×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

World's Biggest Battery Switched On in Alaska

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the drum-beating-bunny dept.

Science 103

windowpain writes "An article in the London Telegraph describes a 2,000 square meter 13,730 cell NiCad UPS that will provide backup power for the entire city of Fairbanks for up to seven minutes. 'This is enough time, according to ABB, to start up diesel generators to restore power, an important safeguard since at such low temperatures, water pipes can freeze entirely in two hours.' Now if they can just remember to keep it plugged in." Update: 08/28 14:58 GMT by M : A reader notes that the battery has enough juice for 12,000 people for seven minutes, and the city of Fairbanks has a population of over 80,000, so they couldn't keep the whole city powered up for even a minute.

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

103 comments

hehe (2, Funny)

miruku (642921) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814029)

i wonder how long my mp3 player would last on that thing..

Re:hehe (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6817726)

Longer than you will live.

Lets see 20 watts/hour(estimated) draw on a 40 megawatt system (40,000,000 watts) Gives you about 2,000,000 hours of music or about 83,333 days or about 228 years.

It's actually attached.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6814049)

.. to the world's biggest vibrator. It will be inserted into Michael's ass live on the Discovery Channel tomorrow at 9PM eastern.

call me silly, but isnt this a poor idea? (1)

Unknown Poltroon (31628) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814061)

WOuldnt some other kind of energy storage be better? Liv eheard ideas about using flywheels, compressed air and damn near everythign else. But those might not have the same instant on capability.

And the contract goes to... (2, Interesting)

^chewie (65165) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814490)

...the cheapest bid. Don't forget that Cities and Municipalities operate on a budget, and although Flywheel Energy Storage units may have been more environment friendly and cheaper for long-term maintenance, they were probably far more expensive up-front. Long-term financing isn't often a concern for short-term problems, so my guess is that the 2k sq. ft. battery was the cheapest.

Re:And the contract goes to... (1)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815111)

Long-term financing isn't often a concern for short-term problems, so my guess is that the 2k sq. ft. battery was the cheapest.

I'm also guessing that Fairbanks' residents didn't care about 13,730 containers of Cadmium all in one place right near where they live.

Re:And the contract goes to... (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816198)

Since the cadmium is sealed in little steel cylinders and will be sent (by law) to a recycler when "dead," I can't see how this would be a problem. Not much worse than having a few thousand gallons of diesel fuel in storage for the generator...

Re:And the contract goes to... (1)

pmz (462998) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816709)

Not much worse than having a few thousand gallons of diesel fuel in storage for the generator...

Agreed, but I'd rather deal with cleanup up diesel fuel then Cadmium that spread over ten acres due to a natural disaster or an accident.

Hmmm...I wonder what a big flywheel that gets loose and spins through town on the way to the ocean would do...(nothing is perfect, I guess).

I'm not entirely sure, but perhaps... (1)

DoraLives (622001) | more than 10 years ago | (#6819729)

the weather has something to do with it. Earthquake [alaska.edu] weather in particular.

But I could be wrong, yes?

Re:I'm not entirely sure, but perhaps... (1)

core plexus (599119) | more than 10 years ago | (#6820406)

Perhaps, here's the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner [news-miner.com] although I can tell you when we had the 7.something quake last November the power here didn't blink at all.

Interesting that there is no story about the battery there, and I read it every day.

-cp-

Re:And the contract goes to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6820269)

Flywheel Energy Storage units

Alas, I do not remember which one, but one co-lo uses a flywheel system tied to 'instant on' gennies.

The flywheel has 8 seconds of power....enuf time to switch to the gennies. The flywheel was cheaper than battery maintance.

Re:call me silly, but isnt this a poor idea? (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 10 years ago | (#6818341)

Indeed, the start-up issue is probably the biggest. After all, once the generators are up and running then the battery isn't needed.

I wonder if it has some sort of "inform" option that automatically starts the generators when power blanks, or if that gives personnel 7 minutes to do so before things start blanking out.

Whoa, sweet. (0, Funny)

torpor (458) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814073)

I wonder if they've got a broadcast service for it, so that computers can get automated details about the power system switching to City-UPS, and consequently deal with it?

7 minutes of warning before switching to backup power ... lessee ... a couple of sync's, put transaction queues in wait-state, hold tight on all processing ... *blink* ... back in business.

Of course, this'd give the average Windows user just about (but not quite) enough time to watch their taskbar-status control-pane/app thingies shut down, too ...

Come on ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6814101)

It's simple to calculate that. But rather than spoil your fun, I'll leave it as an exercise for you to do.

*drool* (1)

Tyrdium (670229) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814103)

I want one of those as my UPS... I wonder how many VA it is (I can't RTFA because it requires a subscription)... How much did this thing cost, BTW? It might have made more sense to create a smaller UPS just to power essential systems (water pumps, hospitals, etc.)...

