June 23, 2017

"California invested heavily in solar power. Now there's so much that other states are sometimes paid to take it."

The L.A. Times reports.
When there isn’t demand for all the power the state is producing, CAISO [the California Independent System Operator, which runs the electric grid and shares responsibility for preventing blackouts and brownouts] needs to quickly sell the excess to avoid overloading the electricity grid, which can cause blackouts. Basic economics kick in. Oversupply causes prices to fall, even below zero. That’s because Arizona has to curtail its own sources of electricity to take California’s power when it doesn’t really need it, which can cost money. So Arizona will use power from California at times like this only if it has an economic incentive — which means being paid....
This is complicated! Why don't they store the extra in batteries? They don't know how yet.

Meanwhile:

86 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Brilliant Bricolage. And we can use it to power the electrocutions of drug dealers.

Michael K said...

Back when Arizona passed S 2010, Los Angeles was going to boycott Arizona. The City Council staffers had to tell the Council that LA got 25% of its electricity from AZ and the boycott ended.

Now, they can boycott again but only during the day when the sun is put.

OK with me as it will help with the A/C.

AllenS said...

"I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse. We'll take your extra solar power to provide electricity for our wall, and you'll pay for it." -- DJ Trump

MikeR said...

Yeah, it's a big problem with solar power. We just aren't good enough yet at storing power, or transporting it long distances. You get solar power when it's daytime, and when it's sunny. But you need power all the time, completely reliably, so you have to have alternate power sources (fossil fuels, nuclear, hydroelectric) that work all the time. Once you have them, there isn't that much left for solar (wind is even worse) to do.
The price of solar is dropping steadily, but that isn't enough.
OTOH, eventually some of these other obstacles will come down. I'm guessing by mid-century. People who imagine that fossil fuel use is going to keep rising aren't right either.

traditionalguy said...

The day the Government can control the Sun and charge a tax for using it, that will be the day that Carbon based fuels are phased out.

Bad Lieutenant said...

This is complicated! Why don't they store the extra in batteries? They don't know how yet

One answer is to use hydroelectric potential, using surplus power to raise water levels so it can drive generators later. But hydro, dams, water management, is evil now for some reason, unless it's for a good cause, i.e. supporting life in LA and SF.

Ralph L said...

Get everyone to recharge his electric car during lunch by making it free.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Seems odd that they would need to pay other states to take it. How hard would it be to just dump it to ground? Drive two metal rods into the ground some appropriate distance apart, and when you have too much, just send it there.

Levi Starks said...

Here's the thing....
Solar cell manufacturing is extremely energy intensive, so much so that we are just now reaching the point that a solar cell will return in energy (over its lifetime) the amount of energy consumed to manufacture it. Most solar cells are manufactured in China where energy is cheap. Why is it cheap in china? Because last year 62% of it came from coal.
When you step outside the "we need to prove we're more green than you bubble" it's apparent that California is paying Arizona to burn Chinese coal.

Ray said...

Solar Panels are cheaper due to over capacity in China. Plus technology improvements reduce the cost each year. Installation cost is about 50%.

Unfortunately battery technology is not improving as fast. Plus you need to replace the batteries about every 5 years.

Power plants need to be kept online due to swings in solar production.

A gut feeling is the article is incomplete. My guess is there is more issues with transmission lines not mentioned and nimby.

Another article from a year ago.
http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/california-electricity-shortage-issues/

Ralph L said...

Solar cell manufacturing is extremely energy intensive, so much so that we are just now reaching the point that a solar cell will return in energy (over its lifetime) the amount of energy consumed to manufacture it.
Strangely, that wasn't in the brochure.

Dennis Novak said...

We have had efficient methods of storing large amounts of electricity, and have been using them for decades. It's called "pumped storage." You pump water uphill and store it in a reservoir. Then, when you need it, you release it through turbogenerators. It is very efficient. The problem is, that the useable sites in Californica are all taken, and their environmental permitting problems are so severe, we'll all have townhouses on the Moon before the permits are issued.

mike c said...

