats through the media

Re:Expert?? (3, Insightful)

geoskd (321194) | about a month ago | (#47690693)

Does he? His only claim here is that both supply and demand can be predicted, and that these can be choreographed to optimize utilization. He mentions that current power generation technologies are not available 100% of the time and proposes that the predictable variability of renewable power would be functionally no different. Nowhere does his proposal require loss-less, instantaneous, unlimited transmission of power.

The problem with this moron is two fold. First, he is not an electrical engineer, but a physicist which gives him absolutely zero qualification as an electrical grid engineer. The second and more direct problem with his hypothesis is that the system he describes is a classical control problem. In a normal control configuration, you have a demand for resources which you use your control of the supply to meet. It is a largely closed loop operation. With this guys setup, you have your usual, largely, uncontrollable demand, but now you are meeting that demand with uncontrollable supply. At best case, you have some limited ability to reduce the supply, but with renewable, there is a fixed upper limit to your supply, which could at any given moment amount to zero, or close to it. With base-load supply (such as coal or nuclear), there is a minimum supply you can count on, which is your fall back, and is 100% (or close to it) reliable. With renewable, you have only half of the controllability (no ability to increase production) which means you have to size the grid so that the odds of not producing enough power at any given moment is many standard deviations below capacity (probably at least 5 for reasonable reliability). That means making a power grid that produces several orders of magnitude more power than needed , on average, just so that the low point in the production scale is still above the high point in the demand scale. Its an idiotic solution from an engineering perspective, and is a perfect example of why scientists should not try to venture opinions outside their expertise.

Epertise (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690523)

Doing you homework is what makes you an expert. Pretty clearly, Lovins has done his as you would know if you had done yours. http://www.rmi.org/RFGraph-pre... [rmi.org]

This idea has the lowest overall cost of four possible scenarios to cut carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2050. So, invest in storage if you like. But it is unclear you'll have customers.

Re:Epertise (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690551)

Oooh, nice chart.

Very nice chart (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690701)

You can see why nuclear power can't compete: http://www.rmi.org/Knowledge-C... [rmi.org]

Re:Very nice chart (1, Funny)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690761)

More wisdom from the Rocky Mountain Institute. Call yourself a scientist or an expert, call your tribe an institute, and someone will follow.

Re:Very nice chart (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690775)

Or read here: http://will.illinois.edu/nfs/R... [illinois.edu]

Re:Very nice chart (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690789)

Your contribution to Slashdot is posting links to crap that fits your agenda, but without making a point yourself. And its becoming clearer as time goes on to most here.

Re:Expert?? (3, Insightful)

Kagato (116051) | about a month ago | (#47690677)

To be fair the two largest HVAC providers in the US already offer predictive modeling services for regulating power consumption. Many times having complex interactions with market based supply/demand power pricing that's common in the commercial applications and buildings. We have models and systems already in the market place that take into account a number of these issues.

Currently in the HVAC arena all the predictive models are predicated on still storing the energy in the form of chilled water. The systems figure out demand for the next day and determine the optimal time at night to chill down thousands of gallons of water based on the market (or predicted market) off peak power prices.

Be that as it may we have off peak facilities for a reason. As you pointed out getting the grid to handle this would be no easy task. The grid is made of 500 or so different companies, most of which are only obligated to serve in the interest of the community it serves. As such we have way more generation capability than we have transmission capability. Good luck getting a majority of the companies to agree. Previous attempts by the feds to use it's power (2005 during the Bush administration) was thwarted by congress. So, I guess my main point is it's not a technology issue, we already do a lot of the stuff he's proposing in the off-peak market. What we have a political problem with transmission.

Re:Expert?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690717)

"before creating this over-simplified explanation. He completely ignores the importance of local load differences, and seems to assume there is a loss-less, instantaneous transfer of energy across the national grid, both transmission and distribution channels, with no limitations. "

Sounds like a programmer.

Re:Expert?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690821)

This guy is clearly no energy expert.

Umm, yes, he is an "energy expert", and he and the Rocky Mountain Institute has been doing this for a long time. I've not agreed with everything he's said in the past, but he's right enough times that he should not be ignored.