12 stones! (2, Informative)

wiswaud (22478) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814126)

"each battery weighs more than 12 stones..."
if you were wondering about this like me ("what size of stone" :) ), i just found out about that unit of mass (here: http://www.ex.ac.uk/cimt/dictunit/ccmass.htm) and 12 stones is 168lbs or 76.2 kg.
and i thought slugs were the weirdest invention in that backwards unit system...
please convert to SI!!! :)

Re:12 stones! (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814645)

Slugs are worse then stones. Converting from stones is a simple x * stones, where x is about 6.4. Slugs are used somewhere in physics to make rocket science as hard as it is.

Re:12 stones! (2, Funny)

Cy Guy (56083) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814843)

Slugs are worse then stones.... Slugs are used somewhere in physics to make rocket science as hard as it is.

Well, thanks to Google calculator that should no longer be a problem: 1 stone = 0.435133302 slugs [google.com] .

1 slug = 32.1740486 pounds [google.com] or 14.5939029 kilograms

Re:12 stones! (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815236)

a slug isnt a unit of mass. Mind you, thats the problem with imperial - you confuse mass and force, and use pounds for both.

Re:12 stones! (1)

Cy Guy (56083) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815687)

a slug isnt a unit of mass. Mind you, thats the problem with imperial - you confuse mass and force, and use pounds for both.

You were the one comparing it to stones, GOOGLE aparently thinks there are two distinct units of measure called slugs, one being a unit of mass, the other being a unit of force. Given that you want the unit of force, here is GOOGLE's formula for converting to foot-pounds: 1 slug = 9.67412023 x 10^17 foot-pounds [google.com] , or for metric units 1 slug = 1.31163458 x 10^18 Newton meters [google.com]

Re:12 stones! (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816031)

I was comparing the idioticity of the name and the value of the respective units. Google's wrong, if 1 slug = xNm, then it is x kgm^2s^-2. A newton is a measure of force, a slug is a unit of force multiplied by distance. I might want a unit of force, but unless you give me a distance, a slug ont be any good whatsoever.

Mixing and matching force and mass is just the tip of the iceberg of what is wrong with the imperial system for scientific calculations.

How wrong can you be? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816695)

a slug isnt a unit of mass. Mind you, thats the problem with imperial - you confuse mass and force, and use pounds for both.
Au contraire, it is THE Imperial unit of mass. One slug is one pound-force per foot per second squared, or the western Washington state animal.

Re:12 stones! (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 10 years ago | (#6837363)

Mind you, thats the problem with imperial - you confuse mass and force, and use pounds for both

It's the same as the SI system: mass=pounds/kilograms, force=pound-feet/kilogram-meters. The fact that SI simply introduces a special name (Newtons) to disguise the mass-distance unit is the only difference.

SI generally has no advantage over the imperial system other than the fact that it is mostly standardised across countries. The British ton, for example, is bigger than the American ton and there is some difference between the gallons too (the British gallon is 10 pounds of water, I don't know what the US version is).

At the end of the day, in the age of computers the underlying logic of the system is of no real importance so long as you use one system throughout and don't do stupid things like having one programming team use kms, another use cgs, and another use imperial.

TWW

Re:12 stones! (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6839041)

A proper gallon is 4.54 litres - 8 pints (568ml). A U.S. Gallon is smaller, arround 3.5l

Force (admitadly its been a while since I did any physics) is measured in kgms^-2 not kgm. (F (N) = m (kg) * a (ms^2)

Re:12 stones! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6821054)

"each battery weighs more than 12 stones..."
if you were wondering about this like me ("what size of stone" :) ), i just found out about that unit of mass (here: http://www.ex.ac.uk/cimt/dictunit/ccmass.htm) and 12 stones is 168lbs or 76.2 kg.
and i thought slugs were the weirdest invention in that backwards unit system...

Just a real picky nit... it's '12 stone'. Singular, not plural. Another artifact of the English language, coming from the fact that the gauge for the weight referred to a specific stone. English still has an amazing range of irregularities.

Re:12 stones! (1)

bobbozzo (622815) | more than 10 years ago | (#6826192)

and i thought slugs were the weirdest invention in that backwards unit system... please convert to SI!!! :)

I don't know what it is with the British... I'm an American, and we use pounds, tons, inches, feet, yards, & acres.

I picked up the British version of Maxim, and I could not understand half of what they were saying... stones, rods, hogsheads, ... wtf?

And they claim they use SI!

And people say the US is backwards! :P

7 minutes? yeah right....more like a waste of mone (1)

pyr0 (120990) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814153)

Around the 5th of August give or take a day, the power substation for the town I was living in at the time (Rolla, MO) caught fire, cutting power for the better part of two days to the entire town. The city is supposedly fitted with backup generators capable of running everything in the event of such a power loss. Yet, it took the better part of two hours for the backup power to even come on. And when it did, only a few select areas of town had power at all. Do they really think they are going to be able to get backup power on in 7 minutes or less? Maybe if this battery was capable of an hour or two power supply it would be worth it. Even if they *can* get power on in less than 7 minutes, why would they need the battery? Is 7 minutes of not having power so bad?

