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Steve Forbes: Bitcoin Not Money

rndmtim Re:Reasonably stable but not fixed (692 comments)

And yet, there are plenty of working currencies where this is not the case. In fact, I worked in Brazil in the mid-90's right after the transition from the cruzeiro to the real. Before that, the cruzeiro lost value at a regular rate, to the point where gas stations agreed to hold post dated checks for say 20, 30 or 50 days as a form of price discount (I was doing market research for Texaco). At one point the rate of inflation was well over 80% a month. The economy continued to function, and this rate of decline was simply built into everything. So the rate of change isn't even an insurmountable problem as long as that rate of change is fairly certain.

This seems part of a larger campaign by Forbes against QE and Abenomics in Japan... QE is meant to cause mild inflation to prevent deflation. Abenomics is a more aggressive form of that where the Japanese have outright said that they will print enough cash to hit a minimum inflation target.

about a year and a half ago
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Steve Forbes: Bitcoin Not Money

rndmtim Re:Bitcoins will be money... (692 comments)

......because you can currently pay your US taxes with yen.

about a year and a half ago
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Excessive Modularity Hindered Development of the 787

rndmtim Re:Interesting problem (200 comments)

Their modularity was set up to fail. I actually worked on a project for Boeing two years ago that was not Dreamliner related - ITAR protected so all I can vaguely say is it was a novel motor design for a crucial component that my former research adviser at RPI was the lead on. We were backfitting our new design into an existing motor compartment. As we got past the basic design, they then wanted an actual prototype to fit in a specific cavity, with some very specific power, speed, heat dissipation requirements and so on. We needed to match things like the mating spline, and we also needed our motor to lock into the existing space perfectly. Boeing did not own the original design, did not have access to the actual dimensions of the original motor - and the vendor in question didn't want to give the dimensions and was largely successful at saying no on this because it was their IP. Now granted we were academics working on something non-critical to their immediate success, but that tells you how far this process has gone for them in the wrong direction...

about a year ago
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Money Python: Florida Contest Offers Rewards In 2013 Everglades Python Hunt

rndmtim Re:Ex-python (132 comments)

I want to see Money Python's frying carcass.

about 2 years ago
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NYC Data Center Needs Focus On Fuel

rndmtim Re:you can't store 3 days of fuel at high floors (162 comments)

Not during an earthquake (or even a flood - Christie turned off gas lines to towns on the NJ coast to prevent fires.) Diesel is also easier to transport by truck. Either solution can causes problems with fires. And yeah, yeah, I know that you can drop a match in diesel, but these are generators - so there's plenty of juice nearby. I did forensics after Irene on the failure of an emergency generator at a spillway at our plant, and in thinking about backup power we had to consider an electrical fire igniting the small tank near the generator and that then igniting the much larger tank isolated outside. The 500kW egen is going into a MCC which is connected to a transformer, which, in an emergency could be part of a fault, so in a disruptive emergency even a diesel tank could go up.

Probably a better solution if the space exists is solar with batteries... virtually no moving parts, and assuming it's well strapped down should be operational post disaster and will never need a refuel.

about 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Cost (252 comments)

I was talking about the most efficient way to use a generator where you have to have a generator, and that would be off-grid or where UPS is needed.

On the 900MHz thing, it was a point to point tower. So they did not need to run fiber if they could get power. I think if they were running fiber there we'd have though of supplying power lines too.

On car inverters I am not talking about the _alternator_ or the regulator (which just rectifies the output from the variable frequency alternator, which is not 60/50Hz wall current, into DC at around 14V) - I was talking about cheap inverters that plug into the lighter socket on your car and provide 120V 60Hz (in the US) alternating current (AC) back for running crap like a laptop. Inverters are typically not built into cars.... I didn't think that would be unclear (since it was I'm not sure why I'm continuing to write the rest of this since you don't understand any of this stuff). The cheap inverters you buy having cheap switching components.

Lead acid batteries are not being considered in any serious way as an industrial storage mechanism. Pump hydro already exists, and we're trying out flow batteries (nasty chemicals but a close industrial loop), sodium sulfide cells (we've got a 6MWh storage system at a bus station in Long Island for time shifting), and even lithium ion if it can get an order of magnitude cheaper.