There are so many dumb ideas in the LA times article that it is difficult to know where to begin. I'll just pick one. During sometimes in the winter, California is paying other states about $20 to $50/MWH [2-5 cents/KWH] to get rid of electricity. At the same time, they are paying home owners up to 20 cents/KWH to generate the electricity from rooftop solar panels.

What could the solution be? This is really difficult! Oh wait, I just thought of something. How about not paying homeowners to generate the electricity when it's worthless! Laugh Out Loud!

Please, everyone be aware that Nevada has stopped paying retail price to homeowner to generate electricity. They only now pay wholesale or about 6 cents/kwh. Consequently, the installation of solar panels in Nevada has stopped. So much for the nonsense that solar panels make economic sense. I wonder when California will figure this out.

n.n said...

Chemical batteries are toxic and short-lived. The alternative consumes large tracts in order to marginally isolate the "green" technologies from the environment (e.g. intermittent solar, variable convection). "Green" technology is neither green nor renewable nor can the converters provide stable energy production.

Before the culprit was farming and ranching. I wonder if the green blight is the reason for current sardine policy that packs people in high-density population centers, which is, ironically, a first-order cause of catastrophic local and perhaps regional warming. Well, that, and excessive immigration, including illegal and refugees of clean wars.

Static Ping said...

You cannot run a reliable power grid if your source is either erratic (solar during the day) or non-existent (solar during the night). Until they can turn solar power into something that can mimic the electric production of fossil fuels, nuclear, and/or hydroelectric, it's never going to be anything other than an expensive gimmick and virtue signal paid for by people who can least afford it. The fact that it is now a less expensive gimmick is not particularly reassuring.

There's a reason why California's electricity is expensive. If you look at the map of the average price of electricity in the United States by state, the entire continental United States is around the national average except for the Northeast and California, both of which stick out. It's rare to see a map that definitive. (Alaska and Hawaii have the most expensive electricity, but both of those states have unique challenges.)

Henry said...

There's good information in the article about the perverse incentives offered by the state to the utilities to build new power plants.

JHapp said...

And once they figure out energy storage, there will be that Homer D'oh moment when they realize they should have been capturing lightning instead.

Peter said...

This appears to be a variation on the "net metering" scam that solar promoters like to force onto electric utilities, whereby the utilities are reguired to pay retail price for whatever power a solar-equipped homeowner wishes to sell, whenever the homeowner wishes to sell it (even if the utility doesn't want or need it). (It's called "net metering" because one pays for the difference between the power one takes from the utility and the power one supplies to it).

Of course, the utility still remains responsible for selling power to the homeowner whenever the homeowner demands it. And (of course) the homeowner shouldn't be burdened with an "excessive" monthly charge for this backup service.

Utilities are then accused of being "anti-solar" when they demand adequate compensation for being forced to buy whenever sellers wish to sell (at full retail price, of course), and also to sell whenever buyers wish to buy. Apparently when this is attempted at utility-scale and between states it doesn't work so well.

As for storing power, there are methods other than batteries. For example, water can be pumped uphill and stored in a high reservoir until power is needed, then used to operate a hydro turbine generator when there's demand. Or, power can be used to compress air, and the compressed air used to power electric generators.

Of course (and like batteries) all these methods have losses (both due to round-trip losses and storage losses), but, they are available and at utility scale. At a price (capital and operating costs), of course.

Fen said...

Ray: "a gut feeling that the article is incomplete"

Smart man. A liberal paper promoting state renewables? Very likely that they aren't giving you the full story.

I scanned the article rather quickly, but found no mention that California imports 40% of its energy from out of state.

In an article about exporting excess energy, you'd think that fact would be mentioned someehere. It's not.

Which makes me wonder what else they left out of the article.

Biotrekker said...

Why not just shut off the solar panels when not needed?

Bruce Hayden said...

"There are so many dumb ideas in the LA times article that it is difficult to know where to begin. I'll just pick one. During sometimes in the winter, California is paying other states about $20 to $50/MWH [2-5 cents/KWH] to get rid of electricity. At the same time, they are paying home owners up to 20 cents/KWH to generate the electricity from rooftop solar panels."