Re:7 minutes? yeah right....more like a waste of m (3, Insightful)

Bishop923 (109840) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815131)

Is 7 minutes of not having power so bad?
Ask someone on a ventilator that question.

Re:7 minutes? yeah right....more like a waste of m (2, Insightful)

SeanAhern (25764) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815253)

One would hope that someone on a ventilator would have their own backup power supply for it, and not rely on the vagarities of the local power grid.

Re:7 minutes? yeah right....more like a waste of m (1)

spike hay (534165) | more than 10 years ago | (#6819046)

Is 7 minutes of not having power so bad?
Ask someone on a ventilator that question.


Virtually all hospitals have a UPS and a diesel generator. The grid is too unreliable. Heck, even a lot of offices I know of have UPSs and generators.

Re:7 minutes? yeah right....more like a waste of m (2, Interesting)

Orne (144925) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816345)

Its a problem of electronics. If I run a power plant, chances are I have digital displays, fuel conveyors, sensors, etc all electrically powered. If the plants running, you can use that energy to power yourself. If not, normal operating assumptions are that you have an outside power source supplying plant load at least long enough for your generator to start. In the case of a total blackout, you don't have that luxury.

Now, we can't help that your town can't start a diesel generator in less than two hours. A properly maintained diesel unit should be up running at full output (say 8 MW) at 60 Hz in 30 seconds. Using that energy, we can supply electricity to a larger plant so they can run their controls, and get them going. Your average combustion turbine can start in 5 minutes, and can provide say 50 MW of power. You now have enough energy for 45,000+ people. A small fossil fuel plant can cold start in a couple hours, generates 600 MW, enough for say 550,000 people.

Re:7 minutes? yeah right....more like a waste of m (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816540)

Ya know, we can't help it if the maintenance people in your town can't properly maintain a diesel generator. If properly maintained, they start automatically and produce power in a matter of seconds.

The real question is (1)

Hellraisr (305322) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814183)

batteries not included?

No,the real question is... (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815096)

What would a Beowolf cluster of these look like. Or how long would a Beowolf cluster run on these. Or what would happen if you dropped a wrench down inside this thing?

That's nothing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6814381)

The really impressive item is the huge 9-pin serial connector between the UPS and the city. Pins the size of manholes!

Backup Charge (0)

gsparrow (696382) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814623)

How long does it take a UPS like that to charge?

Re:Backup Charge (1)

osjedi (9084) | more than 10 years ago | (#6819899)

"How long does it take a UPS like that to charg?"

More importantly, how long will the batteries last before replacement is required?

Quick question (1, Funny)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814642)

A reader notes that the battery has enough juice for 12,000 people for seven minutes, and the city of Fairbanks has a population of over 80,000, so they couldn't keep the whole city powered up for even a minute.
How exactly is this calculated (as in "This battery will power 12,000 people!")?

I mean, the only clear cut "This person needs this amount of power" statistic I can think of would be a rather gruesome one: perhaps Fairbanks has a lot of electric chairs...

Re:Quick question (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816271)

Most of the time, these calculations are done assuming ~1kW per home. i.e. if someone says "the plant uses as much power as 10,000 homes" then they mean it uses 10MW.

We all know it's flawed; it's based on statistics of the average (over some time) usage.

semi-offtopic question (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814680)

I want to get a UPS to power 3 computers and a modem for something on the order of 10 seconds when power drops. Do I really need a full blown 1000VA UPS for megabucks? Can I use a lower VA rating for less time? How much power does a typical base unit use. Howabout a CRT?

Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (3, Informative)

JCMay (158033) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815860)

Yes, you can. "Volt-amps" are units of electric power, V*I, where V and I are vectors (the load may be reactive and the V vector and the I vector may not be parallel). If the V and I vectors are going in the same direction, they can be considered scalars and "volt-amps" becomes "watts."

Batteries are rated in "Amp-hour" ratings. That is, they can (to a first approximation), deliver current "I" for time "t" where I*t= the rating. I say "to a first approximation" because the time-to-discharge as a function of current draw is not actually linear, but is really more like an exponential.

Of course, there's some efficiency lost in the DC-AC converter electronics. I don't have a clue what it is; perhaps 80% efficiency is good?

So you have a setup like mine: PC with 500W supply, monitor, printer, speakers. I would recommend NOT putting the printer and speakers on the UPS. Only essential equipment that needs power in order to shut everything down gracefully should be on the UPS.

My monitor eats maybe 50W, and my PC consumes 500W max: 550W worst-case.