"Dance" = rolling blackouts (3, Insightful)

XNormal (8617) | about a month ago | (#47690173)

This is about as valid as the claim that "the wind always blows somewhere". Actual power generation data shows that weather is a very large scale phenomenon and the wind most definitely slows to a tiny fraction of its average power over an entire continent.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (3, Interesting)

WarJolt (990309) | about a month ago | (#47690203)

I think you missed the point of the article. Demand is far easier to manipulate. Cost incentives that match demand to supply will work if you scale the cost dynamically to match the instantaneous capacity of the grid. Turn a factory on full power when the wind is blowing and slow it down when the wind isn't.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

XNormal (8617) | about a month ago | (#47690237)

Large business consumers make very effective use of these incentives right now.

The "incentives" required to produce such extreme changes in demand as required to meet the fluctuations in renewable energy production would have to be very harsh. Yes, you would probably turn off your air conditioner if it cost you $20 per hour. And some might consider it an effective use of incentives to manipulate demand. I'm not so sure how you would feel about such manipulations, though.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a month ago | (#47690597)

The "incentives" required to produce such extreme changes in demand as required to meet the fluctuations in renewable energy production would have to be very harsh.

Wrong. These incentives are already in place in many areas, and even small changes in price are enough to have a big influence on demand. In California, consumers can voluntarily sign up for on-demand pricing. I have signed up. So my electricity is cheaper for most of the day, around 8 cents/kwHr. But on hot days, from 2pm to 7pm, it jumps to 30 cents/kwHr. That is about the price for the base rate that most Europeans pay. But even this is enough to shave the peaks off the demand curve, and lets the electric company avoid building expensive standby capacity. We run our A/C early to "pre-chill". We also installed an attic fan and added extra attic insulation, investments that didn't make sense at 8 cents, but certainly do at 30 cents.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (2)

Rhywden (1940872) | about a month ago | (#47690241)

Great. Which results in your economy being dependant on the weather. I can see the historical articles now: "The big wind calm of 2030 lead to a nation-wide depression as the metalworking industry was unable to sustain minimum power needed to keep the metal from solidifying."

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690253)

Ah, so when you don't want people using electricity (like 12pm-6pm in summer time when everyone wants to use their air conditioner) charge them the equivalent of $1000 an hour for using their air conditioner so everyone instead turn theirs off and although everyone fries and thousands of elderly die of heat stroke you've met your magical unicorn goal of forcing demand to meet supply.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690533)

RTFA. AC is covered.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690261)

Turn a factory on full power when the wind is blowing and slow it down when the wind isn't.

This assumes the factory workers schedules are also made of an infinite frictionless plane.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

Amouth (879122) | about a month ago | (#47690601)

Given the amount of overtime i see in plants, and that I've had a client say that when estimating projects they assume contractors have unlimited capacity. I think they already have the infinite frictionless plane mentality when it comes to the work force.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (2, Insightful)

ultranova (717540) | about a month ago | (#47690391)

Demand is far easier to manipulate.

No, it isn't. I need power for food storage, food preparation, Internet access and light. I also consume water, which takes power to prepare and pump. Trying to make any of these too expensive for me to afford - which is the reality behind talk of "incentives" - means it's time for torches & pitchforks.

Turn a factory on full power when the wind is blowing and slow it down when the wind isn't.

This means the factory is running at less than full speed on average, making it less profitable and thus more prone to be shut down. That's bad news for the employees and owners both. And that's assuming the factory can simply "slow down". Try reducing power to a chemical plant and it'll enter an emergency shutdown mode, hopefully only losing the raw materials under processing at the time (as opposed to, say, having them solidify in pipes or reactor vessels, or even outright exploding) but coincidentally creating work for hazardous waste disposal companies.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690781)

This means the factory is running at less than full speed on average, making it less profitable and thus more prone to be shut down.

That right there is economist talk, and do not hold up to a reality check what so ever.