I am perfectly happy to have CA help subsidize AZ power costs. First summer for our new house in AZ, and I wasn't really budgeting in the full cost of cooling it In almost 120 degree heat. Brand new, most modern insulation, Windows, etc. Big though (we have too much stuff). Next bill will probably break $400. Partner had said to just set the thermostats to 80 round the clock when we weren't there. This week, she admitted (without, of course actually admitting that she had been wrong), that we should only be cooling at night, and getting on one of those variable rate plans that charge a lot less at night. She reminded me that this is what I had done before, with the house that I had bought from her better than 15 years ago.

Fen said...

"Chemical batteries are toxic and short lived"

Solar panels too. As they decay, they leak toxic chemicals into the soil. So expensive hazmat clean up is needed and most the solar companies that installed those panels are conveniently bankrupt.

Who is going to pay for the cleanup?

The Drill SGT said...

Peter already made most of my points. But to emphasize, CA forces utilities to pay retail prices to homeowners for power the utilities can't use, and at the same time, the utility must maintain gas power plants as back-up that it doesnt use. The result is that:

1. rich and middle class farm tax advantages
2. poor people pay higher rates
3. the grid is unstable
------------
Biotrekker said...

Why not just shut off the solar panels when not needed?

because the owners of the panels make money and the utility is mandated to buy their power even when it is wasted.

because

Michael K said...

"Partner had said to just set the thermostats to 80 round the clock when we weren't there. "

We set the thermostat at 79 when we ARE there !

This month the bill was about $300. That's after we replaced all he doors and windows.

It's only for a couple of months.

When you come into a house at 79 from outside when it is 117, it feels cool.

Gabriel said...

The cheapest way to "store electricity" is in the form of water behind a dam. Consequently, sources that are not reliable baseload power, like wind and solar, have the effect of pushing hydropower off the grid, since the water that would be used for generating electricity no longer is.

The next cheapest way is to have natural gas plants as part of the grid, since they can be started and stopped more easily. In areas without significant hydro this is how the load is balanced, by building more natural gas plants along with the wind and solar.

Batteries do not even come close to next cheapest.

Even from the perspective of lowering carbon dioxide emissions, wind and solar create perverse incentives.

Now in fairness, France at 80% nuclear has the same problem, nuclear plants do not start on shut down on demand so they frequently have to pay Belgium or Spain to take their excess power. However, their carbon dioxide emissions are pretty low since they are 80% nuclear.

Denmark can be 80% wind because they are plugged into Germany's coal plants. Germany buys the green wind power, burnishes its halo, and Denmark never has to worry about load balancing since Germany provides them with their reliable baseload power. But the US does not have a much larger neighbor whose grid it can plug into.

Gabriel said...

@Biotrekker:Biotrekker said...

Why not just shut off the solar panels when not needed?


Because you don't get the production tax credit. The solar panels would never have been built if the utility did not get a tax credit for producing solar power.

Bonneville Power Administration has the same problem in spring in the Pacific Northwest. It's windy, and the rivers are full of water. So the wind energy is not needed, the grid is already full of hydro power. But the wind farms cannot get their production credits, so BPA is legally obligated to buy the wind power and pay someone else to take the hydro power.

Expat(ish) said...

@Bruce - I was startled the first summer here in South West Florida (SWF) when my electricity bill more than doubled from $115 to $300+. We have solar reflecting film on our big windows and keep the blinds down in the others. Plus we do have shade and a daily rainstorm.

But still.

I bet you could use solar cells to run a swamp cooler and that would have fast payback....

-XC

Gabriel said...

BPA, by the way, is not an evil private corporation, but a benevolent arm of the all-wise Federal government. And yet, they are forced to buy power that no one needs and pay other people to take power that they don't need.

Bill R said...

This is what happens when you have power systems designed by politicians who, almost to a man, are technical and economic illiterates.

TestTube said...

