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Green energy problems

Original post made by Engineer, South of Midtown, on Feb 28, 2008

The following link is about a recent problem in Texas with wind energy:

Web Link

The basic problem was that inconsistency of wind caused a grid disruption. These types of disruptions can occur whenever there is a sudden drop of output from a given power plant, no matter the driving energy source. However, wind is much more likely to produce such effects, becasue of its variability. Solar has the same issue, though probably not as dramatic (think about cloud cover).

The base load electical supply is different than the peak load. Solar and wind are usually good for add on supply at peak load (mid afternoon). However, they are not good at night. As more electric vehicles start plugging in at night, the peak load will shift to night.

How does the alternative energy approach satisfy the various, seemingly contradictory, demands? If one wants clean energy, including no CO2 emmissions, eletric trains, plug-in vehicles, air conditioning, reduced bird kills (wind), reduced demand in the face of increased population, etc., where is the answer?

I will say, ahead of time, that I support nuclear power, but I have no confidence that it will be allowed. Therefore, leave nuclear off the table ("Greg"), and where does that leave us? Perhaps my engineering training is old fashioned, but I don't see an answer.

Comments (33)

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Posted by Another Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 28, 2008 at 5:21 pm

It was a bright and stormy night. It was a dark and windless night. Our options in a nutshell.

A major drawback to solar and wind energy is they are at the mercy of sources we cannot control, and there is presently no practical way to store enough wind or solar generated energy to level the supply. Somebody needs to develop a quick-reaction peaker based on fossil fuels to save the existing investment in wind, and soon.

Maybe we'll tame nuclear fusion in the long run. Big, big maybe. For the near future we can either cut our electrical demand by 90%, or choose between carbon fuels and nuclear fission.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 28, 2008 at 7:33 pm

The whole point of the Green's energy strategy is being missed. The impracticability of wind and solar power fits right in with their plans. They want REDUCED energy use because they want to decrease the "human footprint". If a practical energy source meeting all the supposedly environmental requirements became available, the Green's still would be opposed to it solely because it gives human beings more opportunity to develop.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 29, 2008 at 2:51 am

The answer is to hold those responsible for the anti-energy policies responsible for the suffering their policies have caused. To avert fancied and mostly erroneously predicted 1% perils they have in effect halved living standards for most of us. When you factor in the deaths from the DDT ban, the environmentalists have probably killed more people than all hostory's dictators.


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Posted by R Wray
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 29, 2008 at 9:32 am

I don't think it would bother them. One environmentalist, biologist David Graber writes:

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet....[The ecosystem has] intrinsic value, more value to me than another human body or a billion of them....Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. (Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989, p. 9)




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Posted by Another Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2008 at 9:34 am

Mr Wallis

DDT and energy are not related. This shows why America cannot solve its problems any more. People have lost their ability to focus their attention on the real issues.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

DDT and energy are indeed related to the extent that both have been irrationally attacked by ignorant exageration of bad effects and a total lack of appreciation of the good they do. What kind of engineer are you, an "environmental" engineer or a social engineer?


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Posted by Another Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2008 at 2:23 pm

Electrical engineer, sir. 40 years professional experience.

Our problems are solvable if we want to solve them. Too many people just want to rant.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 29, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Another Engineer,

Peaking with fossil (or fission) to save wind is a possibility that will, if allowed, provide an insurance factor (I think). There is also a current play to push solar thermal (with storage). I think this has some potential, but it is unproven, like so many things solar.
It is unrealized, at large, among the population, that electicity is produced by only a few possible sources, and several of them have been effectively banned by the notion of global warming (CO2), nuclear (radiation), coal (CO2/pollution), natural gas (CO2/some pollution, hydro (free-running rivers) . Wind has a real problem with variability and bird kills (thus siting). Solar is a real potential winner, but it has been that way for decades.

I don't think most people realize that solar is not competing with oil prices. It is competing with coal, natural gas and nuclear. Until solar can outcompete these sources, it will continue to be a promise, not a mass-scale product.

On another thread, I tried to make the argument that mass transit, such as electric trains, is not a savings in CO2, unless the electrcity is first produced by carbon-free sources (like nuclear...France).