The reason power is cheap at night is because of technical limitations with our generation systems - Niagara runs because if it doesn't the water is gone. So for Niagara they build Lewiston pump hydro which allows that power to be load shifted to the next day. Most steam plants have a need to be started up and shut down gradually because of torsion on their shafts that go from multiple heat stages to the generator, so idling them entirely overnight is not practical. Nuke plants have the steam plant issues plus criticality requirements. All of these cause us to generate power at night which is what causes the cost differential. For generation that can be started or stopped quickly - gas fired turbines - this is not true. As more generation is made gas turbine the differential will disappear. This is actually an economic problem for the facility I work at. Anyway...

As for "safety"... I work in a 345kV power facility. I work with 500kW paralleling diesel e-gens for black start, in stators that run at 16.9 kV for 325MW power production, in a switchyard where 345kV lines are about 25 feet off the ground... I've also got solar at home. It is safer, if by safer you mean human safety... I don't have an arc flash distance of many feet on my 96VDC power. If you mean dependable or dispatchable I might go along with that.

You might be having a cognitive failure about what gives "redundancy". If you have a system that is 100% dispatched although you may have many many generators none of them is redundant. As it stands now on the grid (at least the part I know which is New York state) we have 18% excess capacity ready to go at any time, guessing what the power demand will be. However, the generation is all over the state, so there is the separate question of do we have excess transmission capacity, and at the moment that is usually barely enough for NYC metro. So a possible solution to the bottleneck is more local generation inside the NYC area. We're looking to do that with distributed generation (DG) - emergency generators at telecom central offices, other utilities, businesses with UPS, and yes, solar power. (There's also a plan for a 500kVDC cable from Albany to NYC under the Hudson... we currently run a 345kV underwater from one side of the Hudson to the other, and based on that I'd say the DG solution is... a tad less complex.)

As for "bad for the enviroment"... well, I'd say you really just don't want to know how the sausage is made... so you don't want to know about the underground PCB oil filled cables that still exist in many urban areas (because there is no viable alternative) or the SF6 gas breakers that we use, that can theoretically decompose into SF10 (a neurotoxin similar to phosgene) and is 23000 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than C02 (again, no viable alternative so we've got a waiver) or the lead, mercury and other crap you're currently getting from the coal plants... jeez, what stupid argument that is. Assuming solar has to be made as it is now from silicon wafers (which is not necessarily true for solar PV and has nothing to do with with concentrating solar), it is possible to do that more cleanly than burning coal... I worked in a chip fab in New Jersey that did gallium arsenide chip fab and we recovered all of that nasty crap like chloroform from the water and recycled it. Easy to do in a manufacturing facility, nearly impossible when you're in a combustion facility because of the amount of mass flow you're dealing with.

Btw, everything fails. Things with no moving parts tend to fail less. Where heating and cooling cycling make things that aren't supposed to move move they do fail more, but all things being equal the solid state devices work a lot better than their electo mech equivalents... which is why we can do things with switching components that we could never do before in motors, generators, statcoms, cap banks... so if you've got a solar facility, things are failing continuously, as they are at every power facility in the world, all of the time - but the failures are insignificant, unlike say when we have a water blockage from a broken flow switch paddle cause a heat exchanger to fail to cool oil on a bearing in a 325MW stator.... Or any one of the literally thousands of other points of failure from that 325MW generator - cooling systems, wicket gates, spherical valves that have thousands of valves themselves, electrical control systems, breakers... and I'm talking just a hydro generator which is dead simple compared to a coal plant, which in turn is far simpler than a nuke plant. If you are saying solar of any type has similar complexity you simply don't know what you're talking about. But that was clear.

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Night? (252 comments)

Exactly. Also there are studies showing if you can integrate wind over a large enough area you basically get a flat 27% of nameplate capacity 99% of the time. Pump hydro (or another storage technology) just needs to be there on some scale to level the rest. And it's not like every gas turbine needs to be demo'd... we've typically got 18% spare capacity for dispatch in the US, I imagine it's the same in Europe (or more).