According to this page [apcc.com], a APC BackUPS 650 (rated for 640VA), will operate a 400W load for seven minutes. With a perfect 120V output, that (perfectly resistive!) load is drawing 3.333A. With the 80% efficiency I mentioned above, it implies that the battery has an amp-hour rating of about 0.5Ah (500mAh). (0.5Ah * 0.8 eff)/3.333A = 0.12 hours (7.2 minutes).

My 550W load (assuming again that it's purely resistive) will draw 4.6A at 120V. This same UPS (assuming that the switching electronics can handle it!) will operate my machine for 0.087 hour (5.2 minutes), plenty of time to shut down.

So: to find the minimum-sized UPS you need, add up the load of the essential equipment, calculate the required current, and find a UPS with a big enough battery to provide you with a comfortable shutdown time.

Re:Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816074)

But remember that 300W is 300W rms - about 350W peak.

My desktop doesnt draw anything near 500W though, it's only get a 250W PSU. Any way I can measure the current (and hence power) without jamming an ammeter in the socket?

The crux of the matter is will a lower-rated UPS run a higher-rated system for a shorter time, without melting?

Re:Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816154)

I normally don't think of "peak" values. That 120V I used is the RMS value, not the peak value. Working with microwave circuits, I normally don't even think about voltages and currents, but the RMS power delivered (in log units).

My response was an anwer of "maybe." It depends on the DC-AC converter electronics. Look at the max deliverable currents; you don't want to exceed those. Beyond that, it only depends on how long you want the thing to work!

Re:Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (1)

thebigmacd (545973) | more than 10 years ago | (#6820483)

Any way I can measure the current (and hence power) without jamming an ammeter in the socket?

Yes, some high-end multimeters have a coil that senses current when placed around a wire.

Re:Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (1)

bobbozzo (622815) | more than 10 years ago | (#6826275)

VA is such a scam in UPS marketing...
VA should = Watts, but the output of most UPS's is nowhere near a sine wave, so there's a huge loss in efficiency.

Back in the days of 386's, I told a friend a 200VA UPS would be enough to run his PC & 14" monitor. It was, but the battery died in a few months, for unknown reasons. Triplite gave him a VERY hard time about returning it, claiming it was too small for his PC, and tried to push him into trading it for a larger model.

They really should CLEARLY state the rated output on the box!

Re:Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (1)

bobbozzo (622815) | more than 10 years ago | (#6826331)

So you have a setup like mine: PC with 500W supply, monitor, printer, speakers...
My monitor eats maybe 50W, and my PC consumes 500W max: 550W worst-case.

Your power supply's max rated output is 500W. Switching power supply's are around 75-80% efficient, so your computer could be drawing 666W continuous, maybe even more peak.

Of course, I doubt you have enough components in the computer to actually use 500W, but thought I should mention it.

Also, a lot of bigger monitors draw 75-150W. (I don't know what you have though.)

Re:Quicky UPS-sizing guide... (1)

JCMay (158033) | more than 10 years ago | (#6830460)


Your power supply's max rated output is 500W. Switching power supply's are around 75-80% efficient, so your computer could be drawing 666W continuous, maybe even more peak.


Good catch. I mentioned the efficiency of the DC-AC converter in the UPS, but forgot to mention this one.

yes, some monitors do draw more power (I really ought to look at my book and see what I actually draw :), I was hoping that he'd be able to compile a list of his stuff and figure out what he needs.

Re:semi-offtopic question (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816341)

first, measure the current and you'll have part of the answer.

Second, you're talking about two different things. There's run-time (a measure of total power stored -- wattage) and VA (a measure of current capacity). You can't take a 350VA UPS and run three computers off of it for 10 seconds just because it says it will power one computer for 5 minutes. The instantaneous current requirements will exceed the capacity of the circuitry in the UPS and burn it out.

Re:semi-offtopic question (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 10 years ago | (#6838416)

I would recomend getting a large unit. You do have alternatives however.

I know for a fact that 2 systems can be run off an MGE EL4 rated at 450 VA or 280 watts. I've run this configuration for several years. So that is the good news.

The bad news is that this is seriously undersized. The consequence of this undersizing is that the batteries are NOT up to snuff and they will be destroyed in very short order. Note that normally the line current is NOT run through the inverters so normally it will appear just fine. Then if it is asked to kick in it will fail and it can fail in under one cycle (1/60th second).

Now, a cheap solution is a bigger battery. For instance I'm now running an SBS60 battery on my little MGE EL4. The EL4 will float this battery the same as the originals. Now the SBS60 was originally something like a $300 battery but I got mine used for about $60 bux. Note that the SBS60 is about 8 times bigger than the 7.2ah batteries that came in the EL4.

Used batteries are not normally good news because they DO WEAR OUT. So I did a load test and from what I can tell my batteries are in very good shape. You can get a 60 page manual on the SBS60 from www.hawker.co.uk. This will give you some idea what is involved with the care and feeding of UPS battery systems.