Here's an idea: Why not tailor the loads to supply? Two ideas come to mind:

Install a thermal mass in places occupied by people, then supercool the thermal mass when electricity is cheap. When energy costs rise, use the thermal mass as a heatsink to maintain comfortable temperatures.

Cryptocurrency mining requires lots of electrical energy -- indeed, one of the main factors taken into consideration -- but it is not time sensitive. Run your bitcoin mining rigs when the electricity is dirt cheap, then shut them down when it gets expensive. Heck, the utilities could do this themselves to dump surplus power and make money off of it.

Todd said...

Levi Starks said...

California is paying Arizona to burn Chinese coal.

6/23/17, 8:18 AM


That NEEDS to be on a t-shirt and a bumper sticker!

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

Todd said...
Levi Starks said...

California is paying Arizona to burn Chinese coal.


That NEEDS to be on a t-shirt and a bumper sticker!


It's worse than that. It's nearly impossible to build any power source in CA, except wind and solar. So to supply base load needs, CA runs an extension cord to AZ, and buys coal power from the Navajo's

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navajo_Generating_Station

Henry said...

A while back I did some research and writing on power generation in New York State. In New York State it was prohibitively expensive to build a new power plant. So power companies had a huge incentive to support conservation, especially peak energy consumers.

The downside of this was probably a leaner, less-robust grid.

California did not get the memo.

The Drill SGT said...

Henry said...
California did not get the memo.


Your faulty assumption is that the Dem Legislature response to economic laws instead of political talking points...

n.n said...

Enron redux with environmentally disruptive, non-renewable energy converters that cannot be reasonably isolated from the environment. Another financial product a la Obamacare that confuses cause and effect and creates an unsustainable perception of reality a la Planned Parenthood/abortion/cannibalism.

chuck said...

Germany has the same problem and uses the Czech Republic and Slovakia as dumping grounds. Germany and California suck as neighbors.

Michael said...

The solution is to manufacture cheap panels in the U.S. that look like solar panels but which do nothing but signal the virtue of those living beneath the roof. Problem solved for everybody except the Chinese.

BrianE said...

"Bonneville Power Administration has the same problem in spring in the Pacific Northwest. It's windy, and the rivers are full of water. So the wind energy is not needed, the grid is already full of hydro power. But the wind farms cannot get their production credits, so BPA is legally obligated to buy the wind power and pay someone else to take the hydro power." - Gabriel

I believe the windmill companies sued BPA to require them to buy the power. BPA had offered to give them the electricity from the dams to sell to their customers, but the windmill companies only receive federal subsidies if they are producing power, so that was rejected. The windmill companies argued that the dam operators should spill more water to reduce their power production, but the dam operators couldn't do that because the turbulence would raise the oxygen content of the water above federal levels and potentially kill salmon. The windmill companies said they should do it anyway. I think it was settled when FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) required BPA to pay negative rates (pay the windmill companies to accept the power).

BrianE said...

There is a way to store energy from solar and wind-- but the environmentalists would never go for it.

During peak production, use the excess power to pump water up to a reservoir, then when the power is needed run the water back down through a low head hydro plant.

Henry said...

Your faulty assumption is that the Dem Legislature response to economic laws instead of political talking points...

I think that was the very point I was making.

Henry said...

But, I also think that it is the nature of public-private partnerships, so beloved by regulators, to incentivize the creation of perverse incentives.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

BrianE said...

There is a way to store energy from solar and wind-- but the environmentalists would never go for it.

California should build a giant flywheel. Probably a couple miles across. Get it spinning really fast on bright sunny days, then use it to drive generators at night and when it is cloudy. Of course, it should be located near the greatest demand, such as a major city. Probably on a fault line. And of course, built by the lowest bidder.

JAORE said...

"We have had efficient methods of storing large amounts of electricity, and have been using them for decades. It's called "pumped storage." You pump water uphill and store it in a reservoir. Then, when you need it, you release it through turbogenerators. It is very efficient. "

May be "very efficient" definitions, but:
- It's still a net loss of pumping, pipe losses and generation efficiency.
- Location, location, location. How many solar plants are located next to a high site capable of holding large quantities of water?
- How many smaller water holding sites are well thought of when the water level has a substantial change in water height on a frequent basis?
- Where in California will the posers that be allow the drilling, pipeline construction and dam building for this option?

