Monday Jun 24, 2013
- Tuesday Jun 25, 2013 -
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - USA
Data Informed´s Marketing Analytics and Customer Engagement provides marketing, sales, and customer support managers with the information they need to create an effective data-driven customer strategy. more...
Monday May 20, 2013
- Saturday May 25, 2013
- 8:30 AM Eastern -
Stowe, Vermont - USA
Legal Essentials for Utility Executives: May 19 to 25, 2013 and October 6 to 12, 2013 This rigorous, two-week course will provide electric utility executives with the legal foundation to more fully understand the utility regulatory framework, the role of more...
We know you have something to say!
There is an immediate need for articles on
the hot topics in the Power Industry!
EnergyPulse, like no other publication,
also provides a means for our readers to
immediately interact with experts like you.
A documentary entitled "The Perfect Storm" was recently re-broadcast over several television channels in the United States and Canada. It illustrated how a super solar storm could last for several days and emit intense electromagnetic radiation that could destroy transformers and literally incapacitate long distance power grids for long periods of time. The sun regularly emits low levels of electromagnetic radiation that manifest as the Northern Lights that can be seen in the northern-most regions of the world. It is a proven fact that an electrical current will be induced in a conductor that passes through an electromagnetic force field. Such a field exists between the north and south poles of a U-shaped magnet in an electrical generator.
Electromagnetic force fields that originate from the sun "cuts through" long-distance power lines and induces electrical currents in them. Electrical currents (DC-power) have been found to exist in remote long-distance power lines that have been disconnected for several years. Electrical currents (AC power) have been known to exist and have been measured in out-of-service power lines that run parallel to nearby in-service power lines. The in-service power lines produce an electromagnetic field that radiates for several miles. The strength of the solar electromagnetic force fields increases significantly during solar storms and in turn increases the severity of power fluctuations along long-distance power lines.
The documentary suggested that super solar storms are rare but possible. The intense electromagnetic radiation from such storms could produce severe fluctuations of electrical power along long-distance transmission lines. Severe power fluctuations could destroy electrical transformers and thereby incapacitate the power grid for months if not for several years. Despite being alarmist the documentary identified three main areas where the power grid was vulnerable to the destructive effects of severe solar storms. One area of vulnerability was the time required (about 1-hour) for major thermal power stations to be shut down. Another vulnerability was the sheer size of modern power grids and the vast extent of the interconnected conductive material that is exposed to solar storms.
That massive length of conductive material that long-distance power lines expose to solar electromagnetic force fields increases the magnitude of the power fluctuations that can be induced into the power lines. The interconnectiveness and extent of the grid increases the vulnerability to solar storms and reduces the response time to such events. System wide power blackouts such as that which occurred across Eastern Canada and Northeastern America during a severe ice storm in 1998 have shut down on the grid for several weeks in some locations. Massive power surges on the grid caused by a severe solar storm could theoretically inflict thermal damage on to several long-distance power lines and reduce their capacity to transmit electric power.
It may be possible to install circuit breakers and section insulators at various intervals along the grid. The circuit breakers could be automatically tripped by power surges on the transmission lines and be automatically reset after the power surges cease. The problem is that shutting down a mega-power station usually involves a time-consuming procedure that last up to an hour. There are very few locations around the world where power being generated by a mega thermal-power station could rapidly be dumped into a mega-storage system during a sudden emergency. One prerequisite is that the storage technology be located right next door to the power station or be connected to it via underground cables that would be protected from solar storms.
A thermal power station could be located near to an emptied salt dome that may measure up to one mile in diameter and up to six miles in vertical height. Power could rapidly be diverted off the grid into electric motors that drive turbo-compressors that would pump air into the subterranean storage. One possible future option would be to build thermal (hydrogen fusion, nuclear fission, biomass and clean coal technology) power stations close to locations where mega-storage would be available. These locations would include close proximity to known salt domes that are either empty or that could be emptied, near hydroelectric power dams or at locations where hydraulic storage would be possible.