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Night? (252 comments)

You're claiming there's a shortage of mountains in Europe?

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Night? (252 comments)

BG (Blenheim Gilboa) - the pump hydro I work at - does 16GWh.
This is its pond ("landlocked" body of water on the right):
http://goo.gl/maps/srKH2

As you can see, less than a square mile. If you look at the Walmart in nearby Cobleskill that takes up about 1/10 the land area (which serves probably a population of 10 or 20k, to think about whether this is a viable use of land). That's with about 1000 ft of head. But that's a lot. Here's Lewiston's:
http://goo.gl/maps/HUhsx

Not a lot bigger, but actually has 4 times the volume and stores half as much energy total, given its head of 70-120 feet.
http://www.wnypapers.com/news/article/current/2010/07/03/100238/nypa-to-upgrade-lewiston-pump-generating-plant

If you streetview in the area from the bridge you can see this. They took an area that is basically flat and used a marginal hill, and turned it into a reservoir with earth berms.
(Streetview: http://goo.gl/maps/0uddr)

You need say 4 more BG's or 8 more Lewistons to cover the NYC metro (about 1/30th of US population) at night assuming solar PV only. If you add a mix of wind (which generates variably but does generate at night) over wide geographic areas, and concentrating solar power towers that generate at night, that greatly reduces the amount of storage needed to maybe double what NY State has currently. But just assuming solar PV, we've got an upper limit of say about two square miles (given upper and lower reservoirs) of surface per million people if you pick areas with ~100 feet of head. I think we might have ruled out Delaware. That's about it. But they've got Maryland.

We're 125 mi from NYC. We're also its black start facility. I.e., at worst 125 miles is a reasonable distance for this storage on the bulk electric system (but in reality hundreds of miles is certainly viable.) So in physical terms, you're wrong. The reason we're not currently doing this more is that natural gas seems to be cheaper and newer gas plants are almost as responsive as we are (effectively making them swing generation). When gas isn't $2 mmBTU this will probably no longer be true.

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Night? (252 comments)

Don't know where you think you got your information on where pump hydro can work; Lewiston is a pump hydro at Niagara Falls... if you've ever visited the Buffalo area that's where the midwest begins. It's flat. The topology needed could be found in probably every state in the country (about 200 feet of head). That reservoir is almost entirely a man made creation (earth berms).

Pump hydro needs 1.3 MWh for every 1 MWh returned to the grid later. That is true end to end efficiency. It's comparable to any battery in efficiency, but is several orders of magnitude cheaper than batteries. We just LEM'd (life extension and maintenance) our pump hydro plant (16GWh delivered at 1.2GW) after 40 years in service at a cost of $135M.

http://www.nypa.gov/press/2010/100610a.html

Probably this plant was say $1.3Bn one time cost to build in 2012 dollars (based on Bath County being 50% bigger at $1.7Bn); I know we were about ~$100M in 1970. That's a one time cost... since we pump and gen we don't develop silting issues. We cost $11M to run annually, because we're a bureaucracy. We could be run full auto or at a much lower staff. Still, that's 16GWh at >$.001/Wh annually. This is why global capacity of pump hydro is increasingly quickly in areas with lots of renewables (the EU is adding about 30% more capacity by 2020).

But anyway, there's also molten salt Stirling engine solar, which can't ramp (because of heat constraints), and in effect can run all night... eliminating the need for any external storage.
http://inhabitat.com/nevadas-new-molten-salt-solar-plant-will-produce-power-long-after-the-sun-sets/

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Night? (252 comments)

I've no idea where you come up with 1MWh/person. That's ludicrous. For a household, 20kWh is sufficient... I've got 10kWh in my off grid capable system - SLA batteries, and I can run continuously in April - Sept off of 3440W of solar (I did this in June during a blackout and forgot to switch back for 4 days). With the other 10kWh and another 2kW of solar I could run all winter (I've got a backup generator that gets used during heavy winter storms). This is for me and my girlfriend living on a farm, with a refrigerator, freezer, well pump, electric ignite oil furnace and water heater, and electric dryer. Sealed lead acid has a daily use life of 3-5 years. I'm going to upgrade in a year or so to some form of LiIon, which will go 6000 charge cycles, about the life of my panels. That 6000 charge cycle life, btw, is the cycles until the charge capacity goes down by 30% - which matters a great deal on an electric car, but for a house means you add more batteries. Anyway, if you're keeping track that's 10kWh/person.