Idle production equipment is not wasted. Idle workers are not wasted (unless they happens to still get paid). Sure, there is a "loss" of potential profits if the market is screaming for the widgets the factory is providing. But unless some book worm economist set up the whole gig, every damn widget produced, be at 0.01% production capacity or 100% capacity, is a profit earner once sold.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a month ago | (#47690791)

Your fridge can stand to shut down for five minutes to ride out a sudden but brief peak in demand. Those do happen. The 'Corrie Break' is a very well-known example, occuring predictably during the mid-episode break of Coronation Street in the UK - it's caused by millions of people simutainously going to put the kettle on.

Water depends on house. Electrical hot water, unless it's on-demand, can wait too. Pumped mains pressure cannot, simply because it's also used to drive fire extinguishing systems. If you're in an area that uses a water tower or top-of-building tank for pressure though, then the pump can be shut down during a deman peak.

Re: "Dance" = rolling blackouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690411)

OK guys, take a break between 2 minutes and 3 hours long. We'll let you know when the wind kicks up again.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about a month ago | (#47690637)

Only to a point, if all you have is solar for example, then any demand after sunset isn't going to help, no matter how much you attempt to manipulate demand.

As it is, solar helps with businesses during the day, though you still have to manage the difference between peak output and cloudy days, plus wind that might work best on the coast at around sunset and sunrise. We do need more renewable energy sources that are always-on, wave for example (the moon disappears or we stop rotating, we've got bigger problems). The trouble is that it is way more expensive than wind or solar which is probably why its not been implemented in any large scale system.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690219)

Can you back that up with actual data and research ? Make note : wind turbines are being powered up and down continuously to balance the load .

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690259)

Read these.
Two papers. one over 4years and one over the following 2years (the 2nd was actually for a period with abnormally higher winds)

http://www.jmt.org/assets/report_analysis%20uk%20wind_syoung.pdf

http://docs.wind-watch.org/Partington_UK-2011-12-wind-generation%E2%80%93analysis.pdf

In windy years such as 2011 and 2012 turbines can, on average, produce over 30%
of their rated capacity, but this is certainly not the case every year.

  The assumption that the wind is blowing somewhere in the UK at any given time is, in
practical terms, false: there are regular periods when there is not enough wind to
contribute to any meaningful power generation.

  Periods of low wind are so frequent that wind turbines cannot be relied on as a steady
source of power, even given two-fold increase in installed capacity over the period
studied. Wind turbines must be backed up by the equivalent capacity of conventional
fossil-fired p

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a month ago | (#47690363)

That may be true of the UK, but it is most certainly NOT true of North America. Even just the East Coast, with reasonably affordable interconnects, would have 24/7/365 offshore wind if we built in the right places. Most indications are that it would be pretty economical in the longrun. Many other areas of world are perhaps not quite so well-endowed with reliable winds, but areas that span more than say 1500km along a north-south coastline generally COULD be self-sufficient.

Re:"Dance" = rolling blackouts (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | about a month ago | (#47690577)

Even just the East Coast, with reasonably affordable interconnects, would have 24/7/365 offshore

A hurricane such as Sandy causes high winds which would overs peed most wind generators off the coast. Wind generators are shut down in high/gusty winds to prevent damage. You need to look at worst case not average case.

Energy micro-auctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690207)

The logical conclusion of this approach is automatic energy micro-auctions where kilowatt-hours are priced by demand, and internet-of-things style devices in air-conditioners and toasters compete to run for the 'best price'.
  And when a sustainable per capita energy level can no longer be maintained by an increasing energy supply, the population will inevitably be cooked/frozen down to the appropriate size by unaffordable energy rates. Fun times.

Re:Energy micro-auctions (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690215)

^and your forgot to mention that the wealthy will continue to use energy however they want and let the poor do the adjusting.

Re:Energy micro-auctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690257)

Exactly. That's why all of these discussions by Republicans to reduce demand are racist. They hate us and don't want us to have lights.

Re:Energy micro-auctions (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690281)

How can you say this when Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden are both on record saying they wished the Nazis had "finished the job" wrt the Final Solution?

I'd take slightly expensive electricity over a gas chamber any day.

Re:Energy micro-auctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690687)

Both of them are DINOs so what they say reflects negatively on the Republicans.