Fresh water may be pumped to higher elevations at hydroelectric dams and fresh water may be pumped from inland lakes into storage dams built on nearby mountain. Ocean water could be pumped into large caverns that sometimes exist in mountains at high altitude. Seismic testing could locate caverns without entrances and small salt domes (salt jugs) that may exist in high mountains. Environmentalists may approve of their use for storage after they've been flushed of salt. Marine propellers that have been developed for use in large ships could be adapted to pump massive quantities of fresh water and/or ocean water to higher elevations. Power being generated at tidal installations and wind turbines would regularly be sent into storage and during emergencies so would power from thermal mega-power stations during.
A close proximity between hydraulic storage and future thermal power stations could protect power generation technology as well as the distribution network. Large industries could locate energy-intensive production facilities near such power stations in the future and pay lower rates as the result of less energy being dissipated in the long-distance power lines. Their production capacity could remain operational during and after super solar storms. Mega-power storage could compliment a mass proliferation of small (off-grid) decentralized local power generation that would supply power to small local power distribution networks and be able to maintain power to small communities and small towns during and after a super solar storm.
Small-scale Distributed Power Generation (DG)
Mini and micro-power stations that operated independently of the power grid could likely remain fully operational during and after a super solar storm. The sheer smallness their power distribution systems would expose comparatively little conductive material to solar electromagnetic fields. Part of their power distribution networks may include buried or submerged cables that would be shielded from the effects of such storms. The magnitude of the power surges that solar storms would induce on to small power networks would likely be minor. Their small size allows them to be protected from severe power spikes by circuit breakers, fuses and trip switches.
Small power stations could include arrays of solar panels (including windows that have become available with PV technology), small-site geothermal power, wind generators, solar-thermal power (Stirling engines and thermoacoustic converters) as well as mini and micro-hydroelectric installations. Batteries of small-site thermal power plants that operate on renewable energy (biomass) could be remotely controlled and monitored using small networks that may be immune to solar storms. Such power plants can be shut down much more quickly than mega power stations and have a wider range of energy storage technologies into which excess power could be diverted.
Small site energy storage could include flow batteries, flywheels, small-site hydraulic storage (including smaller caves in high mountains), production of hydrogen and compressed gas technology. It may be also possible to develop electrical circuits that filter power surges from small networks and divert the excess energy into banks of ultra-capacitors before transferring it into storage. The technological flexibility that is possible on small (off-grid) power networks in coping with emergencies like super solar storms makes small-site power generation valuable if not essential to communities.
Large-scale Off-grid Power Generation
Power generation and distribution systems that operate independently of the main power grid could become a significant source of electric power in metropolitan areas where population densities are high. A single gas turbine engine of up to 340-Mw that burns natural gas could serve a section of a large metropolis and make exclusive use of buried or underground cables that may be immune to the negative effects of a super solar storm. Several such power plants could be located at various points in a large metropolitan area and periodically connect to each other (using mainly buried cable) to operate as a small grid.
Natural gas that is supplied to such power plants could use gas turbines engines to pump the fuel from offshore deposits through pipelines. Telecommunications systems that transmit signals along buried fibre-optic lines could remain operational during and after a super solar storm. Such telecommunications technology could connect to remote pumping stations and keep natural gas flowing. Buried fibre-optic lines can allow for multiple off-grid power stations that supply local distribution networks to be remotely monitored and controlled from a single location including during and after a super solar storm.
Local off-grid mini-power generation and distribution networks could exist in residential areas as well as in commercial and industrial districts. Homes with solar PV-panels and/or windmills could supply power to their nearest neighbors. Industries may produce power and steam for their own internal use and supply power and heat to their nearest neighbors in industrial districts. Fast flowing rivers do pass through several cities around the world. Submerged water turbines that convert kinetic energy to electric power may be installed on several such rivers and be used to supply off-grid power to buildings that are near them.