Industrial and commercial facilities are going to have industrial solutions, like pump hydro or flow batteries. I work at a pump hydro plant in upstate NY, and we store 16GWh of power, which is enough to run NYC metro for two hours under normal load conditions. We've got 150 people working here... because we're a bureaucracy... but we could do this with 10. There are dozens of locations that could be built for this up here (my organization runs another pump hydro in the state but we originally were going to build 12). In other words, there are no technical reasons NY state could not be 100% renewables, right now... it would probably double the cost of our electricity in the short run. OTOH, eventually we'd need no fuel.

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:It helps... (252 comments)

I remember reading about that... but when you think about it, once you've covered heat and electricity, you only need hydrogen for transportation. You'd be doing an electrolysis process of some kind to get it - but if I'm not mistaken a large percentage of people there live in metro Reykjavik, might as well just do electric cars directly for most of that.

Natural gas barely makes economic sense to transport as LNG (when you're all in for the tankers and other infrastructure); hydrogen is less energy dense than that and harder to deal with. If they were going to transport that energy content, aluminum is an excellent way to go. They also could in theory make natural gas/propane or another fuel like it with hydrogen to transport, but something solid like fertilizer is probably easier to do for the $. A high energy, value added export product is probably better than moving the energy to another location.

more than 2 years ago
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Tokelau Becomes First Country To Go 100% Solar

rndmtim Re:Cost (252 comments)

Spoken like you superficially know what you're talking about.

I've got solar panels with batteries. Modern inverters can support autostarting generators. However, since the batteries are the primary power source, I can now run a generator at its best set point - say 95% of nominal rating - instead of running the generator for hours at 30% load just to keep one or two things running. The only time I'll really need the generator is when I have a seasonal shortfall, say in Dec and its shoulder months when the days are shorter (otherwise I'd have to size for too much power in June). However, this country is near the equator, so that effect is nearly non-existent. It's also in the Pacific. They'll probably barely need a generator. If anyone decides to use a large load at night they can run the generator then (sudden interest in night welding?). The diesel consumed will be a tiny percentage of what it would have been even in that scenario.

In fact, in most off-grid locations solar is a tremendous cost savings over using generators alone, even in situations where a generator is required for regulatory reasons... I'm working on this now for antenna setups with a 900MHz last mile internet company in mountains in upstate NY. You'll note this isn't Florida... a lot of people ask about snow. Solar panels actually get hot through snow (about 10-20C warmer than ambient) - snow isn't a perfect block of solar energy and since panels are usually angled at latitude degrees (say 44 where I am at 44N) the snow tends to slide off. No idea what other maintenance you could think you were talking about unless the panels are flat mounted (this is done in urban areas, and involves hosing off dirt... mostly from air pollution... from dirtier forms of energy.)

As noted by others, current tech EROEI (energy returned on energy invested) is now down to as little as two years, and further tech advances could move this even shorter... panels are warranteed for 20 years, and may go considerably longer.

Excess power eh?... How is that supposed to happen exactly? Someone who couldn't do math in sizing? Reflections from snow? Increase in conductivity because it's so cold? Things things lead to voltage and current higher than original rating. I doubt any of this is the case there.