I might add, in closing, that biodiesel, ethanol, etc. are not a rational solution. They are carbon-based and use important farmland (that used to be used for food), and they displace the problem, rather than solving it.


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Posted by Yet Another Engineer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 29, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Some type of rational discussion might address an appropriate energy supply. Whether we've seen peak oil or not, oil supplies are not keeping up with demand. None of the alternatives, coal, fission, fusion, geothermal, solar, wind, etc. should be ruled out of hand because no single alternative is going to replace oil and natural gas.

Unfortunately, this forum is one of the last places for a rational discussion.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 29, 2008 at 7:20 pm

I have tried to focus on electricity supply, becasue I think that is the future. Oil is not a major energy source for electrcity. However, it does serve as a proxy, becasue it is about to be displaced by plug-in automobiles, and electrictiy-based mass transit. Put another way, this means that oil can displace other sources of electricity, even though it doesn't produce it directly.

My assumption has been, and is, that electricity supply, going forward, will need to be nearly free of CO2 emissions. If coal and NG are thus eliminated, and hydro is static, that leaves us with solar (including wind), geothermal, gravity (tides) and nuclear. Kick out nuclear, becasue it has already been kicked out, and this means that we are in very serious trouble, unless solar comes through in an enormous way. Conservation and efficiency can help, but it will come nowhere near to closing the gap, as far as I can see.


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Posted by T
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Engineer, last March Stanford hosted a weeklong seminar with Avory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute. During the day he lectured Stanford engineering students and at night he spoke to the general public. In the evening discussions, Amory presented ways in which energy efficiency in America could be greatly increased, and painlessly too, through improved engineering practices. Most of his examples required no new technology; the improvements came mainly from approaching engineering projects from a different perspective than has been traditionally taught in engineering school. I came away with a sense that energy efficiency can bridge more of the gap than I had previously thought and that our standard of living doesn't necessarily need to drop to make it happen. The Rocky Mountain Institute has a website and some of Avory's publications can be found at Web Link

If you read any of the papers about energy efficiency, I would be interested to hear your comments. I'm not an engineer by trade but I have a reasonble layman's understanding of how things work. Energy production and efficiency are topics that interest me. This is the first thread I've seen in this forum where energy issues are being discussed rationally. (Hooray) I hope this will continue because I have enjoyed reading the thoughtful comments presented so far.


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Posted by TheWaltWatch
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Feb 29, 2008 at 9:20 pm

Hey Walt:

Do you support energy efficiency or is that too green for you?

Signed

An Environmental Engineer
(Does that make me a socialist, too?)


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Posted by Hamster Power
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 29, 2008 at 11:01 pm

What about harnessing energy by wiring up the exercise wheels from millions of hamsters to generate electricity?

Someone in my science class did this 40 years ago, and it generated enough electricity to light a little bulb.

Hamsters will run on these wheels all night long.
When the sun goes down we could have power regardless of weather conditions.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2008 at 2:13 pm

T,

Lovins has been preaching efficiency for a long time. It is hardly a new concept, and most industrial process design engineers are looking for new ways to do it. My general view is that promise is not performance, in the actual world. For example, I started to hear about regenerative braking in the early 70s...it has only now begun make its presence felt. Talking about 70% efficiency for PV cells is one thing, but achieving it on rooftops is another.

There is no friction-free industrial environment, thus there will be heat losses in all industrial processes. Lovins, in one of the articles you provided, shows about a 10% overall efficiency for eletrical pumps actually accomplishng useful work, after all the transmission and drive train losses are considered. I agree that improvements will be made, but when will they occur? At what cost? I remember one of my professors serioulsy proposing that main transmission lines be supercooled to eliminate electrical resistance losses. I think the Econ 101 professor had more sense than he did.

End use efficiences will imporove, as Lovins said, but I have my doubts about major electrical generation capabilities. I will believe 70% PV efficiency when I see it. Even then, peak load shift to night, due to increased demand of plug-in vehicles, will not be solved, until all that solar electricity can be stored efficiently.

In the meantime, I see a real crunch coming, especially if global warming concerns are a driving factor. When one eliminates carbon-based fuels, as well as nuclear, then the conservation/efficiency/alternative apporach has to produce, and very quickly. I don't see that happening, despite what Lovins promises. Bucky balls are different that Bucky domes, the former being a potentially useful molecular device, the latter a failed promise from the 60s.