Windows that are also solar panels are under development. They could be used in high-rise office towers and apartment buildings to provide some of the power used inside such building. Some buildings in Japan have roof-mounted Fresnel lenses that are connected to optical fibre networks and light-pipes that are used to distribute filtered sunlight inside such buildings during daylight hours. Needed regulatory changes would allow for low-density power lines and fibre-optic lines to be connected across private property lines (needing only the permission of property owners).
Events such as super solar storms are possible and could inflict major damage on the power grid worldwide. There are technological alternatives that could greatly minimize the devastating economic effects that a super solar storm could inflict on national economies. Economy of scale originally favored mega-power generation during the early years of electric power generation. Government regulation eventually favored mega-power generation at relatively few locations and a massive power transmission system.
Technological advancements have occurred in small-site power generation and in the ability to simultaneously monitor and control such generation remotely and with little manpower. These advances are beginning to make decentralized power generation economically competitive against centralized mega-power generation. An event such as a super solar storm could incapacitate mega-power generation and the power grid for months if not for several years. Such an event would encourage the development and expansion of decentralized (distributed) power generation systems and their small-scale (highly localized) power distribution networks.
For information on purchasing reprints of this article, contact sales. Copyright 2013 CyberTech, Inc.
So this TV show gave you a great new argument against central generation and for distributed generation - solar storms.
It is true that there are a few cases on record of power outages or equipment damage but the suspectibility is rare and the remedies not hard nor expensive.
On the other hand, most distributed generation IS expensive on a $/kW basis and has very significant diseconomies of scale. You'll find that most DG will use natural gas and be be less efficient in natural gas consumption (kW-hr/mmBTU) than large combined cycle gas turbines.
Your choice will come down to $1 for solar storm protection on the existing grid versus $100 on distributed generation.
If you look at potential sites for wind and geothermal or pumped storage, you'll find many if not most of them dependent on increasingly long transmission lines.
Sorry, but as a practicing power engineer, I find little of use here. Of course, all you have to do is convince the California Legislature of how "green" you ideas are and suddenly every rate payer in the state will have to send in a little more "green" every month when they pay their bills. That still won't keep the lights on.
Todd McKissick 3.26.07
The time has come for practical power engineers to face up to this falicy and realize that huge centralized power is NOT the only answer out there. In many cases, it is not even the best. Whether due to super solar storms, harsh weather, corporate corruption, equipment age or simply misplaced financial decisions, the fact is that a great many people go without power for rather long periods of time. I'm sure I don't have to quote the dozens of regionalized outages in just the last 6 months - some of which were measured in months. The answer is definitely not to shift everything to central gen and big transmission which is prone to single point failures of many kinds, but to distributing the generation more and reducing the transmitted power. Here are a few points of contention to consider.
Safeguarding powerline reliability is expensive. Due to it's large customer base, the "no cost is too much" effect competes with the "it's rare and not needed" crowd. Neither one is true so outages will continue. A large power plant may secure their operation but anyone with a log chain can find a way to take it off the grid.
Distributed generation is not that expensive. It appears expensive because of the analysis given it at this time. It is a fledgling industry with hundreds of isolated technologies competing for the chance to compete with an enormous virtual monopoly. The roadblocks to mass acceptance are everywhere and still it is advancing by leaps and bounds. Progress in the last 5 years has more than doubled it's competiveness with no end in sight. There are many that are nearing the breakover point now and many more on their heels. I give it 10 years before they are cheaper and more reliable than grid power. When comparing costs, one needs to use the total cost of DG and the total cost of every stage (planning to socket) of central technologies without forgetting to add the value of the other benefits. Engineers rarely mention additional land use required by transmission lines or mines or plants or associated roads because it totals more than equivalent PV systems spread across existing roofs.