Re:Energy micro-auctions (2)

budgenator (254554) | about a month ago | (#47690809)

So your saying Republicans want to limit their business opertunites and for go their investments in existing gerenation capacity and transmission infrastructure because they are racist? I don't buy it, in fact it sounds more like a watermellon tactic.

Re:Energy micro-auctions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690291)

More of a reason to produce your own power. I have lines running above my front yard but I'm completely disconnected from the electrical grid.

Lovins is a crank (5, Informative)

Mike Greaves (1236) | about a month ago | (#47690209)

Never worked as an academic physicist, never even completed a degree apparently.
Never worked in the power industry.
Never manufactured EE Equipment.

Nevertheless knows how to power the world?

Re:Lovins is a crank (1, Interesting)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690235)

^LOL. That qualifies him for authoring mdsolar submissions, but not much else.

Nuclear fanbois (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690641)

Have an odd sense of humor.

Re:Lovins is a crank (-1, Troll)

geek (5680) | about a month ago | (#47690327)

Never worked as an academic physicist, never even completed a degree apparently.
Never worked in the power industry.
Never manufactured EE Equipment.

Nevertheless knows how to power the world?

This is pretty much every liberal.......... ever.

Re:Lovins is a crank (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690561)

Long history of publications... http://www.rmi.org/ [rmi.org]

Re:Lovins is a crank (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about a month ago | (#47690675)

Long history of publications... http://www.rmi.org/ [rmi.org] [rmi.org]

There are some real gems in there, among them:

* Urgent Memo to Biotech Pioneers: Life is More Than a DNA Sequence [rmi.org]
* Unpublished letter to the Economist [rmi.org] (note the use of 'begs the question')
* Applied Hope [rmi.org]
* Hypercars, Hydrogen, and the Automotive Transition [rmi.org]
* Roadmap for Natural Capitalism [rmi.org]

Literally, a guy named Lovins writes papers about applied hope. Great.

Re:Lovins is a crank (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690697)

Long history of self published, non peer reviewed publications... http://www.rmi.org/ [rmi.org]

Fixed that for you. None of these publication should be taken seriously since they are not published in a reputable, peer reviewed or even scientific journal.

Re:Lovins is a crank (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690769)

Quite a few peer reviewed publications here. http://scholar.google.com/scho... [google.com] Seems you got that wrong.

Re:Lovins is a crank (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690729)

Space Nutters never even launched a model rocket and they speak about space colonies...

A different source (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47690227)

Re:A different source (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690243)

Re-posting the same item in a seperate blog post is not a "different source". Its a copy of the same damn thing.

Re:A different source (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47690313)

Re:A different source (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690331)

Those are all quite different from the submission, and their titles are full of "maybe's and coulds".

Re:A different source (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47690345)

Anybody talking about the future, and not being rash and irresponsible, makes extensive use of words like "could" and "may".

Re:A different source (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a month ago | (#47690367)

True. Good Point. Still, at least some of those articles give decent hints at the level of speculation uncertainty they involve.

Re:A different source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690469)

Anybody talking about the future, and not being rash and irresponsible, makes extensive use of words like "could" and "may".

Yes--this is why so many people are so critical of the article cited in this post. It is, in fact, rash and irresponsible. It claims that we can shut off everything in the grid except for a few types of sources. Perhaps eventually we will be able to do so, but we can't now. We should make near term decisions that are practical and achievable, not put our reliance in a long term utopia that might not work.

Re:A different source (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690647)

RTFA

Re:A different source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690807)

Apostrophe for maybe's, plural for coulds????

OSPF (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690263)

In a nutshell, they need OSPF for energy transmission.

JIT fails in human disagreements (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690325)

Just in time (JIT) doesn't work when one human understands the system and wants to leverage its dysfunction for bargaining power. Ask GM. When they want to negotiate and a small strike in one supplier can shut down their entire production?

The inefficiency of human ability to cooperate and resolve conflicts takes this, to some degree, off the table.