Heck, all you have to do is follow the lead of Mr. E. Musk. He'd be in the hydro storage and generation business if it would work under massive subsidies. Nope, he is in the battery biz. Federal and state subsidies will flow to battery storage no matter the current efficiency.

Original Mike said...

Blogger Levi Starks said..."Solar cell manufacturing is extremely energy intensive, so much so that we are just now reaching the point that a solar cell will return in energy (over its lifetime) the amount of energy consumed to manufacture it."

Is this really true? Do you have a reference or two I could read? If true, it shreds the idea of solar energy reducing global warming.

Fred Drinkwater said...

About six years ago I was in a diligence committee, considering an investment in a startup that was supplying "green" backup power to the many huge warehouse operations in the CA central valley. Superficially it looked reasonable, but a closer look at their books showed that it worked only because of various legislated mandates, subsidies, and tax breaks.
Someone in the room remarked "So, we are not really considering investing in this business. What we are really considering is investing in the stability and rationality of the CA legislature."
Cue thoughtful expressions.
As far as I know everyone walked away from that deal.

tcrosse said...

Location, location, location. How many solar plants are located next to a high site capable of holding large quantities of water?

Or the availability of large quantities of water ? Think desert Southwest.

Levi Starks said...

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2013/april/pv-net-energy-040213.html

https://phys.org/news/2016-12-solar-panels-repay-energy-debt.html

There is a much longer Stanford study which details all the inputs and outputs.

For the record, I love solar energy there are about 700 wats sq meter of energy that hit the earths surface. Photovoltaic cells only convert a small portion <20% to electrical energy.

Instead of subsidizing solar cells, I would prefer the money was spent on research into both higher efficiency solar cells, and other ways of harnessing direct solar energy.

Unknown said...

Solar cell manufacturing is extremely energy intensive

Back in the 90s an article in an AIP journal pointed out that it takes thirty years to recover the production cost (in terms of energy) of photovoltaics, which means solar is not green energy by any stretch of the imagination. I'd expect this is better now, but an actual numerical estimate is hard to find. Funny thing indeed.

Original Mike said...

Thanks Levi. Appreciate it.

re: solar cell efficiency, I was under the impression there's not a lot more to be gained w.r.t. theoretical limits (though I'd appreciate references on that too, if you've got 'em). OTOH, that's not to say that energy spent manufacturing them might not be ripe for improvements.

Fen said...

"I'd prefer the money was spent researching higher efficiency solar cells - "

I'd prefer the money was spent researching a new energy source, dropping solar.

I forget who said it: "if the government had been in charge of handling polio, we'd currently have the best iron lung money could buy, instead of a cure"

Michael K said...

"So to supply base load needs, CA runs an extension cord to AZ, and buys coal power from the Navajo's"

That is where 25% of LA's electricity comes from. And they were going to boycott AZ.

But the EPA decided to poison the Navajos, instead.

Gabriel said...

@JAORE:

May be "very efficient" definitions, but:
- It's still a net loss of pumping, pipe losses and generation efficiency.


There is no competition to pumped storage that comes close.

Location, location, location. How many solar plants are located next to a high site capable of holding large quantities of water?

Don't need to be close. Just need to be on the same grid as a dam that produces hydro power.

e'd be in the hydro storage and generation business if it would work under massive subsidies.

Every dam is already in the hydro storage and generation business.

Earnest Prole said...

Markets are wonderful things.

Gabriel said...

@Michael K: CA runs an extension cord to AZ

And to Washington, the Pacific coast DC intertie. A lot of Washington's hydro power goes to California.

mockturtle said...

I have solar on my motorhome and a charge controller prevents it from overcharging the batteries. I know nothing about electricity but it would seem like a simple fix.

Ken B said...

Whoever mentioned the best way to store power is in elevated water is right. Possibly pumping a reservoir with the power?

John said...