With this big battery I gain two (2) ways: 1) there is a much longer run time. Power here is very good usually mind you so I don't expect this to be an issue. 2) The battery is very lightly loaded because it is a BIG battery. This means the service life will probably be quite long, perhaps as long as a decade as long as it doesn't get cycled too often.

The downside is that the UPS might overheat and burn out if the power goes out too long. But this would be a problem with the original batteries as well.

Note: the load the UPS has to carry is governed exclusivly by the systems plugged into it and the size of the battery that feeds the UPS is for the most part irrelevant.

So, my two systems have each a 250 watt Powersupply. Of course - these power supplies are not actually producing 250 watts each. I've assumed they are running at about 50% load so the two systems _may_ be drawing say 250 watts together. Hense the load is within the realm of the EL4 - but it is a pretty heavy load for such a little UPS.

To make a long story short - you can find a dead UPS in computer recyclers and even on ebay. Find a BIG one. Then rip the battery out and put in a standard deep cycle that you perhaps can find at walmart. It should do the job just fine. Be careful when you do this because some UPS designs leave the chassis hot even when unplugged from the wall (Battery provides the current).

Alternatively if you happen to find a nice used SBS like I did - pat yourself on the back because you've done well.

As a final point. UPS systems are pretty basic when it comes down to it and there is a lot of marketing "HYPE" surrounding them. Pretty much any RV battery system will do the job of carrying the load and at a much lower price per watt. What the computer UPS adds is the fast switching time and continuity of electrical service. There is a LOT that could have been added to the UPS such as a voltage meter and %charge available, load stats and so forth. But the manufacturers seem to want to treat us like mushrooms. On the EL4 for instance, the specs don't even say how low the cells will be drawn down to. Clearly the voltage is way lower than the battery can handle and the reason they did this is so that they can undersize the battery.

Since the battery is undersized the number of cycles it can handle is severly reduced. So the UPS system dies prematurely and of course most people will simply chuck it and get another... and the manufactures get more sales.

Power vs. Energy (4, Informative)

linuxwrangler (582055) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814719)

As reporters so often do this one screwed up. Watts are a measure of power but "40 megawatts" doesn't give any information about how much _energy_ is stored, only how fast it can be delivered (power). Slashdot's editors "corrected" the story but only by recalculating based on incorrect interpretation of power and energy.

A typical average - at least in the lower 48 - is 1kw/household so 40 megawatts should handle 40,000 homes. For how long? We don't have that info other than the article's claim of 7 minutes. Assuming they got their signals crossed and mean that it can deliver 40 megawatts for 7 minutes then the batteries store 40,000kw * 7 minutes / 60 minutes = 4666kWh of energy.

For comparison, a AA nicad holds ~.75wh or .00075 kWh of energy so based on the preceding assumptions this battery bank is the equivalent of somewhat over 6 million AA batteries.

Another article [news-miner.com] indicates that the purpose is not to power the entire city but to carry the excess load when a single plant drops off line. Fairbanks does have outside feeds and multiple local plants just like the continental US but it has fewer of each so loss of a plant can cause a proportionately larger swing in the supply. It appears that this battery bank is really a load leveler, not a UPS.

Re:Power vs. Energy (1)

bassdrop (693216) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816011)

1 Watt = 1 Joule per second

1 kWh = 1000 * 3600 = 3,600,000 Joules = 3.6MJ

if this giant battery can provide 40MW for 7 minutes then thats 16,800,000,000 Joules, 16.8GJ, which is quite a lot...

Re:Power vs. Energy (1)

Nynaeve (163450) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816267)

1 kw/household? Is this 'typical' or 'average'? I have a 750/1500 watt heater. Does that mean if I use the heater on maximum I am consuming 1.5 households worth of electricity?

Re:Power vs. Energy (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816420)

That's an average used by the power industry. It's averaged over time (24 hours), so it includes the time when you're sleeping and when you're not home (at work?). Peak usage of a typical home in the U.S. can get into the 10's of KW. (typical home fed by 60Amp main --> 14.4kW peak before tripping the breaker).

CORRECTION TO WRITE-UP (4, Informative)

Cy Guy (56083) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814723)

I submitted this to the Editor on duty, but aparently not in time. Fairbanks has over 80,000 people, not just 12,000 that the battery is capable of supporting for 7 minutes. Alaska is rural, but not so rural that its second largest city only has 12,000 people.

FYI - I had family living in Fairbanks for a while so here is some trivia regarding the weather there:

Everyone must have three plug-in heaters in their car, one for the oil pan, one for the radiator, and one for the battery. All major shopping centers have outdoor outlets to plug your car into while you shop.

In addition to being wicked cold, their is essentially 0% humidity, this results in extremely high risk of static shock. And on a cold day you can actually throw hot coffee in the air and it fall to the ground as instant coffee.