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Posted by T
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2008 at 9:53 am

Engineer, I agree that we're heading toward a very big crunch time. I also agree with your comments about the long timeline we've seen. I can only hope that progress will be made more quickly now because we know more than we did thirty years ago and also because we (our country in general) seem more motivated than we were back then. As a layperson, one thing I'm observing is the general population seems more interested and educated, at least regarding what they can do within their own households. People seem more willing than before to spend money to make changes, sometimes even when the payback period will be very long or nonexistent. Those are decisions I've never seen before, with the exception of a few lone cases mainly in the 70s.

What intrigued me about Amory Lovin's presentation on energy efficiency improvements was that many did not require extra overall expense, as one would expect. Sometimes the improvement came from choosing to optimize the performance of a different component in the system than the one that is traditionally optimized. The downside of his concept, however, is that it seems to be suited to complete refurbishment situations only. These changes cannot be made incrementally.

Hypothetical questions here: What impact would you expect if every house had a photovoltaic system installed on their roof (reasonable energy efficiency upgrades made first... certainly the ones that are more cost effective than adding to the PV system). What impact would you expect if only those energy efficiency upgrades were made but no PV systems were installed? (I ask only to get a sense of how much impact households might really have, as opposed to industry or transportation. I am not advocating any new programs or rules be put into place.) As for plug-in cars creating a peak load at night, any thoughts on how much this might be mitigated by solar panels on the car to recharge the batteries while the car sits in the company parking lot? I know this question encompasses a ton of variables like time of year, sun exposure, and the specs of the specific car, but even a reasoned conjecture would be enlightening.


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I also went to Amory Lovin's talk at Stanford. Last I knew, his stanford talk was online.

here is a 20 minute talk to give you a flavor of his thinking.

Web Link

One of the reasons I figure that the Amory's ideas are only now starting to take off is that increase in the price in energy is now producing a greater incentive to try.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2008 at 2:02 pm

T,

The plug-in cars ,coming soon, will, as I understand it, use standard 110 (or 220) volt charging systems. This will mean that most of them will be charged at night, at home. Yes, if a company provides plug-in capabilities in its parking lot, those cars can charge during the day (thus adding more to peak load demands). There are currently some tinkerers who use car or house roof top PV systems to charge their batteries with direct current from the PV array...takes quite while, but it works (somewhat).

Google recently announced that it will enter the research phase for solar energy. Its goal is to achieve solar power that is competitive with coal. Nice concept...we'll see.

If the past is any indication, cost and convenience will drive the change to solar, not ideology. For example, higher gasoline prices will drive the market for hybrids, plug-ins, etc. Global warming and national security concerns will probably only motivate a small fraction of the population.

Arguing to the extreme, let's assume that all vechicles were driven by electricity, thus eliminating the major petroleum requirment. Also assume that all these vehicles actually work well, are crashworthy and last for a decade before they need major overhauls. This would then mean that there would be an enormous need for new electrical generation. People like Lovins seem to think that PV, wind, efficiency will close the gap, incluing base load and peaking demand. There is enough solar energy to accomplish this, but real world costs will limit it. Solar storage, either through thermal stoarge or batteries or pump storage or flywheels, etc., will need to become efficient enough to take us through the night. Perhaps a major war that shuts down Mid-East petroleum would kick us in that direction, along with major sacrifices, but short of that, I don't see it happening for many decades. JMO.




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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2008 at 2:56 pm

RS,

Here is what Lovins should do: Start his own car company, and market his dream cars. If he is right, he will become one of the richest men in the world and help save the planet. If he is wrong, he will just go broke and have to figure out some new dream that he can sell on the lecture circuit.

I have, over the years, listened to many such dream concepts. Most of them just evaporate, for one reason or another. One example of the competition he will face goes as follows:

1. Dream cars actually work! People start to buy them in sufficient number that it makes standard gasoline cars look bad.

2. The price of oil falls, due to decreased demand.

3. People start to look at lower gasoline prices, then decide that good old cars looks pretty good, but they are afraid that oil will rebound.