Windmills in the past (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690353)

Sounds like what people did in the past, harvest the grain, dry it in the late summer warmth, mill it with the autumn winds, store the embodied energy in a bag.

Electricity is Complex (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about a month ago | (#47690371)

So ignorant.
He probably doesn't even understand Power Factor -- let alone any real complexities in electrical generation and distribution.
He seems like a guy who added up all generation and all consumption, said that those numbers are essentially equal, meaning that this is just a question of distributing the power to where it's needed. It it were only so simple.

Re:Electricity is Complex (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690655)

Read his book and you'll find you are incorrect. http://www.rmi.org/ [rmi.org]

People may be missing the point (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about a month ago | (#47690399)

Its not that we WANT TO or SHOULD create this sort of energy distribution system, but just that we COULD in theory do so. It seems to me that such a system would be very much always on the hairy edge of crashing just by its very nature, but I wouldn't rule out the possibility in the future at some point, and it might make economic sense too, who knows? I really doubt we'll ever even approach this in any of our lifetimes though.

Re: People may be missing the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690531)

No. In theory people do this by using grid tie equipment in an island minigrid - offgrid with their own powerstation. One back feeds their AC from whatever source with a range of measures in place - non critical loads on a dump load relay etc etc with the balancing add of producing load when necessary - that does not mean it's possible nationally in any sense, it's dammed ignorant in fact. Grid out of peak timing already happens in some larger devices.

We already solved this one! (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about a month ago | (#47690403)

We solved this problem once before - with fossil fuels. The answer is simply to have more capacity on hand than demand. We can do the exact same thing with alternative energy.

The difference is only that alternative energy doesn't have an "off" button, so we simply have to assume that, given a source of alternative energy, EG: a windmill, that we won't necessarily use all of its capacity. If we built gobs and gobs of windmills and solar panels, and installed them in such a way that not all their potential output is used all the time, we have a stable power grid.

The only difference is that the "off" button has to work differently. EG: a solar panel installation could dump unused power to a heating element or something. If power companies were smart enough to "get out in front" of this problem, they'd switch to the business of transporting power, which includes managing demand.

Unfortunately, power companies are run by myopic trolls, so I'm not expecting this business transition to go smoothly.

Re:We already solved this one! (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about a month ago | (#47690451)

EG: a solar panel installation could dump unused power to a heating element or something.

That is "storage"...what the article supposes we can do away with.

Correction... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690621)

"Unfortunately, power companies are run by myopic trolls..."
The complete truth is, the ones run totally as IOUs, as opposed to co-ops, are run by myopic trolls.

This is why running utilities as a private business is a LOUSY idea.

As an aside, the idea of distributing energy from "green" energy sources to where it is needed would only work on a global basis. You might want to recheck the current world political situation; it is not ready for any global solutions, yet.

There is a big construction boom in Germany... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a month ago | (#47690419)

... For coal power plants that are backstopping the renewable system. That fact is at odds with his statements. They are backstopping their renewable program with coal power plants... not choreography.

The problem with this idea is that the renewable systems often will not produce enough PERIOD. Not because they can't but because environmental conditions at that exact time mean the power is not there. If the wind doesn't blow and the sun is down... where is your power coming from? Now you could say "if you make the grid big enough, there will be somewhere that has sun and wind." Fine. But that is going to mean transporting power thousands of miles in some cases which means you're going to lose a fair amount to transmission. And even then the idea is pretty dubious on that scale.

I would argue that we need one of two things.

1. A break through in storage.

2. Reliable power generation to backstop the system.

What is more, wind and solar are not actually this cheap... they're only that cheap WITH subsidies. And it the growth of these subsidies that is largely pushing the prices at this point.

Here someone says "oil is subsidized too!"... yeah but not to the same relative extent. In absolute terms oil might get the same amount of money but its a vastly larger industry so the point doesn't really mean anything.

Anyway, I'm not arguing in favor of oil. I'd love for everything to go all electric. BUT we need to not cripple ourselves in the process.

Re:There is a big construction boom in Germany... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a month ago | (#47690483)

Anyway, I'm not arguing in favor of oil. I'd love for everything to go all electric. BUT we need to not cripple ourselves in the process.