As several people have mentioned, the idea of "Net Metering" is insane.

I developed an industrial cogeneration plant in the 80's. Stunning from an engineering/economic standpoint, it ran aground on the shoals of utility company obstreperousness. (See Alcon v PREPA for gory details.)

Under federal law utilities are required to buy power from "Qualifying Facilities" (QFs) at "Avoided Cost".

The cost of generating electricity varies by time of day and load. When the base load plant is running 100%, it is cheapest. When it is over 100% and they bring gas turbines on line, it can be much more expensive. 5-10 times more in some cases.

Avoided cost is what it would cost the utility to generate and distribute the power that a QF is supplying. It will be considerably less for a highly variable small scale supplier like a solar house than for a 20-30MW industrial plant.

It still isn't morally right as it forces the utility to take power it may not want but economically it is the only way to do it.

Net metering is stupidity on stilts.

John Henry

John said...

Blogger Original Mike said...

Thanks Levi. Appreciate it.

re: solar cell efficiency, I was under the impression there's not a lot more to be gained w.r.t. theoretical limits


I am not a big believer in theoretical limits. They focus on telling us what we can't do rather than what we can.

Moore's law has been declared to have reached it's theoretical limit every few years for the past 25 years or so.

Henry Ford was told that the V-8 engine and plate glass were theoreitically impossible but he was too ignorant to believe the theoreticians.

The sound barrier used to be theoretically impossible to break.

And so on.

Focus on the positive, not on the negative.

John Henry

John said...

Every dam is already in the hydro storage and generation business.

Yes, and not to knock it, but have you ever been to Hoover Dam? Very impressive and generates a lot of electricity.

But a shockingly small amount relative to what it cost to build and operate. I think the output is around 1,000MW or about the size of a typical fossil fuel central generating station.

Hoover Dam was built strictly for flood control and water management. The power is just some icing on the cake.

There was a lot of small hydro developed in the 70s and 80s to sell power to utilities at avoided cost. I don't think most of it ever paid out and we don't hear much about it these days.

Use Ann's Portal to buy John McPhee's book on small hydro. McPhee is always fascinating whatever he writes about.

John Henry

John said...

BTW: The cogen plant I developed while at Alcon was for internal use only, we did not anticipate selling power to the utility or, normally, buying power from the utility.

We only wanted to remain connected as backup in the event our plant failed. We were willing to pay an arm and a leg to do so.

The utility refused and Alcon had to take them to court to make them. By the time Alcon won, Alcon had sold the plant.

John Henry

NoBorg said...

Eliminating fossil fuel use implies getting rid of all the point-of-use consumption, not just power plants. So that means virtually everything must be converted to electricity - vehicles, home heating, everything. To generate the amount of electricity required to do this in the USA would require approximately 45,000 square miles of solar panel area. To put this in perspective.... that's a little more than the land area of the entire state of Pennsylvania. Another way to look at it - it is estimated that the total area of developed land in the USA, meaning it is either paved over or covered by buildings, is approximately 23,000 square miles. Everything we've built here since 1620 barely covers half of the area of solar panels needed.

And that number completely ignores the storage and power transmission problems. The real number with current technology would be about 2-3 times as large.

To an engineer, these are trivial napkin calculations. I can't believe this little problem is not more well publicized. Solar panels are a preposterous waste of time and research funding.

Peter said...

" It's still a net loss of pumping, pipe losses and generation efficiency."

The losses are round-trip losses plus storage losses. Power_out < power_in even if you take the power out right after you put it in, but, the energy you've stored will also leak away over time.

For pumped-hydro storage, storage losses include evaporation; for batteries, there's self-discharge.

It's just a TANSTAAFL world.

Fen said...

"To an engineer"

For fun, a stupid(?) question. How independent are coal and oil from an EMP attack? Granted, I may have an exagerated view of the after-effects (Dooooom!) of an EMP attack, and I'm ignorant about how oil and coal energy is transferred into homes. So I'm curious what someone with your background thinks.