The whole city is built on permafrost, so for any major construction they have to sink pilings into the ground to support the buidling once its ambient heat melts the soil below it.

The city is south of the arctic circle by a couple hundred miles, but there is small mountain nearby that if you drive to the top you can see the sun for 24 hours straigh on the summer soltice. THe favorite solstice activity is a city wide charity run.

In the Winter, there is nearby town that holds an annual statewide contest to guess when the river will melt sufficiently to allow a bouy to float freely. This event is called "break-up".

leaning tower ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6817627)

An interesting addition to the "Fairbanks Trivia Game" is that in the early 1970's the local telephone company had a five story office building constructed as their headquarters downtown. When I was living there (1980-1985) it had become a three story building with multiple sub-basements. This due to a gross miscalculation of the amount of heat dispersed through the foundation and a rather large ice lense located directly below......
Alaska poses quite a chalenge to the typical idea of what is required to survive (as anyone who has spent a winter in a wood-heated cabin on Chena Ridge can tell you)

Re:CORRECTION TO WRITE-UP (1)

skookum (598945) | more than 10 years ago | (#6821666)

And people live there voluntarily, WHY?!?!?

Re:CORRECTION TO WRITE-UP (1)

Graelin (309958) | more than 10 years ago | (#6822113)

The government pays them. No, they really do [apfc.org].

Of course, you just have to live in the state to qualify for that. There really isn't much of anything to really do in Fairbanks (other than the hot springs next door). If you live there you probably hate your job. Or are going to school up at UAF (they have a super-computer, for whatever that's worth. It just tracks ocean crabs so I'd guess it's rather boring.)

You're much better off living in Anchorage. And after 12 years you'll realize nothing really happens there either - I know I did.

Re:CORRECTION TO WRITE-UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6821892)

And on a cold day you can actually throw hot coffee in the air and it fall to the ground as instant coffee.

From ~60' C to 0'C within 2 seconds? Somehow I doubt it...

Re:CORRECTION TO WRITE-UP (1)

Cy Guy (56083) | more than 10 years ago | (#6828433)

I didn't say that it froze in mid air, it is freeze dried - from the combination of cold and ultra low humidity.

Here are some references (best that I could find on short notice):


environmental impact (2, Insightful)

c0enzyme (221872) | more than 10 years ago | (#6814779)

Hopefully they have thought ahead with reguards to how they will dispose of this in the future.

I would have to have the worlds largest NiCad leak Cadmium into the Alaskan soil.

Re:environmental impact (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816445)

dude, if you're gonna worry about cadmium batteries, learn about the law. It requires them to be recycled.

Re:environmental impact (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816868)

dude, if you're gonna trust the law, learn about lawyers. They're just like cornered rats only not as friendly.

Re:environmental impact (1)

Red Rocket (473003) | more than 10 years ago | (#6817402)


Dude, in case you haven't noticed, the government isn't enforcing environmental law anymore.
Take mountaintop removal mining, for instance. The Clean Water Act says that you can't dump waste into a stream or degrade it's quality but coal mining corporations blast away entire mountain groups in a watershed and fill up the steams of Appalachia with the waste to the tune of about 1000 miles of streams completely lost and buried so far.
The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act says that a strip mine must return the land to it's "approximate original contour" unless the flattened land is to be used for some value-added purpose. The mining corporations claim the nearly sterile plains of grasslands they leave in place of hardwood forested mountains and streams are an improved "fish and wildlife habitat." Well, I guess there may be some fish left in those streams crushed underneath all that mining waste.
If you're gonna ding somebody for being concerned about whether an operation has their environmental ducks in a row, learn how the law is enforced in the real world.

Re:environmental impact (2, Insightful)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 10 years ago | (#6820079)

I would have thought one of those new industrial flywheels would have been a better solution...

A little math - what's the maglite equivalent? (4, Funny)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815186)

40MW for 7 minutes = 4.6 MWattHours. A D-cell is 12 AmpHours [umsystem.edu] * 1.5 = 18 WattHours, so this battery pack is equivalent to 260,000 D-cells. A D-cell is 60 mm long [batterieswholesale.com], so this is would be a Mag Light 9.6 Miles Long!. Here's an artist's rendering [maglite.com]

Re:A little math - what's the maglite equivalent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6817433)

That's not enough! I need more useless trivia! Bring it oN!

Re:A little math - what's the maglite equivalent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6820516)

A quick look at a catalog shows that a size D NiMh battery is 6.5 AH and a NiCd is 5 AH.

Re:A little math - what's the maglite equivalent? (1)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#6820693)

I was going with alkaline (for no particular reason - it's just an illustration and that number showed up more than once in my quickie google search), which goes up to 18AH [216.239.39.104].

The important question (4, Funny)

the darn (624240) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815243)

Does it emit a heart-stopping, ear-splitting banshee wail when it kicks in? Because the lights going off just isn't sufficent notice that the power is out...