That's correct. We have plenty of oil / coal / tar sands / algae. What we need is a coherent discussion on how to get from here to there over the course of, say, a generation. We need some leadership to push the concept.

If it were the Soviet Union it would be a Hero Project. If it were 1930's US it would be another Rural Electrical Association or WPA project. If it were the 60's it would be the manned spacecraft program.

Unfortunately, in the 21st Century US political climate it's most likely to end up as the "War on Power" or something similar.

Re:There is a big construction boom in Germany... (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | about a month ago | (#47690537)

Yes, a boom in coal plant construction... I guess that explains why Germany's coal generating capacity (hard coal + lignite) is down nearly 5% over the past ten years... all those new plants they've been building.

Any new plants they have been building - mostly to replace older, decommissioned ones - have been having problems because the cost of power has dropped significantly since construction began thanks to the glut of wind and solar. All that, despite reducing their nuclear generating capacity by nearly 44 TWh/yr after the Fukushima meltdown.

As for subsidies... have you accounted for the subsidies that current fossil generation gets? Land rights, construction cost subsidies, operational cost subsidies, environmental remediation subsidies... to make an indirect comparison, there's a reason the rest of the world pays three or four times more for their energy than the US does - subsidies.
=Smidge=

Re: There is a big construction boom in Germany... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690635)

Oil gets far more than others, it just isn't account as oil, but military aid and operations.

I'd rather just be able to tell the Middle East to pound sand. But they would probably just build a giant robot to destroy us.

Re:There is a big construction boom in Germany... (1)

Kagato (116051) | about a month ago | (#47690743)

The US has way more generation facilities that it really needs. The issue is entirely political with the 500 or so companies that make of the "grid". You're unlikely to see a solution to that because it would put a number of facilities out of business.

I'd also point out that Germany's accelerated decommissioning of nuclear power plants (all shutdown in 8 years) has a lot more to do with the coal plants than the increase in renewables.

Some can be done - and is. Most is bull. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about a month ago | (#47690447)

Like file downloads vs. interactive sessions, some power loads just need a long-term average and can be adjusted in time, without noticable impact, to shave peaks and get a closer match to generation - even if some of the generation, itself, is uncontrollably varying.

In fact, this is already being done. A prime example is in California, where a large part of the load is pumping of irrigation and drinking water. California utilities get away with far less "peaking generation" than they'd otherwise need by pumping the water mostly at off-peak hours. Cost: Bigger pumps, waterways (and in some cases "forebay" buffer reservoirs, below the main reservoir) than would be needed if the water were pumped continuously. This is practical because it was cheaper to upsize the water system than build and run the extra peaking plants. (Also: The forebay-to-reservoir pump generates when water is drawn down. It can also be run as a peaking generator, moving reserevoir water down to the forebay during peak load hours.) Similar things can be (and are being) done with industrial processes - such as aluminum smelters.

But there's a limit to load flexibility. Sure you can delay starting your refrigerator, freezer, and air conditioning for a few minutes (or start a little early, opportunistically), to twiddle the load. But you can't use such tweaks to adjust for an hours-long mismatch, such as the evening peak, or an incoming warm front leading to calm air and overcast skies on a chunk-of-the-continent basis. Try it, and your food spoils and your air conditioner (or heat-pump heating system) might as well be broken, or too small for your living area. Sure you can tweak factory load some. But do it too much and you reduce the production of billion-dollar factory complexes and workers who are still getting paid full rate.

Renewable energy actually helps - because its large-scale variations are driven by some of the same phenomena that affect heating and air conditioning loads. More wind means more heating and air conditioning load due to more heat transfer through building insulation. More sun means more air conditioning. Solar peaks in the day and wind in the evening (due to winds driven by the "lake effect" on a subcontinental scale), so a mix of them is a good match for the daily peak. But it's nowhere near "tweak to match generation and load without waste".

Re:Some can be done - and is. Most is bull. (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690619)

Perhaps you should look over this NREL study. http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/r... [nrel.gov] The things you worry about seem pretty well worked out there.