Cherrypicking a specific technology to make a point is getting old. Yes wind is unpredictable and solar goes out at night and geo is geographically limited and tidal... and wave... and bio... and so on. The good news is that each site has some that fit and some that don't. Compound this by allowing each resident the right to choose their own path. Then consider if they each generated double their needs and the grid became a redistributor with only centralized makeup. What would the economic growth be like if people usually had excess energy? How about when the economies of scale that they do have, selling millions of modular systems, kicks in? How about after an increasing portion of these 'free fuel' systems are paid off? Will centralized plants have dropped their price to half by then or weaned us off using water in cooling towers or mining or burning by then?
Too many engineers are way too quick to throw all renewables into the same bucket and quote the worst in every comparison. Most of them have no clue of where this brand new market is actually headed and they don't care. Their only motive is status quo and supporting that almighty stockholder at the expense of the customer. It's time for the consumer to come first and the stockholders and their engineers to take a back seat.
Malcolm Rawlingson 3.26.07
There is no doubt that our power system of long distance high voltage lines is quite vulnerable - not just to solar storms - but also to weather and people who want to do harm. I think every power system engineeer knows that. The ice storm in Eastern Canada (Ontario & Quebec) a few years back clearly illustrates our vulnerability and how long it can take to get back on our feet.
On the other hand the cost of having duplicate systems of power generation is very very expensive. The benefits of large scale generation of electricity follow the principles of mass production. The more you make the cheaper it gets.
Society has benefitted greatly from the availability of very cheap electrical energy as a direct result of the size and scale of electrical generation and distribution. It is the very fact that this energy is so versatile and so cheap for the benefits it gives that creates the very demand problems we now have.
But to move to DG without understanding the implications on the price of electricity for those NOT able to generate it is foolish and much more thought needs to be put into it.
As recently as last week in Toronto Ontario Canada, Toronto Hydro - the city's main electricity provider claimed that as a result of their aggressive conservation efforts (compact light bulbs, lowering thermostats and other laudible conservation practices) consumers had saved about $25 off their electricioty bill annually. Also as a result of that same effort the income of Toronto Hydro had dropped significantly so that they were forced to increase the price of electricity by 2 dollars a month for the average consumer. So that means the average consumer will save one whole dollar per annum for their significant contribution to saving energy. In other words Corporations require income to maintain the system. if the power carried by that system goes down or they lose customer base then the price of electricity MUST GO UP to compensate. if Toyota or Ford or any automanufacturer instgates a program for you to but LESS of their product then the price of the product MUST GO UP. If not you go bankrupt. I am sure Professor Banks will have some comments - I am not an economist - he is.
While this is not directly related to DG the economic impact ought to be obvious. As more and more people disconnect from the bulk supply system the cost of maintaining it for those that must be connected to it goes up. So if you are a condo dweller or are not able to generate your own electricity then the cost of your power will go up astronomically.
Society must make a decision whether it will continue to to want cheap electrical energy from a bulk system or whether it will requires substantially more expensive energy from small DG providers.
Either method will work - of that I have no doubt - the question is which one is the cheapest and most reliable. Bulk power has a very good track record. DG has yet to show how cheap and reliable it can be.
I suspect that we will migrate to the DG route over time but if any one is thinking this will be a cheap transition they should think again. It cannot be.
I have yet to see any plan that shows me how a city the size of New York can operate without a bulk power system. Since cities are where most of our people live the cost of power in those cities will rise greatly.
I do not see any way it cannot.
Len Gould 3.27.07
Bears repeating - Todd: "Too many engineers are way too quick to throw all renewables into the same bucket and quote the worst in every comparison. Most of them have no clue of where this brand new market is actually headed and they don't care."
Malcolm: I suspect that WHEN eg. solar completes another few years of it's regular significant "Moores Law" cost-per-kw reductions, all your arguments will be meaningless, most energy will be produced by distributed sources. The "Big Power" players, with typical corporate foresight, chose to "de-regulate" for short-term gains, and as such, IMHO, no longer deserve the protection from competition of the old regulation system.
