Saturday, May 09, 2009

Power Shorts

I'm not talking about some new alpha male summer wear. I'm talking about the future of our electrical grid. And given the insanity of our new administration it is not looking good. Kevin C. (at the linked site) has this to say:

I've been in the utility business for well over twenty years. I was working on company load projections before Obama went to law school. I've seen afternoons when the power was so short that we were within a hair of rolling blackouts - and I helped draw up those plans, too. I've stood in the door of mobile generators the size of tractor trailers, one of many connected to the grid to stretch out power. And I remember a time about years ago when some of us sat in the company break room, wondering if we should install whole house generators because the power supply looked mighty tight that year.

I'm considering a whole house generator again, preferably one with a hospital grade muffler package. It's a toss up between diesel and propane. Maybe you should invest in one, too.

Based on what Obama said on the campaign trail, I wasn't optimistic about his energy policies. It reminded me of some of those feel-good bull sessions by people who know diddly squat about the power industry, by people who don't know a KW from a KVar, who've never heard of line losses, and who've never spent a tense afternoon wondering if there'd be enough power to go around. But ignorance is correctable - if you hire the right people.

Obama hasn't.

In particular is the asinine assumption of Jon Wellinghoff that we may never need new nuclear or coal plants. Jon Wellinghoff, as some may know, is the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC. Why? Because he's operating on the delusion that wind and solar can provide all our needs. While such starry-eyed ignorance is endearing in children, it's horrifying in a man who's the head of FERC. It shows an ignorance of the electric power industry and of the main draw-back with solar and wind: We don't have an efficient way to store electricity. Nor is wind power viable everywhere (Google a wind power map from the DOE and see for yourself - it's probably more than the Obama administration's done), and people seem to be taking a NIMBY stance about solar (see the issue of solar panels in the Mohave). Plus there's the annoying problem of getting that power from where the wind does blow to where it's needed. And the laws of physics remain the same regardless of who's in office.

You'd expect someone in the energy sector to know this. You'd expect someone in the energy department to grasp daily load fluctuations, increasing load from growth greater than energy reduction from conservation, and why we need to build more baseline plants right now. Obama's team doesn't.
You would think that some one from a government run by the Smartest President Ever™ would know these things. However, it is also possible that this is all being ruined by the Most Corrupt President Ever™. And surprisingly they are the same guy. Go figure.

In any case I think that regular blackouts will eventually fix the problem. But it will not be cheap. I guess that is where the Most Corrupt President Ever™ comes in. Want power? Buy a politician. If you can't afford that buying a backup generator might be a good alternative investment. Until we start running into fuel shortages.

1 comment:

Neil said...

A relatively simple 8kW transfer panel and gas or diesel generator will suffice and is an order of magnitude cheaper. That'll back up roughly 6 15A 120VAC circuits, unless you run them all full-load all the time. Make sure to have a few cans of gas and some fuel stabilizer saved up. And make sure your refrigerator/freezer is on one of the circuits.

Personally, I'm hoping to get a pair of 36V Tripp-Lite battery back-up systems, in addition to the generator. That and a pallet of marine deep-discharge batteries.

I don't think fuel shortages will actually be a problem--ironically, Cap'n Trade(tm) will probably lower prices and increase availability after Congress gets done issuing "exceptions". It'll be a tax and permit scheme on small manufacturers, not on consumers. (And possibly a trade protectionist scheme.) Also, any net reductions in vehicle fuel usage (due to mileage increases or usage decreases) will increase availability.

If you're worried about it and have city services, some sort of natural gas-fired generator would probably work. There'll be plenty of that.