How difficult to get things back into operation using oil and coal, assuming the electrical grid is fried. I think I read somewhere that even heating with natural gas would be hard because electical powered stations control the flow.

And anyway, to add to your criticism of converting everything to electricity, it would make us even more vulnerable to an EMP attack. Have we even begun shielding what's already in place, or is that even necessary? I've heard conflicting reports.

Leland said...

Agree with John, hydro-electric dams solves the battery problem. If necessary, run a pump to water back in the reservoir. The only time this is an issue is a rainy season, which, just guessing here, isn't a good season for excess solar power.

Michael K said...

I have solar on my motorhome and a charge controller prevents it from overcharging the batteries. I know nothing about electricity but it would seem like a simple fix.

I had one on my sailboat, which was on a mooring. I had a charge controller, too. I also had a diode that kept the solar panels from warming the earth at night. I wonder if everyone does.

Ralph L said...

The solution is to manufacture cheap panels in the U.S. that look like solar panels but which do nothing but signal the virtue of those living beneath the roof.

Elon Musk is coming out with the reverse: expensive solar panels that look like shingles.

John Henry, Cadillac came out with the first mass-produced V8 in 1915. Around 1921, Ford bought Lincoln, which was started by the Lelands, who had started and run Cadillac until 1917. They wanted to build engines for WW I, but GM was run by the pacificist Wm. Durant at the time, who soon lost control of the corp. for the second time. The Ford V8 car came out in 1933, just in time for the worst of the Depression.

Headless Blogger said...

Oh no, it's the Duck Curve.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

Those damned laws of Physics prevail over the laws of the Lefties. There is no good way to store energy, other than fossil fuels. But fossil fuels are great stored energy only because we didn't have to pay for the energy losses in the process. Renewable energy is expense, inefficient and causes more pollution in the long run.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Those damned laws of Physics prevail over the laws of the Lefties. There is no good way to store energy, other than fossil fuels. But fossil fuels are great stored energy only because we didn't have to pay for the energy losses in the process. Renewable energy is expense, inefficient and causes more pollution in the long run.




Ah, I forgot. As long as we are sciencing, you can use Fischer-Tropf to turn coal into oil, You can also run endothermic processes to yield hydrogen or alcohol. As long as you have surplus power. But then you have to burn it, and ...that would be wrong?

Steven said...

All you really need to know about California energy policy is that it is a massive net importer of electricity that, simultaneously, has to pay other states to take its locally-generated electricity.

NoBorg said...

Hi Fen,

Well first of all I'm not really criticizing the idea of converting everything to electricity. I think that may actually be inevitable in the long run, since fossil fuels will eventually become prohibitively expensive as the supplies run out. I'm just saying that solar panels are not a remotely plausible solution to powering a meaningful portion of the power grid (let alone the approximately 10X larger capacity power grid that would be required if everything was electric...).

As far as EMP vulnerability... I don't know much about the EMP phenomenon, but if it wipes out the electric power grid then there are very few things that wouldn't be affected, as currently built. Almost everything requires some electricity even if the primary energy source is oil or gas. If you had a really old house, and it still had the old gravity coal furnace and gas light piping, you might be able to put them back in service, otherwise you're out of luck. And as you point out the EMP might have a severe effect on the distribution network of those things anyway.

I suspect that modifying everything to work without the power grid would actually be more work, and take more time, than just rebuilding the power grid.

I'm just totally baffled that we have a well-developed technology that could supply nearly unlimited energy with close to zero pollution, and "environmentalists" are mostly OPPOSED to using it. It's also irritating that so few "environmentalists" trouble to learn anything about energy consumption and distribution while demanding major changes to the way it's accomplished.

Milwaukie guy said...

Solar power should be simply a point source for buildings in suitable locales. If they produce "excess" power, they should store it at the source themselves. No need to over-complicate an aging grid.

Building new generation modular nukes looks real good.

Many of the wind power projects in eastern Oregon take our taxpayer subsidies and sell the power to California. Lose-lose.

khesanh0802 said...

@Ann You asked the key question. Until someone develops a really efficient battery storage capability solar/wind will always be an intermittent source of power. No one seems to be able to overcome the science.