Roger Arnold 3.27.07
A technical nit about the article: it's not "electromagnetic radiation" emitted from solar storms that can disrupt power lines. The sun's output of electromagnetic radiation--which includes infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light--is barely affected by solar storms. It's the particle radiation--gusts of energetic protons and electron--that raise havoc. They interact with the earth's magetic field to generate electromagnetic pulses and induce voltage surges in above-ground power lines.
Personally, I've always hated the visual impact of power lines on the landscape. I love the convenience of the electrical power that they deliver, but I wish the hell they were all put underground. Yes, it would cost a bundle, but it would deal nicely with concerns about EMP-induced grid failures, or the prosaic but very real problems of downed power lines caused by ice and wind storms.
I don't buy into the distinction people make between "distributed generation" and "central generation". There are larger and smaller power plants, but the system we have is already highly distributed. Even a small regional balancing area will include upwards of a hundred individual generators at a few tens of sites operating under dispatch. Plus several tie-in points for long distance transmission to and from other RBAs.
The problems of stability and crash vulnerability that bedevil the current grid won't magically go away just by switching from hundreds of large power sources to thousands or millions of small ones. Not unless you're willing to talk about making every home or business a self-sufficient island. I don't see that as realistic, regardless of how cheap solar power might eventually become. The grid will be with us for a long time to come.
**** **** 3.28.07
Distrubuted Generation (DG) is not expensive, when consideration is given to the higher effciiciency in CHP applications--the fuel utilization is well over 80%.The Power delivery losses are also very low.
Providing Stored Energy for an event of massive Solar storms, is just one of the many benefits that Bulk Energy Storage or DG Energy Storage can provide. Bulk Energy Storage will most importantly “buffer” utilities from the lack of spinning reserve and load following capability as a result of many independent power plants (IPP) installed in the last 5 years. It will remove concerns about power quality, and new threats to reliability.
Energy Storage provides security, reduces transmission constraints, extends (optimizes) the capabilities of efficient clean coal plants, reduces emissions, enhances renewable energy. It provides load management, (rapid response) frequency and voltage control, spinning reserve, black start capabilities, and supports distributed generation
Thanks to Harry for at least thinking of another application for Energy Storage--even if Solar Storms are not very frequent occurences--at least to impact the grid severely.
Septimus--Brulin Associates LLC Thanks to Harry for at least thinking of the application of Energy Storage
**** **** 3.28.07
Septimus van der linden. Sorry that I did not add my full name--just incase some one wondered who Septimus is.
Arvid Hallén 3.29.07
Roger, burying power cables is not very expensive anymore, due to ABB's new HVDC-light technology. http://www.abb.com/industries/se/9AAC751075.aspx?country=SE
Please have your local politician buy 1000 km of it and we will get lots of jobs in Ludvika, Sweden.
Len Gould 3.29.07
Septimus: Interesting to note the convergence. Just when DG systems, esp. solar, become cheaper than central gen., eg. at most just a few years, and then need a low-cost storage system in order to extend their usefullness, along comes plug-hybrid autos, independently cost-justified in their own right. So, to get through the night, all you need is a couple of cars parked in the garage, with enough extra energy to get you to the solar farm over the parking lot at work. The availability of cheap (free?) power at work could probably be cost-justified by employers just as a perk to attract top employees and keep them happy. Alternatively, each parking spot could include intelligent metering on the plugs, which the autos could automatically communicate with to debit the owner's account and credit the employer's. Of course, will still need a block of baseload, ideally a clean non-polluting system like nuclear, for other uses like manufacturing, solar backup and generating a fuel for the auto engines for long trips and emergency uses. And regardless of how coal may be burned, I still hold that no-one has proven to me yet that the cheapest way to sequester carbon is not simply to leave the coal in the ground. (Of course credits market traders won't like that option).
Len Gould 3.29.07
What's also neat is that this group is already offering the perfect vehicle. TM4 electric drivetrain, SAFT Lion batteries, Weber Auto gasoline-E85 engine, Dassault chassis. Announced two weeks ago in Wards Auto.