4. The oil producing countries, realizing that the stone age did not disappear due to a lack of rocks, decides to cap their oil prices at a maximum that will adjust to stay ahead of (i.e. below) the Dream car energy prices. The oil countries, never trusting each other, will pump even more to underbid their competitor countries. This results in a real oil freefall, and the price collapses to such an extent that consumer demand will return for gasoline cars (big muscle cars, even), and the Dream cars go the way of the Dodo bird.

Short of a major war, which could happen, I think fusion energy will arrive before Lovins does. Once fusion is here, then electicity probably will be too cheap to meter, and the era of big oil will be over. Also, all those ugly PV arrays can be removed from our rooftops, and we can reorient our houses from south-facing sun exposure!


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Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 2, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Here is Lovin's Stanford lecture series. Its 5 1.5 hour lectures, so make sure you are interested in the subject material.

Web Link


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Posted by RealityCheck
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Engineer:
"Once fusion is here, then electicity probably will be too cheap to meter, and the era of big oil will be over."

Substitute "nuclear energy" for "fusion" and we're right back in the 1960's/70's propaganda that pushed nukes - just the same old you-know-what!


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2008 at 4:18 am

Spinning reserve generating capacity costs almost as much as a plant actively delivering electricity, and someone has to defer that cost. Unless you are willing to accept the intermittent power grid of a 3rd world country, acknowledge that saving capital is as important as saving energy.
Any viable replacement must be a replacement in kind, or at least bring advantages that offset weaknesses. None of the proposed renewable power ideas does so.
My first engineering employment was in a chemical plant in 1955, where my responsibility was to measure and improve process efficiencies and to measure and reduce air pollution. We generated our 35KVA off grid. I still practice Electrical and Mechanical engineering.


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Posted by One More Engineer
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 3, 2008 at 11:37 am

Electric cars that get their energy from the grid are part of the problem, not the solution. They offer excellent acceleration but are green only to the extent they happen to be painted that color. A deep ash-gray tone would be more appropriate.


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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Perhaps we could get Hillary to promise free electricity for all.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Reality Check,

Fusion and fission work in the opposite direction, however I will leave it you to try understand why your commnet, above, makes little sense.

Although I support fission to produce electricity, I am done with the fission wars. It cannot be discussed in a rational way, becasue of hysteria about radiation. Fusion has a chance, becasue it leaves behind little radioactive "waste". However, there are those who oppose it, becasue it is centralized and could threaten alternative approaches (becasue it would solve the problem).

The main reason that I chose to get involved on this blog was to offer some real world caution about various dreams that were and are being proposed, such as electric trains and electrical generation more broadly. Fusion is as close to an electricty free lunch as I can imagine. It is not here, yet, so that just adds me to the list of dreamers. Lovins is also a dreamer, and he offers some interesting ideas. However, converting dreams into reality involves more than just political willpower and buckyballs. In the meantime, the crunch could hit us all very hard.


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Posted by Another Engineer
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Engineer:

This discussion is long overdue. I believe the green energy crowd (mostly nonengineers) has overlooked or been unaware of many issues raised on this thread. Thanks for initiating it. Could you please elaborate on your comment: "converting dreams into reality involves more than just political willpower and buckyballs"? Thanks.


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2008 at 4:26 pm

Another Engineer,

Buckyballs are pure carbon molecules that take spherical shpaes. They were discovered in the mid 90s, and they appear to have interesing properties that may lead to new real world uses. They are also called "fullerenes", based on the geometry of the carbon bonds, which are similar, in many cases, to Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes. Thus the nickname.

The term "Bucky" is not, usually, meant in the most positive sense. Fuller tried to set the world on fire with his geodesic domes, yet he failed. "Bucky", in this context, refers to promise without a real product, at least not one that is accepted by the general population.

The term "product" is an important one. It means that it can survive market pressures. All the political willpower in the world will not make geodesic domes a practical living environment. Buckyballs offer many promises, too, but will they prevail in the open market of human needs, desires and demands?

These things cannot just be legislated. They must also be real, reliable, effcient, sufficient...and in demand. I don't believe that alternative energy sources/improved efficiencies (Lovins) meet all these criteria.




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Posted by T
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2008 at 5:13 pm

So when we talk about Green Energy Problems, what do we think they are? Below are some things that come to mind for me. Feel free to add or even to rewrite my words. I'm sure there's a better way to convey my intended meaning:

1) Storage: until the day that less expensive batteries with greater storage capacities and longer lifespan enter the marketplace, we will not be able to provide enough energy during non-production times.