Some can be done - and is. Most is bull. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690751)

In another analysis I read a point made was a hidden issue is the need to keep legacy coal and nuclear plants running because they aren't flexible. Wind and solar output can be turned down all the way to zero. But nuke plants you can't turn down more than 50% or so. So you have a problem, wind turbines and solar panels cost nothing to run. But because you can turn off a nuke plant, you have to pay the wind farmers and an solar installation not to produce power.

My take then is a mixed grid is problematic. A grid that uses mostly renuables will have times when you have excess capacity. Really what that means is you have periods when power is extraordinarily 'cheap' that is an big opportunity for some players. People talk about the need for storage without getting that smelting aluminum is another way you can store power. You don't get it back as electricity, you get it back as aluminum ingots. Note that the aluminum and the energy expenditure is represents is static, doesn't matter what time of day you made the stuff.

Computer models models (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47690453)

He needs more computer models models so he can finally realize he is full of shit.

The power grid does not work that way. Probably not in any country in fact.
They require constant balancing to prevent the thing from collapsing in on itself.
Energy storage helps this considerably because it allows for you to quickly put energy in to the grid, whereas it would have normally been a case of some people throwing more fuel in to the fire to balance it out, which can, and almost always did, end up being wasteful.
It still is even now because energy storage is expensive on the scales required for the actual power grids in a country.

The person or persons that create the cheapest power storage will make a stupid amount of money. (despite the fact that it is cheap!)
We badly need good energy storage. Badly.

Equally we also need better batteries. It is holding back everything. We'll never have decent "desktop replacements" without a decent battery for it.

Yes, with a Biiig caveat... (1)

pla (258480) | about a month ago | (#47690477)

Yes, but doing so requires one very significant change to how we currently distribute power across the planet.

We need nothing less than a planet-wide superconducting power backbone (preferably with some significant degree of redundancy). Until we have that, we have no alternative but to have a few days' worth of local buffering capacity.

Now, once we get over the BS "national security" implications of such an impressive infrastructure project, the yes, we just need enough worldwide solar/wind/tidal capacity to meet the planet's power needs at any given point in time. But until then, the idea counts as a non-starter. We can't just have local rolling blackouts based on a day or two's bad weather.

Re:Yes, with a Biiig caveat... (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690665)

In fact, this is not needed, just as storage does not seem to be needed. More transmission, yes, but conventional HVDC will do the job. http://www.rmi.org/ [rmi.org]

Dreamer (2)

no-body (127863) | about a month ago | (#47690479)

Energy transport line losses across 1/2 continent won't do any good and there is no rolling sunshine across this continent, not even talking about "rolling" winds and tides always available.

So, what's the real game here with getting the prudent and necessary things done?

Arguments are researched for impact - example: The argument "jobs endangered" comes up again and again, if there is a demand for change. Any decision-maker does the right thing s/he is paid for....

Re:Dreamer (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about a month ago | (#47690739)

The Pacific intertie seems to have worked for a while now. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] Sunshine does seem to instill timezones here...

Habits can adjust to when renewables are best (1)

mrflash818 (226638) | about a month ago | (#47690617)

If peak PV power is mid-day, then do energy-intensive tasks mid-day, if there starts to be a significant amount of PV energy available.

Certainly some appliances, like clothes washers, dish washers, and clothes dryers could be programmed and scheduled for mid-day use, while you were at work.

Why not grid level storage? (1)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about a month ago | (#47690715)

Tesla's replacement 85kwh car battery comes to $140 per kWh based on the wiki numbers, other companies are joining the market, one said they can produce at $160 per kWh of storage. There is no reason why these batteries can't be married with renewables to take 90%+ of the market in the coming years. There is no reason to believe these prices won't continue to drop.

So why not grid level storage, this video shows it can be very useful:
Fully Charged - Electrical energy storage and its place in a low carbon future. [youtube.com]

It looks like renewables + storage will be very feasible in most of the world within the next decade or two. The video I linked shows it is being trialled in the UK right now.

Nuclear is dead, coal and gas are next, the writing is on the wall. http://solarcellcentral.com/im... [solarcellcentral.com]

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