Arvid, thanks for the pointer. The claim of costs on a par with those of overhead cables is certainly interesting--and very important, if true. But I didn't see any really new technology there what would justify the claim. The AC - DC and DC - AC conversion technology that they're talking about is the same as what has been in use for many years in power supplies, PV inverters, and variable speed motor controls. Scaled up, admittedly.
I think the more significant development may simply be the cables with extruded polyethylene insulation. I'd guess that it allows higher voltage DC lines to be buried in trenches, rather than run through tunnels. In any case, I hope we see a lot more of this--and not just for the sake of jobs in Ludvika. It's definitely in line with the downward cost trend for power electronics, and it will go a long way toward making electrical service more reliable and more robust. To say nothing of improving the landscape.
Reigh Walling 4.3.07
A technical clarification is in order. The discussion of overhead versus underground transmission is totally irrelevant; both types of lines are virtually equally affected. Thus, undergounding is by no means a solution.
In a solar disturbance, the solar wind, which is charged particles as Roger mentions, disturbs the auroral electrojets. The electrojets are bands of currents conducted through the ionosphere at magnitudes in the Mega-amps, and which circle the poles high above the earth's surface. During disturbances, the electrojets expand and move away from the poles toward the more populated areas where power systems are located. The currents in the electrojets are very low frequency ac, in the milli-Hz. The ac in the electrojets are like one winding of a very big transformer and the earth itself is the other winding. The currents in the sky (which, by the way, cause the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis) cause huge eddy current flows in the earth, which cause voltage gradients in the earth concentrated in certain areas where the deep-earth geology results in high resistivity. An example is the lower Hudson Valley region in New York (where transmission lines are not very long, and yet geomagnetic effects on the power system are routinely observed). The earth potential differences between different substation locations cause very low-frequency current to flow up from the grounded neutral at a transformer in one location, pass over the transmission line, and back to earth at a remote substation. The very low frequence ac is virtually dc to the transformers, and can result in half-cycle saturation. This, in turn, causes noise, harmonic current production, reactive power demand, and rarely, significant transformer heating. The quasi-dc earth currents through the power system are called GICs or Geomagnetic Induced Currents.
Overall, the impact on the power system from GIC have been indirect and generally non-destructive. I only know of one transformer installation where actual equipment damage has resulted, and this was a particularly vulnerable magnetic design. Most transformers can take a lot of GIC without destructive consequences. A blackout in Quebec also occurred as an indirect result of GIC, due to saturation harmonics affecting a reactive control device and the problem snowballed from there.
This is a topic that arises every 11 years with the solar cycle, and is usually forgotten in between.
Berol Robinson 4.3.07
Thanks, Reigh Walling. I was hoping someone would clarify that. (Otherwise I should have had to take a stab at it, with a much less competent explanation than yours.)
Berol Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy (EFN)
Mel Zwillenberg 4.3.07
The article says "One area of vulnerability was the time required (about 1-hour) for major thermal power stations to be shut down."
If the rest of the statements in the article are as inaccurate as this statement, then the whole article is suspect.
I was once at a 600MW coal-fired plant when the main power transformer connecting it to the grid failed quite spectacularly. The plant was shut down safely with no damage to the plant.