2)Plug and Play: alternative energy products and/or systems should be convenient to add to existing infrastructure if we want them to be adopted by the masses. Upgrades are more likely to occur if they can be added incrementally according to budget or need. Upgrades are less likely to take place when a system overhaul is required first(except perhaps when being considered by a larger business concern or under governmental jurisdiction).


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Posted by T
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 3, 2008 at 5:45 pm

Oops, I forgot Engineer's point, which should have been #1 on the list:

1) Conflicting Priorities: consensus has never been reached on what is most important, i.e. which priorities are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves. There is no technology on the horizon that would meet everyone's priorities. We need leadership to get everyone onto the same page (once we figure out which page that is).

2) Storage: until less expensive batteries with greater storage capacities and longer lifespan enter the marketplace, we will not be able to provide enough energy during non-production times.

3) Plug and Play: alternative energy products and/or systems should be convenient to add to existing infrastructure if we want them to be adopted by the masses. Upgrades are more likely to occur if they can be added incrementally according to budget or need. Upgrades are less likely to take place when a system overhaul is required first (except perhaps when being considered by a larger business concern or under governmental jurisdiction).


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 3, 2008 at 6:10 pm

T,

I think the first thing to start with is the definition of "Green Energy". Here are some things that come to mind, to me:

1. Free of CO2 emissions (relating to global warming concerns)

2. Of a source that preserves the environment. For exaample, wind energy kills birds of prey, biofuels lead to overplanting of crops for energy...and less land for food production, conservation, carbon sink).

3. Reduces the odds of warfare to capture/protect resources (oil/NG, biofuels).

4. Resistant to attack (thus decentralized, if possible)

5. Efficient, relatively affordable (thus accepted by the general population)

6. Does not upset economic growth...poverty is not green.

Please add other criteria.

At this point, I do not see a single source that accomplihes this "green" agenda. This tells me that we need to think of non-perfect sources and solutions. The ones that seem to best fit these criteria are a MIXTURE of:

a. Conservation/efficiency (the Lovins model)

b. Solar PV and thermal with storage (if efficiencies can meet the challange of cost); wind (if bird kills are allowable, and variability effects on grids are, too); tides (maybe); possbily geothermal, but doubtful

c. Nuclear fission

d. Natural gas

e. clean coal technologies

f. more oil production off the coasts of this country, and in ANWAR.

This mixture is not perfect, but it is, IMO, the best solution, going forward. We need to buy enough time to get to fusion or some other major solution that stays ahead of demand.




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Posted by T
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 4, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Wow, good list! Two comments:

1) Although I am not a proponent of nuclear, I think it should be added to the list. Everything else on the list is an imperfect solution that we hope can be made ready for primetime by a technological breatkthrough. So wny not nuclear also? Perhaps with more research the current problems we have with radioactive waste or accidental releases could be resolved in the future. Barring such a technical breakthrough, however, I agree that nuclear is probably not a viable option.

2) The statement "Does not upset economic growth" could probably be interpreted 30 different ways by 30 different readers. Further clarification would be required before this statement could help guide a decision-making process. The second half of the statement is great though. There is no reason why poverty should be linked with "green".

As for possibly another criterion, here is something I am wondering: does Green Energy need to be generated locally to the area in which it will be used? In other words, would it "green" for California to use wind-generated electricity from Texas? If Green Energy is defined as being generated locally, I think it follows that Green Energy should be produced using the technologies best suited to its own area, and our country would by default utilize a mixture of technologies. Now taking a big picture view: would it be a better strategy to use a mixture of technologies or to choose one technology as our "standard" and develop it fully for everyone? The second method would have some advantages: a lot less decisions to be made, less training required, and a smaller number of parts need to be stocked because all the energy plants work the same way. On the other hand, such a system would by definition be somewhat limiting, it would be inefficient in some locales, and we would be putting all of our eggs into one technological basket.

Some random things I wonder about:
Is it greener to stay connected to the grid and generate some of your own electricity, or to be standalone and live off-the-grid? If you are off-grid, you never remove energy from the larger system, but you never contribute during peak load time, either.