Marc Puckett said...

Where are Once, Inga, and their sometime companions from the Left on this thread, I wonder? I should probably mutter absit omen under my breath.

tcrosse said...

Nurse Inga is holding forth on the Obamacare Replacement thread, bless her heart.

Marc Puckett said...

Ah, I see. Hadn't gotten to that one. But I'm missing good stuff-- 'and after you reach Medicare age, you are relieved of the burden of having medical insurance' (that's why everyone and his brother have to buy supplemental policies, I reckon).

I wasn't originally trying to be sneery about those folks, only noticing that in a thread with informed comments about actual real things that can be made to do real productive work they're absent. Much easier to share opinions about 'politics, politics'-- even I have those-- than about the mechanics of energy and so forth. But then I tapped out the second sentence.

JAORE said...

"Every dam is already in the hydro storage and generation business."

Not even close

JAORE said...

There are 2,200+ dams in Alabama. Only 20 produce electricity. Similar numbers in other states.

JAORE said...

Just checked Wiki. (I know,I know).

According to a United States Department of Energy report,[12] there exists over 12000MW of potential hydroelectricity capacity in the US existing 80,000 unpowered dams. Harnessing the currently unpowered dams could generate 45 TWhr/yr, equivalent to 16 percent of 2008 hydroelectricity generation.

John said...

Blogger John said...

Blogger JAORE said...

According to a United States Department of Energy report,[12] there exists over 12000MW of potential hydroelectricity capacity in the US

Typical central station power plant (coal, oil, nuke, gas) is around 1,000MW.

So Hydro would give us 12 central plant equivalents.

We should definitely do hydro whenever feasible but:

It is often not consistent over the course of a year as river levels rise and fal

It floods what may be otherwise good land

Most hydro is fairly small scale, a few potential MW at most, many in the 0.05-0.5MW range so not a lot of economy of scale

Environmentalists hate it. (That might be a pro to some of us)

NOTE: I mentioned earlier how little power Hoover Dam produces relative to size and footprint. Wikipedia says 2,030MW nameplate capacity but only 23% capacity factor so equal to a 466MW or half a central plant.

John Henry

Fen said...

NoBorg, thanks for taking time to answer my questions.

"I'm just totally baffled" why enviros oppose the obvious solution.

That's my realm of expertise. It's because the environmental movement was hijacked by the Marxists after the fall of the Soviet Union.

For tbem, it's not about cheap clean energy. It's about redistribution of global wealth by limiting energy production and consumption.

The future they want is very much like Orwell's 1984 - you and I peddling our bikes furiously to beat the others to market before the shelves are bare, while the Party Elite zoom by in their limos to catch a lavish conference followed by steak and lobster.


JAORE said...

Fen, I hope you know the Wiki quote I included was NOT to propose we develop all the potential hydro power. I worked in the environmental documentation field for decades. T'aint possible.
Rather it was part of the quote where I was responding to an assertion that all dams were hydro generating. Not even close.

JAORE said...

That is, the 80,000 unpowered dams is what I wanted to highlight.

Rusty said...

I might have mentioned this before.
Solar is great one one one for domestic use. Except there is no efficient way to store the energy.
Then you have something like an Aluminum smelter.
Those types of industries are usually located somewhere near their supply of electricity.
There is a huge Alum. smelter just downstream from the Hungry Horse reservoir in Montana.
There is no way to that efficiently with solar.

southcentralpa said...

The usual way to "store" power is to use the power to pump water uphill and then run it though a hydro turbine when it's wanted. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity) One can imagine the fun and games building something like that would involve in California.

(It's sometimes said the modern environmental movement started with opposition to a project like that at Storm King Mtn in NY (rich neighbors ... sound familiar?). The funny part is that there is evidence to suggest that their opposition started when a general-interest publication printed a cut-away picture of the project and said rich neighbors actually believed that's what the actual project would look like(!)Remember kids, just because they're rich doesn't necessarily mean they're smart(and, of course, that was before the Great Sorting).)