Re:The important question (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 10 years ago | (#6821202)

UPS' do that so that when LOSERS unplug them by accident everyone knows.

I went to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks... (3, Informative)

Zarf (5735) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815401)

and one year there was a power outage on campus over christmas break. The called out the national guard. No kidding. They had to kick in back up generators and such to keep stuff from freezing up because it was sixty below.

Fortunately the city of Fairbanks was still with power and in a few hours they re-routed power to the University. This wasn't just good for keeping people from freezing in the dorms (the poor sots like me who didn't go home for the holidays) but it was very good for the Cray which was being threatened with imminent condesation...

If the whole city of Fairbanks lost power I wonder how people would have coped. I suppose families would have moved in together. Houses with wood stoves would have been very crowded... I wonder if there's even enough housing with other means of heating to support the whole town?

No problem... (2, Funny)

seanmeister (156224) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815536)

Once Fairbanks is hooked up to the Matrix, the other 68,000 people will serve as backup power when the NiCads punk out.

It's a start. Personally I prefer my own. (4, Informative)

nortcele (186941) | more than 10 years ago | (#6815673)

You can UPS some "critical" circuits in your own house for a much longer period of time by using a Whole House UPS [nooutage.com].

It will also keep your boat battery charged up for your next fishing trip. Note however, that this does not negate the need for some sort of a power filter on your computer. This would allow your gas appliances to work and your microwave.

Now I'm not a Y2K-store-Xyears-of-food-live-in-a-cave fruitcake. I just don't want to be the grasshopper, and I want to provide for my family during outages that seem more common than they should. An extended winter power-outage at -25deg F. adjusted my perspective. All you need is shelter/water/heat/food. Maybe a little love too...

Re:It's a start. Personally I prefer my own. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6817253)

Maybe a little love too... Microsoft AND virus free...

I can see how you want your love to be virus free - that's a reasonable line of thinking. But microsoft-free? I agree, but microsoft isn't quite the first assoication I make when I think of good-loving. It's more like good-loving and natalie portman.

ObFuturama Quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6824720)

I just don't want to be the grasshopper

"It's just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for the winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns. And also he got a racecar."

oh the humanity! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816088)

12,000 people for 7 minutes..
That's 12,000 * 7 = 84,000 people-minutes.

80,000 people, 84,000 people minutes..
Isn't that more than one minute of power, not less as someone stated?

'Tis a sad day when slashdot can't do algebra..

Re:oh the humanity! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#6816217)

That and Fairbanks has only 30,224 people as of the 2000 census. Ever think of verifying information before it makes it to the front page?

http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/GCTTable?ds_n ame=DEC_2000_SF1_U&geo_id=04000US02&_box_head_nbr= GCT-PH1&format=ST-7 [census.gov]

Does this make sense to anyone? (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 10 years ago | (#6816816)

Why back up power in a centralized location using batteries when you could just let each building back up itself? It's not like you're going to gain any efficiency using 13,760 NiCad cells in a central location instead of in 13,760 locations. Seems like a huge waste of money to me.

As for water pipes freezing in two hours, they don't freeze in 7 minutes while waiting for the backup generators to kick in.

Re:Does this make sense to anyone? (1)

Cecil (37810) | more than 10 years ago | (#6817448)

Will the buildings automatically power the heaters for the water mains? I doubt it, but it's possible that they would, or the mains don't need heating for some reason. I imagine they need the power to keep just the critical services running, not to actually power the entire city (despite what the article says).

On the other hand, it's important to note that while the backup generators may be able to come online within 7 minutes when they have a battery backup to power them, the situation becomes much more complex when the power is out for them as well. This was a major contributing factor in the recent north-eastern blackout. Generating stations have significant power demands of their own. Starting the diesel engines is not something that can be done by hand, and even if you have that handled with a battery, there is the issue of getting your multiple generators in phase with one another, which is a non-trivial process even when fully powered.

It commonly takes 2 hours or more to cold-start a reasonably sized generating station, probably even moreso in Alaska, as diesel engines are notoriously hard to start in cold weather. And after 2 hours, it'd be getting pretty cold.

Re:Does this make sense to anyone? (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 10 years ago | (#6818266)

Will the buildings automatically power the heaters for the water mains?

Isn't that what they do when the power is on?

I imagine they need the power to keep just the critical services running, not to actually power the entire city (despite what the article says).

Good point. The article doesn't actually say the power is for powering the entire city, just that it would be enough to power 12,000 people for 7 minutes. But then the whole frozen water pipe scenario seems to be but a minor issue. There's no way Golden Valley Electrical Association needs that much power just for the water pipes nearby. It still seems like it would make more sense to put the batteries closer to where the power is needed.

On the other hand, it's important to note that while the backup generators may be able to come online within 7 minutes when they have a battery backup to power them, the situation becomes much more complex when the power is out for them as well.