Mel Zwillenberg Mel Zwillenberg Associates, LLC
Herschel Specter 4.4.07
Dear members of the energy community:
Over the years many of us have witnessed a number of extreme energy positions from Amory Lovins' antinuclear sentiments to V.P. Cheney's limited understanding of the importance of energy conservation. Call it the ELSIE (Lovins-Cheney) effect and it has been harmful to a more balanced and productive approach to resolving our energy crisis. It is time for people to come together and drop the nonsense that "My energy source is better than yours!" The definition of what is better often is a disagreement on values, e.g. cost versus potential environmental impact, further compounded by uncertain projections as to the benfits of one's own pet energy source or the detiments of the other guy's. Every energy source has benfits and limitations, so the real issue is how do we make the best mix to protect the environment and to achieve this at a cost that people can afford. Part of the problem with the ELSIE approach is that it is too narrowly structured. When one thinks about energy you need to consider the whole energy system, the sources of energy, the distribution systems and the end uses. Thinking in this broad way can eliminate many issues. For example, if one concludes that you must use coal to make methanol as part of meeting a portion of your transportation demands with a high degree of certainty, but are concerned about the GHG from coal, you might then agree that for a fixed CO2 release limit it is better to shift coal into methanol (and possibly coal gas) and away from electric power production. So one does not eliminate coal, but applies it in a higher priority use. Another defect in these energy debates is that there is no agreed upon time line. Some think, as Lovins has stated in the past, that if renewables need more time to develop, then just get this time by burning more oil and gas. ( But kill nuclear in the meanwhile) Others think that we are far from hitting a peak oil situation, ignoring that we can be in an oil crisis long before the peak just by having demand exceed supply. Part of the time line issue is the fact that our complex energy system has been largely shaped by oil and gas. BTUs are not fungible. You can not put a lump of coal into your gas hot water heater and expect good results, even though the coal might have plenty of BTUs. It has to be in a form that the end uses can make use of and delivered to the point of end use. If the bilions of end use devices had to be redone, as well as the distribution sysytems, to make a new post petroleum future could we afford this and more importantly, could this be done in time to prevent world wide conflict over energy? Most likely, infrastructure issues will turn out to be far more challenging than the energy source issues we love to debate. We should all remember that there are two pathways to environmental catastrophe. First, there are the effects of energy production, such as greenhoouse gases and other waste products. Equally important are the environmental impacts of insufficient energy. Look at the evidence around you: mud slides in poor countries where people have stripped the land of trees for energy all the way to armed conflict in the middle east and Africa over oil, to threats to Europe if its supply of gas from Russia is interupted, to China/Japan friction about potential oil reserves in offshore locations they both might claim.
People who only look at one of these paths to environmental disaster are courting huge problems. Beware those who oversell their goods.
Let a more reasoned and informed group of people step forth and begin to establish broad criteria for an energy policy, let them consider the whole energy structure, let them establish a reasonable set of time lines, let them find ways to assist each other to find the best energy mix, let them throw out the old and destructive ELSIE approach. If you love the environment, you can do no less.
Gary Barnes 6.14.07
This article is full of misconceptions and inaccurate statements. The output of a so-called mega power station can be reduced to zero in an instant with no need for any kind of bleed off or storage of energy. They are designed to do this to protect them from damage whenever there is a fault on the grid or a problem with the unit's equipment. The statement that "it may be possible to install circuit breakers and section insulators at various intervals along the grid. The circuit breakers could be automatically tripped by power surges on the transmission lines and be automatically reset after the power surges cease" shows a high degree of ignorance of the grid as such devices do exist and their operation due to lightening or trees and other objects contacting the lines and causing a fault is frequent.
"Power generation and distribution systems that operate independently of the main power grid could become a significant source of electric power in metropolitan areas where population densities are high" is unlikely. First any solar activity that destroys large transformers will destroy electical equipment and generators on DG units as well. The hurdles to siting anything larger than a small solar panel in a densely populated area are many and large - the NIMBYs would be up in arms, emissions permits are almost impossible to obtain, the gas turbines mentioned require gas supplies of 400psi and above while gas distribution systems in cities are limited to a few psi or less and the list goes on. Power plants, large or small are located outside the cities for many reasons, none of which are likely to go away.
Mass storage sites are very limited. Try convincing folks to give up their mountain top park so you can flood it with a pumped hydro storage reservoir and you may well find yourself running from a lynch mob.
While I think it might be cool to have a windmill in my back yard to generate my own power, I don't know enough lawyers to defend against all the lawsuits that would be filed by my neighbors. I do think we need to constantly improve the reliability of the grid and look for lower cost energy solutions, the actions need to be based on a knowledge of the required technology and limited to practical solutions that will actually work.