Currently replacing an inverter in my power plant that has been in service since 1972. Also, that was before modern power electronics. Shitty inverters you buy for your car have shitty components.

more than 2 years ago
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NC Planners May Be Barred From Using Speculative Sea Level Rise Predictions

rndmtim Re:1 meter is pretty nuts (419 comments)

Yep. They had the same problem with the first atomic bomb... some estimates said we'd lose all of New Mexico. Luckily, it was just a city sized area. Obviously since they couldn't compute a blast radius with certainty, there was nothing to worry about. Huzzah. So in this case, let's let AGW play out, and then we'll know how bad the flooding is, and next time we can plan with certainty!

more than 2 years ago
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NC Planners May Be Barred From Using Speculative Sea Level Rise Predictions

rndmtim Re:Since when is "around" 1/3 off... (419 comments)

Wow, what a reading comprehension fail. Thing is, with the 1m projection out there, people could have decided "I don't believe it" or "I don't care" (maybe they'd be dead in 10 years). But the scientific prediction is what it is, and as others have mentioned this is always going to be +/-, and the +/- might be quite a lot... so far some things predicted have actually been quite a bit worse.

Anyway, what NC did was say that it can't be considered. Quite amazing, actually. So anywhere else, say NY or California or Texas, you can choose to say AGW is bullshit or even it's true but I don't believe it will get me, and someone will be quite happy to see a sucker coming and sell to you... there may be all kinds of waivers and special insurance and whatever. In NC, it's all out denial as a matter of policy. And it is a Republican policy.

Oh, and the current theory is that there isn't a reasonable estimate devoid of guesswork (they aren't deliberately adding the hyperbole.) That's the nature of pouring lots of heat into a heat engine... chaotic shit happens.

Anyway, as someone who works at a hydro plant uphill of a bunch of deniers who just got a massive 200 year flood, I say fuck it, build away man. I will enjoy watching Texas become an ever more perfect desert, and Florida build a true Atlantis. We're locked into to being fucked, but my area is less fucked than the south is, so if it can't be good I can at least enjoy the schadenfreude.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Degree For a Late Career Boost?

rndmtim Re:MBA might be a good choice. (234 comments)

Nope, it's the thought process being taught that's rotten. It's like a degree in applied demolition engineering for companies. The better you are at it, the worse the company will be in 5 years.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Degree For a Late Career Boost?

rndmtim Re:MBA might be a good choice. (234 comments)

Depends. Aside from the undergrad - many years, much bullshit for the older student (I say this having done an electrical engineering degree starting at 33) the masters is (at least in the US) going to usually pay for itself in under 5 years (my masters was also in electrical engineering.) The MBA in this situation might not just increase your salary, it might also open opportunities that simply would not otherwise be there. It might. OTOH, I also know people with MBAs for whom the degree did nothing at all, because they could not look like convincing business people.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Degree For a Late Career Boost?

rndmtim Re:MBA might be a good choice. (234 comments)

This is true, but you better be willing and able to play a much more political game inside your organization. A lot of tech people can't or won't for a variety of reasons. If you haven't been developing those people/networking skills by the time you're in your 40's, making use of where that IT MBA could allow you to go is going to be difficult.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Degree For a Late Career Boost?

rndmtim Re:Glass Ceiling @40s (234 comments)

That might be true, but at a lot of companies the resumes also need to travel the HR GI tract and you can't get there without paper credentials. I was in exactly this situation in 2003... I was 33 (so I'm about the same age as the poster). I had a well paid job doing sizing, db installation, network troubleshooting, tech docs, etc. When I started thinking about migrating to another company, I realized no one who hadn't had direct experience working with me was going to hire me, because just like the poster I'd start doing database stuff in the mid-90's when the only qualification was that you could figure it out on your own.

At the time a lot of companies were hosting all of their own stuff for HR, time keeping, accruals, etc... I figured at some point that would wind up in India or elsewhere. I had decent skills on Oracle and SQL, some on DB2, figured they were worth nothing down the line... and I'd never been a coder. So I went back to school. But I decided any more technical path I went down, I'd be competing with off-shoring... the path for people my age in the US seemed to be mostly managing projects that were largely made overseas. So finally I decided to become an electrical engineer, and do power engineering, particularly renewables... and I'm much happier, and feel that my technical skills are rock solid now in a career that can never be off-shored (and I've got 12 years of tech project management which does translate). Basically, if you've made the decision to go back to school, you've made the decision to probably switch careers in some way. You might as well consider whether you might want to wind up in a totally different place.

more than 2 years ago

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