Well yeah, clearly there needs to be enough backup power to start the system back up again. But this still seems like overkill for that limited need.

This was a major contributing factor in the recent north-eastern blackout.

I remember joking about that during the blackout. The news was reporting that the computer system failed, and I wondered out loud whether it failed because there was no power available.

Starting the diesel engines is not something that can be done by hand, and even if you have that handled with a battery, there is the issue of getting your multiple generators in phase with one another, which is a non-trivial process even when fully powered.

I don't know, maybe you're right, but 40 megawatts of power seems like overkill to me even for fast-starting an entire power station.

Re:Does this make sense to anyone? (1)

KingArthur10 (679328) | more than 10 years ago | (#6821918)

One of the biggest issues with getting power stations started up is syncing them all together. B/c our power system uses alternating currents (AC), the frequencies have to be syncronized when bringing them online, or it can cause even more problems. That, I heard, was one of the biggest challanges of bringing the NE power back online when power plants were being knocked out and having to be reinitiated.

Re:Does this make sense to anyone? (1)

BigBadBri (595126) | more than 10 years ago | (#6829316)

err...

Savings in control circuitry?

Centralisation of diesel backup units?

Installation costs?

Maintenance costs?

I could no doubt think of more, but that's just what I thought up while typing the reply...

Notes from Fairbanks (1)

AKZeb (702489) | more than 10 years ago | (#6817484)

The city of Fairbanks has a population closer to 40,000. The surrounding small towns and military installations almost double that, but I don't they're included in the backup plan. I think the batteries are supposed to provide power to 12,000 hourseholds, rather than individuals. In the slightly more than 2 years that I've lived here in Fairbanks, I've noticed that the town is plagued by frequent brief interruptions in the power. Just enough to get all the clocks in the house blinking. The TV ads promoting this new battery backup building have emphasized that the blinking clock scourge will be coming to an end. And if the power does stay off for more than that 7 minutes, I'm ready with my kerosene heaters to keep my house and pipes above freezing temps.

Re:Notes from Fairbanks (1)

core plexus (599119) | more than 10 years ago | (#6820381)

I live in the Matanuska-Susitna valley a couple of hundred miles south of Fairbanks, and we get power glitches too. Sometimes all it takes is someone driving into a power pole or the frequent strong winds knocking over a tree. No battery backup would help us then, and that's why I long ago invested in alternate sources of heat and power.

It seems to me that the interruptions to power have been more frequent of late, but I used to work in the Bush a lot more, so maybe I didn't notice it, being so far from The Grid.

Speaking of which, I was glad to hear we (Alaska) aren't hooked up to the rest of the U.S. or Canada, so if they have a massive grid failure we might be ok. Or so they say...

-cp-

Why NiCads??? (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 10 years ago | (#6818258)

Why in the world use NiCads, with all of the toxic problems related to cadimum, when NiMH battery technology would have let them build safer batteries with about 3x the power capacity and without other NiCad problems like the memory effect? In two weeks will we read that this was just another hoax repeated on slashdot? (And why can't I find the story from last night of the hoax about the guy with his "new theory of time" either by scanning back articles or using the search tool and looking for words like hoax or "red flag"? I know it was there yesterday, was does it seem to be removed today?)

Re:Why NiCads??? (2, Interesting)

Zarquon (1778) | more than 10 years ago | (#6818625)

Because nicads can deliver greater currents than equivalent NiMH? When delivering full capacity in 7 minutes, you want something with a low internal resistance.

And please note that NiCADs have shown exactly _one_ verified situation that will cause the memory effect: Satellites. The batteries have to be discharged to _exactly_ the same level over and over to show the memory effect.

Most NiCADs suffer from overheating, overcharging, and simple wear and tear (most consumer batteries are designed for ~500-1000 cycles; and deep discharging actually makes things worse!)

NiCADs do have better energy density than most SLAs, but usually in bulk SLAs are much cheaper. NiCADs also have a much higher self-discharge rate. It would be interesting to see the Cost/Benefit analysis.

Re:Why NiCads??? (1)

krysith (648105) | more than 10 years ago | (#6818737)

it is here [slashdot.org]
Its in the Slashback section. The guys name is Peter Lynds.

Cheers,
krysith

Peter Lynds (0)

Anonymous Spammer (700974) | more than 10 years ago | (#6823234)

Thanks. I knew I had seen it, but lately I have been unable to find that and several other things that I'm certain I saw here with the search engine. I'm really at a loss to understand why the search engine is failing me, it used to work well, but lately it's been missing stuff that I know I've seen and should be able to search for easily.

Maybe a little power helps start the backup (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 10 years ago | (#6829238)

Just a shot in the dark, but maybe having an instant backup will allow them to reliably start up the backup generators? If the backups are gas driven, they could easily get cranky (no pun intended) if the power fails and the heat goes out.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...