State and local incentives, plus rebates from power companies, seem to be encouraging a move away from the old model of one large power plant being the sole provider of energy to all end-users, all of whom are connected to the grid. If this is the case, does anyone know what new model we are moving toward? (Here my questions take on a future-oriented, speculative nature.) Are all buildings going to be off-the-grid one day -- once storage issues have been resolved? Or will the existing electrical infrastructure be maintained but new construction must be standalone, off-the-grid? Will most buildings be retrofitted with PV panels (or some other technology to generate electricity) and remain tied into the grid, creating what is essentially a network of mini power plants? Is our electrical system going to hybridize even more into something else that is altogether different? Will the choice of energy technologies to be employed in the future be made without regard to the current infrastructure of our energy delivery system or does the current infrastructure have so much remaining life and so much associated cost that it is a necessary consideration?


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Posted by Engineer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 4, 2008 at 4:17 pm

T,

Your thoughts about centralized versus dissesminated power are interesting. My best guess, and it is only a guess, is that it will be a mixture of both, despite the internal conceptual contradictions.

If a national emergency, like a major war, is left out of the equation, the political powers will always favor an increased level of life style. This means economic growth and the freedom to make good or lousy choices (like eating too much food, driving the car of your choice, using a computer, ridng in a private jet (or any plane), watering your lawn, living wherever you can afford to live, etc.). This means, I think, that relatively rich people will develop options to be both on grid and off grid (insurance against emergencies); the middle class and poor will remain on grid...and they have the majority of votes...so the grid will be with us for a long time. There will always be a dedicated few who decide to make a point of living completely off grid, and they may actually provide some valuable lessons, in the abstract, but they will not control the agenda.

The grid should, probably, be looked at in a favorable light, becasue it offers both centralized (major power plants) and decentralized possibilities (home PV panels, for example, which reverse the meter). As a rough analogy, think of it as similar to the interstate highway system...many people curse it, but it is here, and very important to our life styles and national security.

There are many "bottom lines" when discussing electricity generation and distribution, but the ones that will last the test of time are those that provide the most good to the most people. I will leave it to you, and others, to argue about what "good" is. Just remember, though, there is no energy free lunch.


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Posted by T
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm

As far as I can tell, the purpose of this thread has been to discuss the reasons why green energy, as it exists today, could not step in and replace our country's existing electrical production technologies. If I pull away from the specifics of each type of technology, I see two overall issues (which may ultimately be one and the same):

1) Every green technology has at least one deficit that makes it not ready for primetime when it comes to large-scale electricity generation and storage. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict when a technological breathrough will occur and finally give us that viable substitute. Several existing green technologies are advanced enough to be be utilized advantageously in small scale applications such as residences, so perhaps it may only be a short wait... or NOT!

2) There has been a distinct lack of direction and/or leadership in the area of green energy. Perhaps this is because, until recently, the technology has not been advanced enough to stir interest except among tinkerers and researchers. Perhaps progress has simply been too slow. Whatever the reason, quality leadership/direction at this point in time would make a lot of sense. Even if the higher-ups and/or power companies don't have any clearer vision than ours, it would be helplful for everyone to know what's on the table and have a better sense of the direction we're moving -- because we ARE moving (rebates and incentives tell me so), it's just unclear where.

Engineer, this discussion helped me make a building/construction decision over which I had been waffling for some time, so I want to thank you for the time you've put into it. I am curious, when you first started this thread, what were you hoping to get from it?


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Posted by rw
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 5, 2008 at 4:11 pm

As mentioned in my post in a similar thread, nuclear energy is the best way to sufficiently meet the energy demands of 6 billion people on Earth.

Technology has advanced enough since Chernobyl and the dropping of the A-bomb in Japan, such that France and India have used nuclear energy for decades with success.

Solar, wind and biofuels are insufficient.

Natural gas is not clean energy. Natural gas is liquified methane, which is four times more pollutant than carbon dioxide and four times more potent in causing further global warming. Liquid natural gas is currently being shipped around the world in container cooled to -161 degrees Celsius. Should one of those containers spill or break, similar to an oil spill, the natural gas would immediately evaporate into the atmosphere causing damage beyond repair in our lifetimes to Earth.


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